Photo from www.tofillo.com
From monumental gorges to dreamy beaches and from quaint villages to charming towns, you’ve taken as much as possible in – the sights, the smells, the tastes, the legends and the myths. So how about bringing a slice of wondrous Crete back home? These handpicked souvenirs will rekindle the memories of your sun-kissed escape and lift your spirits when the cold, bleak winter weather gets the better of you.
Rakomelo – The Cretan Cocktail
Cretan raki might be pure and (in moderation) good for you, but its characteristic fiery taste does not agree with all. On the other hand, rakomelo – a blend of raki with local honey, spices and herbs – is a subtler and perhaps more palatable version of its potent cousin. As the story goes, rakomelo originated some seven centuries ago in Mount Athos where the monks used it as a remedy for colds and stomach aches, and was then spread via sea trade on the island of Crete. Drunk hot or cold, it is Crete’s trademark cocktail.
Herbs – Cretan Earth’s Treasures
Crete’s food is world-renowned for its aromas and tastes – which are largely owed to the island’s indigenous aromatic plants. Herbs grow everywhere in Crete – in the mountains, in farming lands and in coastal areas. Most are endemic – botanical studies demonstrate that Crete has one of the richest and most complex ecosystems in Europe – and have been known since antiquity for their therapeutic properties. Packed with goodness, herbs like “malotira” “dittany”; “tilio”, sage, mint, tilly, or laurel, are amassed, naturally dried and packaged without any chemical processing. In line with Crete’s great tradition, they are then used as remedies for all kinds of ailments, while invariably lending their unmistakable flavours to the everyday table.
Wine – Cretan’s ancient tradition
Wines have been produced on Crete ever since Minoan times – the earliest recorded mention of the name wine is in Linear B writings from Knossos; while a 3.500-year-old wine press – one of the world’s most ancient ones – has been discovered in Archanes. Modern-day winemakers are focusing on the revival of antique (and until recently largely forgotten or even shunned) local grape varieties – and their systematic efforts are yielding a handful of gems that are the rapidly rising stars of the international wine scene. Bestsellers include Vidiano, Vilana and Moschato of Spina – all excellent whites; as well as the characteristic red Romeiko.
Crete’s arts & crafts
For centuries, Cretan women have been keeping busy with embroidering carpets, tablecloths and towels for their homes. This traditional skill still survives in mountain villages. Visit the quaint hamlet of Gavalochori, near Chania – a mere 15 minutes drive away from the Adeste Chania Luxury Villas – to shop for these exquisitely embroidered pieces adorned with hand-made lace. You can also see the women here in action, as they are handcrafting the lace with an ancient technique called kopaneli.
Alternatively, head to the Center of Traditional Folk Art and Culture on Skoufon Street, in Chania, to get acquainted with the history of culture and the peculiarities of life on the island of Crete, but also to buy some outstanding traditional embroideries.
Hand-woven wool products
Hand-weaving is a skill that’s been passed from generation to generation for centuries among Cretan women. Sheep’s and goat’s wool is used to produce a material called ifanda, with which clothes and accessories, but also carpets and rugs are tailored. Traditional pieces include the veletza – a typically red, green, or blue wool cover that’s used as a blanket but also to dress tables, sofas or beds – and the colourful hand-woven shepherd sacks, which can double as a boho-chic alternative to a beach bag!
Pottery is an art that has been practised in Crete since Minoan times – ceramics were made for everything from storing foods to transporting goods, making tableware or being used as urns after cremation; and as such were an important part of the island’s economy and everyday life. You can find a contemporary, cool version of Cretan ceramics in Maiami in Koum- Kapi, Chania– an innovative hybrid project that brings together art, wine and food.
Did you like our suggestions about what to bring back home from Crete with you? Stay tuned to the Adeste Villas blog for more tips and advice.