The villagers in one of the mountain villages in Crete were recently offered mains water and electricity by the Greek government. They turned it down unanimously because they didn’t want to lose their traditional way of life. And while I can’t imagine living without mains water or electricity, there is a lot to be said for taking a week out of “real” life in the way that we tend to live it these days. I have just spent a week in Crete, in a hotel next to the sea, where the wifi was limited. Hardly a shepherd’s hut in the mountains with only the basics, but enough for me to totally switch off from everyday life. I took my laptop, iPad and phone with me with intentions of using some of my week with no kids, school runs, meetings, matches or assemblies to attend and no cakes to make, to work on my blog and make all sorts of lists and plans. We had no wifi in the room for the first few days and it didn’t take long for me to stop cursing it and start embracing it.
Most, if not all, Cretan families own olive trees and they can be found pretty much anywhere an olive tree will grow. The locals tend to press their own olive oil and either keep it for their own supply or sell it on. Proprietors of some of the small shops selling local Cretan products will often claim one of the oils they are selling as produced from their own trees. After my recent discoveries about olive oil I can’t imagine anything better than being able to produce your own oil from your own trees.
Bees are also kept by a lot of locals and the honey is delicious: wherever you go you’ll get tasters offered to you, often as a chaser to a shot of the local brew, raki, which is made from the fermented grape must leftover from the wine making process. As well as some local honey from one of the shops, I bought a beeswax cream from a lady selling her products from the back of her pick up truck.
The bees thrive on the wild flowers and herbs in the mountains. May is the perfect time to visit Crete as the meadows are full of hundreds of varieties of brightly coloured wild flowers. Herbs such as sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary and dittany, amongst many others, grow in abundance: stop by the side of the road and you will probably find them. If you remember how excited I was at finding and using my own rosemary from the garden you can imagine how happy I was to be surrounded by them.
The herbs are gathered and dried and used in cooking, cosmetics, soaps and anything else you can think of. I have added the popular Mountain Tea to my very extensive herbal tea collection.
When we weren’t exploring we were relaxing: it doesn’t take long to get into holiday mode if you can escape from the wifi.
Crete is a beautiful island and I would love to go back and see more of it. We had an amazing week: I don’t think I have been so relaxed in years. The scenery is inspiring and the pace of life is measured and calm. Our diet was deliciously fresh, homegrown and locally produced food and drink. I can imagine a life surrounded by an olive grove, bee hives, goats, sheep, chickens and homegrown fruit, vegetables and herbs, although I’m sure it’s a much harder life than the romantic image it conjures. It doesn’t exactly translate to my life here but I am looking forward to getting my tiny greenhouse sorted for the summer and loving homemade at home.