Lifestyle & Home · Trips, Culture & Learning

The mystical Greece, my holidays

Hello readers! As we are planning our holidays in 2017, I decided to write about the last holidays we took, which were lovely. We went to Greece. In Summer 2016, we spent two weeks in the island of Crete, in Rethymno. One of the best holidays of my life. A funny experience. When I was waiting at the border control, the poor officer spent like 20 minutes trying to figure it out what to do with my passport. I guess there are not many Mexicans over there. His face was like ‘What is Mexico and what type of stamp do I need to use?’ I found it hilarious. Now, a bit of background.

Since I saw a documentary of Greece when I was 8 years old, I always wanted to visit the country. They talked about the warm weather and welcoming people. The beautiful beaches, the rich culture, the strong traditions, mythology and of course the delicious food. Discovery channel was not lying.

We stayed at Aquila Rithymna Beach resort. We bought an all-inclusive holiday, which we found was the best option, as you save the money of the meals and drinks. You have all the meals, snacks, soft drinks and spirits you want, terrific! Also, you can use all the facilities offered by the hotel for free. Like extra towels, breakfast in bed, the mini bar at the room is all for free. The place is amazing, it has a sandy beach, three pools, tennis court and the best part: they have activities which you could attend.

We took a traditional Greek cooking class. We learnt how to prepare ‘horiatiki’, a Greek salad, ‘tzatziki’, a traditional sauce with a Greek yoghurt base and ‘yemista’, stuffed tomatoes and peppers. Something that I loved about the Hotel was its commitment to the local community. Half of the vegetables used are grown in the Hotel’s farm fields, whereas the other half are bought from local farmers, same with the meat and cheese.

Angelo joined football and volleyball matches. They also have traditional dancing, Greek language lessons and activities for kids. Every evening after dinner, they will have entertainment, for example, belly dancers, traditional Greek dancers, traditional musicians, a mini-disco for all the guests, DJ, fire-dancers. I am leaving the link of the hotel in case you are interested in having a look, I recommend it.

http://www.aquilahotels.com/NEW/EN/index.php?p=2_42

One of my favourite things about the hotel was, that each morning they will have a large variety of fresh fruit, not any fruit but tropical fruit. Here in the UK, they have more berries, bananas, all sorts of fruits typical of the wintry weather, these are quite cheap. However, if you do try to buy some mangoes, oranges or even fresh juice, it will cost an arm and a leg. Therefore, having delicious fresh tropical fruit every morning was like being in heaven.

We did spend most the time just chilling in the beach and enjoying the water activities. But, we also took several tours around other places in Crete and even in another island, like Santorini. My favourite experiences were the following: The first one was when we visited the archaeological Museum of Heraklion, where you can learn about the truth behind the legend of ‘Theseus and the Minotaur’.

Did you know that it was on the ancient island of Crete where this legend was begun? Well, during the reign of the King Minos, an annual traditional competition commenced. The aim of it was to ride a bull and manage to do acrobatics on the top of it. Teams of three young, agile people from all around Greece will be part of the competition. As you can imagine, some of them won’t survive. This is how the legend of a monster living in a labyrinth needed to be fed each year started. It does make sense. As during that time, the truth will be shaped by the imagination of the travellers, who would spread the rumours. Here you will see some of the photos, some from the Museum and the ruins of Knossos, which is the ancient city where Minos used to live and where the ruins of the labyrinth are.

We also visited a small island called Kalidon, which is better known as Spinalonga, the last leper colony ever known. We learnt that the Greek government decided to convert the place in a fortress for people with leprosy. The objective was to push the Ottomans soldiers and their families out of the island eventually, who were living in that same fortress. It is quite amusing how strategic they were to avoid a violent confrontation.

Nevertheless, the background of the island is also very sad. We heard stories of how lawyers, nurses, doctors, musicians; who unfortunately ended up ill with leprosy, were treated like rubbish, in subhuman conditions. The colony lasted from 1903 to 1957. Once the lepers could challenge that isolation and gain access to music, newspapers and an awareness of a more decent way of life, they protested and eventually obtained better living conditions. Here’s another very interesting fact: The entry to the fort is known as Dante’s gate because his quote is shown on the entrance to the island:

 ‘Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate’. In English: ‘Abandon all hope, you who enter here’

Here are some photos of the fortress and the Island. If you ever go to Crete, I recommend that you take this tour. It is amazing, you will learn so much about Greek history!

Finally, we went to the beautiful, breath-taking island called Santorini. As you all know, it is a magical place. The views are amazing, with all the white residences surrounded by the blue sea. It makes the perfect spot for the most romantic holiday ever. It was and I must be honest, packed as we could barely walk through the narrow streets with so many people. I mean, there is nothing wrong with tourists visiting wherever we want to visit. At the end of the day, it is our choice and the more we travel the better. But I do recommend you that if you really want to stay in Santorini, be mentally prepared for a very crowded holiday, particularly during summer. You will find some of the photos on this blog and, as you can see, how beautiful Santorini is even with all the people around.

It is worthwhile to mention how welcoming and lively the Greek people are. Always happy, always enthusiastic and willing to help you. Such easy-going individuals! I am starting to guess that the warmer the weather is, the more expressive and open the people are. Just a silly theory, by the way, no harm intended! But yeah, very happy people.

If you would like to learn more about the leper colony, I recommend you this book: ‘the island’ by Victoria Hislop. If you want to read more about Spinalonga or the ruins of Knossos, I am leaving these links:

http://www.explorecrete.com/crete-east/spinalonga.html

https://www.heraklion.gr/en/ourplace/knossos/knossos.html

There were several other things which I found exciting. Firstly, I saw these Frida Kahlo cushions on sale at Rethymno, the town near our hotel. I asked why they like her, as I wanted to find out. To be sincere, I was not impressed when they said they really like her portraits. They find her paintings full of feelings. They said they can really feel the pain and the struggle that are usually represented in her work.

BUT the most fascinating thing was when I saw a drawing of Emiliano Zapata on one coffee shop’s wall. If you do not know about Mexican history, you might not know who he was. However, for me, it was very exciting as he was a rebel fighting against the oppressing government. Some of his most famous quotes are: ‘If there is no justice for the people, let there be no peace for the government’, ‘the land belongs to those who work it with their own hands’ and my personal favourite ‘I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men’. Anyways, I was so curious about why they painted him and of course, I asked. As I was guessing, they like his passion for the freedom of the people and his determination to fight back against the men in power who were oppressing the most vulnerable. I know this might not be relevant to the holiday thing, but I am very proud of these bits of Mexican culture displayed around the world.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I am aware that my photography skills suck, but at least I tried. 😝 I promise to put more effort on it, the thing is, I like to enjoy my trips and listen to the guide. Although, I want to share all the experiences here. I also want to enjoy the experience myself. Sometimes, I do not have enough time to take pretty Instagrammable photos and enjoy the moment. Read you next time! X

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