After Athens we headed to Crete for a few days of R&R. As the southern most island in Greece, we were hoping for sun and were sort of rewarded, 20-24 each day and sunny. But not the best ‘hanging out on the beach’ weather, so we did something we usually don’t do when near a beach – we did some touring.

Crete is a remarkable little island with a fierce island pride and history to match. Landing in Crete, we started the drive to Agios Nikolaos, a seaside town:

Agios Nikolaos (or Aghios Nikolaos, Greek: Άγιος Νικόλαος) is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island’s capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2000, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed around 19,000 inhabitants. The town is the capital of the nomos (province) of Lasithi, and sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lato pros Kamara.

We took the time on arrival to walk the town and were promptly rewarded with a €20 parking ticket. What I did not realize is that you are only allowed to park on that side of the street on alternate months (try and figure that out from the signs).

2008 Oct 21 Exploring Agio Nikolaos_

The towns are brightly coloured, with thriving markets and negotiation alive and well. The people were very friendly, tourist orientated (that is for sure) and the food was fantastic. Although everyone smoked and I still find smoking in a restaurant odd (and annoying).

We stayed at the St. Nikolaos Bay hotel on the ocean. As the shoreline is very rocky, they have built a unique seaside area, with a man made sand beach that was sheltered from the ocean and tiered stone decks for catching a few rays. Nice thing about Crete in October is that there was no one there. We had the run of the place and the staff were fantastic.

2008 Oct 21 St Nikolaos Bay enjoying the sun  (24)

2008 Oct 21 St Nikolaos Bay enjoying the sun  (22)

2008 Oct 24 St Nikolaos Bay Resort_

One oddity is the prominence of Nescafe in the Greek culture. To me, Nescafe is low end instant coffee that I simply will not drink. To the Greeks, it appears that Nescafe has become a descriptive – to describe their coffee. For example, via:

Greek coffee – kafe eleniko: the coffee is cooked together with water in a little can. You order it
sketo – unsweetened
metrio – half sweet
gliko – sweet
Nescafe sketo, metrio, gliko and with milk – me gala
Frappe is iced Nescafe and a very refreshing drink

I paid €8 for an iced Nescafe …. once.

In the bay across from the hotel were two islands. The first island use to be a Boy Scout retreat according to the locals.

2008 Oct 21 St Nikolaos Bay enjoying the sun  (41)

The second island has a single church on it that people go to once a year – Christmas. It is also inhabited by sheep.

2008 Oct 21 St Nikolaos Bay enjoying the sun  (38)

2008 Oct 22 St Nikolaos Bay hotel  (4)

As mentioned previously, the Christian religion is prominent in Greek culture (an interesting paradox considering the prominence of long dead religious sites as tourist attractions). The hotel was no different, with a small and beautiful chapel by the beach adorned with old art.

2008 Oct 24 St Nikolaos Bay Resort  (2)

2008 Oct 24 St Nikolaos Bay Resort  (4)

A beautiful little fishing town and a great place to launch our exploration of Crete from.

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