Photo from www.cretagastronomy.gr
History, culture, striking landscapes and abundant gifts from the land and the sea meet at the island of Crete – a magical wandermust destination at Europe’s southernmost corner beckoning sun- worshippers, naturalists, history buffs, foodies, art lovers, sports enthusiasts, hikers, bikers and everyone in between. And though – no matter your style or inclination – with your every visit you’ll be making memories that’ll turn into great stories, wouldn’t it be extra nice to have something tangible to remember your holidays in the sun? Here’s what to bring back home from Crete to keep the memories alive and kicking.
Olive Oil – Crete’s Elixir
Crete is home to some 30 million olive trees, and Cretans have been making good use of their miraculous fruits since Minoan times. It’s no wonder then that the world-famous Cretan nutrition revolves around the so-called Crete’s liquid gold. Packed with goodness and taste, this powerful antioxidant has been shown to inhibit cancer and diabetes, help maintain weight and reverse ageing among other benefits. And it is super delicious too, lending a rich taste and aromas to just about any dish you add it! So when you’re back home, how about recreating for your friends and family some of these treats you savoured on your holiday in Crete? Chaniotiko boureki, gamopilafo and kohlioi boubouristoi – if you are a skilled and daring culinarian, or simply a fresh salad douched with Cretan olive oil ill do the trick.
Cretan Honey – the Food of the Gods
Honey was the Olympian Gods’ “ambrosia”; Hippocrates swore by it, and ancient athletes consumed it before entering the stadium for enhanced energy and stamina. Crete’s version of honey is one of the best on the planet for a simple reason. The Cretan biosystem is uniquely rich in endemic plants and herbs, which in turn lend an amazing bouquet of aromas and flavours to the locally produced honey. Celebrated since antiquity for its wealth of health benefits honey is nowadays the flagship of the island’s agricultural produce. Make sure to bring some back home with you, combine it with thick-creamy yoghurt and turn everyday breakfast into a scrumptious feast worth getting out of bed for.
Cheese – Zeus’ baby food
An important source of high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, cheeses in Crete are to be enjoyed from morning to midnight – as an accompaniment or as the main ingredient of the meal, as an appetizer or for dessert. Cheese consumption in Crete is in fact one of the largest on a world scale with roots that are lost in legend. According to mythology, Zeus was born in a Cretan cave and raised by the goat Amaltheia and her milk. Animal farming has not changed much since antiquity, and it is still based on small goats and sheep roaming free and feeding on wild plants, herbs and bushes. This is what makes a world of difference and accounts for the sensational taste of Cretan cheeses!
Wouldn’t it be just great to have some gruyere, anthotyro or kephalotyri, to nibble at along with some Cretan wine when you are back home? The good news is, that a lot of local cheesemakers are using airtight packaging which means you can transport your favourite cheeses without any worries!
Raki – The Cretan Water of Life
A Cretan trademark, “tsikoudia” or “raki” is a 40% proof spirit which – you guessed it! – dates back to antiquity. Minoans had it with their meals, and throughout the centuries it has been used for all sorts of purposes including the medicinal and the euphoric. Raki nowadays remains an integral – if not the most characteristic – part of the Cretan identity and culture. Savoured as an aperitif or digestif; in feasts and celebrations; at weddings and funerals; and as a welcome to friends and strangers; this clear and potent liquid, is embedded in everyday life. Take some with you back home to toast joys and assuage sorrows – the Cretan way.
Strategically located between the Italian Peninsula, the Aegean Sea, Egypt, and the Levant, Crete has seen its fair share of foreign conquerors throughout its long, tumultuous history. The Arabs who came to the island in the early Medieval times were one of them – and though they didn’t stay long enough to leave spectacular monuments or buildings, they did bequest several customs and expertise that become embedded in the locals’ lives. Apart from spices, coffee, and tobacco, the Saracens taught Cretans everything they knew about working with leather – and this tradition survives until today.
Though in light of the recent bout of gentrification, the old, once flourishing tanneries of Chalepa in Chania are increasingly being turned into boutique residences and restaurants, traditional leather craftsmanship survives in Skridlof Street where boot-makers manufacture their trademark stivania – Cretans’ very elegant and equally sturdy take on riding boots. You can also find gorgeous leather bags, jackets, and shoes to take home with you. A good idea is to buy leather sandals as they are light and durable – and a fantastic token of what your sunkissed Cretan escape looked and felt like at the time.
Perhaps no other single item represents Crete and the psyche of its people, more than the traditional Cretan dagger: it is an essential part of the traditional Cretan costume, a potent symbol of Cretan gallantry and dauntless spirit, a trusty companion in warfare and everyday life and arguably the highest manifestation of Cretan arts and crafts. Head to the scenic Karaoli Dimitriou Street in Chania where artisans are still carving their ornate Cretan knives. Slightly curved, varying in size, yet invariably enclosed in intricate, gold and silver cases, with ornate handles and stainless steel blades often carved with mantinades, these stunning daggers make for stunning souvenirs – or, why not, a special present back home.
Is your Cretan holiday coming to an end soon? Still wondering what to bring back home from Crete with you? Make sure to consult with our expert concierge at the Adeste Chania Luxury Villas, to tailor design a shopping experience that’ll help you uncover the very best souvenirs and mementoes from the island of Crete.