Agio Pelagias is a tiny but now fashionable bathing beach town hidden in a natural cove west of Heraklion. The resort, if you can call it that, consists of no less than 3 coves separated by rocky promontories. The village provides a backdrop to the main beach and we found our hotel with no problem at all. 400 meters from the sea, we were a short walk from the busy little beach and tourist town area. Peaceful and quiet, we were only disturbed by the clucking of hens, braying of goats, chirping of cicadas and the croak of frogs. Our hosts were great. I was quickly on talking terms with the boss and made friends with his neighbour. We three spent an hour or so almost every evening together putting the world to rights over a beer, whisky or raki.
The people I had intended to find had left the town years ago and despite my best sleuthing I could find no trace of them. I even tried in Heraklion with no success. Nonetheless, we were there for a good time, and we had it. The beach hadn’t changed much and the restaurants were still open for business. The sun shone, the sea was cobalt blue and the water as clear as glass.
Afraid for my skin, my wife insisted I rub suntan oil over the greater part of my body when we finally got to the beach. I have a certain attraction for mosquitoes, so repellant needed to be added to the mix and all that combined with copious amounts of natural sweat meant that I could stay in the sun for a limited period of time and I lay sizzling on the beach like a huge frothing chip. After a quarter of an hour or so and feeling done to about medium-rare I could take it no more and ran off into the sea armed with my trusty snorkel. This pattern of behaviour repeated itself endlessly throughout the day. Finally, red as a beetroot, I had to creep into the shade of the parasol and remained there for the duration. Luckily one can cool down with the aid of beer and the like, so I consoled myself with large amounts of the colder varieties and ouzo with ice and water. It’s a hard life, but someone has to do it.
From our little holiday hideaway we traveled out in our jeep to neighbouring areas of interest. Minoan ruins at Tylisos, mountainous areas of spectacular beauty and places my wife had read about in books borrowed or bought for the trip. One place we visited was Enogie. Pronounced “annoy-uh”. Lying in the mountains, or rather on top of one of them, the village had been totally destroyed by the Germans during the war. All the men and boys found within one kilometer of that village were executed. It was supposedly a revenge action carried out as a reprisal after Cretan resistance fighters and some British SOE operatives had kidnapped and sneaked off with a German general. The general was smuggled to North Africa. Enogie has always been a bastion of Cretan resistance,even during the Turkish occupation. Some of its men fought at Arkady, which was again completely destroyed by the Turks. The last brave few fighting to the end in the powder magasine blew it up, killing all and sundry, rather than be taken prisoner. At least one of those men came form Enogie, there is a monument to him. Mention the fact that you are a Brit here and the welcome mat comes out. Guess who aren’t so welcome.
We got close to nature here. I spotted an olive snake one evening as we walked to a nearby taverna. My wife doesn’t see too well in the dark and had a fit when I told her there was a snake in front of her. She ran off. Small fish in the sea frightened her. She couldn’t understand that they flocked around her feet as she disturbed the sand bringing microscopic particles of food up for them. She ran off again. Everyone in the village grows their own food. They own chickens, goats and sheep. Which is also food. They have olive trees, oranges and lemons. They make wine, olive oil and distill their own raki spirit, which is a lot like grappa, from the grape mash after the wine is pressed. The Cretans pride themselves on self sufficiency and they are good at it. We could learn from them.
Our final week was spent in this peaceful place punctuated by short trips to the supermarket, shopping and the beach.
I love Crete. I may live there one day. Holidays are too short and there is a lot to see. The Cretans are as warm as the sun they live under and I will definitely go back there again.
If you’ve never been there, take the trip. It’s well worth it. Tell ’em I sent you.