Makrigialos, Crete is a small town. With a population of just 800 people, this small former fishing village sits between the more popular resort destinations of Ierapetra and Sitia. Our condo lies a twenty minute walk out of Makrigialos (not toward either resort town, but rather along the isolated coastline.) Once again, we’re living rural and loving it.
Last time we lived in a rural area was in Bali, where the views included rice terraces and volcanos. Here in Crete, we enjoy views of dry mountains, rows of olive trees, and the perfectly blue sea. For our month in Crete we rented a one-bedroom unit in a time-share style condo complex nestled into the hillside. While the unit itself is tiny (IKEA style tiny), it provides us all the basics we need for the month: solid internet, a stocked kitchen, and a balcony with a partial view. The complex has two big pools for us to use, and just a five minute walk down the road is a nearly empty pebble beach with crystal clear blue waters.
Below is the view from the rooftop of our condo building. You can see the rooftop of the building across from us, complete with plant life and seating areas, and just beyond it the corner of one of the two large pools we have at our disposal. Our unit didn’t come with choice rooftop seating and gardens, but we’re still enjoying views of sunset and mountains from the balcony.
I make the 20 minute walk into town pretty much every day. It’s nice exercise, and we usually need more provisions from the grocery store (I can only buy what I can carry back.) The rest of these photos are scenes from the walk to the local grocery store. It’s really more like a mini-mart, but that’s what you get in a small town.
Along the road to Makrigialos are several farms. One is home to several sheep and fields full of watermelon. Other farms host goats, ducks, and chickens and there are more greenhouses full of tomatoes than I could count. Tomatoes are in such high production that every time we visit the local market the nice lady adds three to our bag for free regardless of whatever else we’ve purchased. Every time it happens I’m thrilled – do these people know how much organic farm fresh tomatoes cost in the US?? And they’re just giving them away?? Score one for living in rural Greece.
An adjacent field is full of white grapes. The owners of this field run a tiny produce stand on the front porch of their house, where you can see them hanging out all day watching the world go by. They sell fresh picked cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. It’s the perfect place to visit if you need Greek Salad ingredients.The same produce stand also sells the bottle of wine on the left below, sold in a repurposed water bottle with a piece of paper taped onto it. The bottle (which contains the equivalent of two standard wine bottles) cost about US$9, so John thought we should give it a try. It was like Greek moonshine – very strong and dry, and not really something you’d like to drink much of. The bottle on the right, however, is the exact opposite. Just a little classier than the homemade version, this white wine is made locally in Crete, sold in a similar plastic bottle (with a real label) and costs only US$3.50 (again for the equivalent of two standard wine bottles.) Despite being the cheapest wine I’ve ever consumed, it’s fantastic. Two Buck Chuck, eat your heart out.
Just down the road from the grapes is a grove of olive trees. The local olive oil here is exceptional, as you would expect.
Beyond the farms and up the hill, nearly into town, is the one big resort in this area. It’s an all-inclusive type of place that blasts music at the pool and has hordes of yellow umbrellas crowding the beach. There appear to be a lot of people staying at this resort, but they never seem to leave it. Occasionally I’ve seen resort guests patronizing local restaurants, but for the most part the surrounding town is empty of tourists.
Down the hill on the other side is the beachfront of Makrigialos. This town is hardly party central and the sea in this area is calm and nearly wave-free, which means most of the people you see on the beach and in town are families with small kids. The main strip of town, with it’s view over the sea and mountains. Unfortunately, a number of storefronts and restaurants appear to have recently gone out of business. I can’t be sure that this is because of recent economic issues in Greece (and the associated drop in tourism), but it would be my number one suspect. Fortunately, the bakery/chocolate shop in town didn’t go under. They’re stuff is delicious.
There are a lot of cute tavernas in town, but after weeks of eating in restaurants for every meal we’ve been happy to stay in for nearly every meal. The raw ingredients available in Crete make cooking easy and far more appealing than most menus we’ve looked at anyway. The one exception is a local Gyro joint where John routinely purchases boxes of cut Gyro meat which I later stuff into sandwiches or add to his meals. It’s easier than trying to cook my own, that’s for sure.
John and I have already managed to while away nearly three weeks here in Crete, living at a delightfully slower pace than the last several months allowed. We may or may not get to exploring around the island a little more in the next 10 days we have here. It just depends. I’ll keep you posted if we do anything interesting, otherwise just assume we’re living the good life swimming in the ocean, eating free tomatoes and drinking inexpensive wine. :)