My wife and I usually go on vacation at the end of June or beginning of September trying to avoid the busy months of July and August. This year, due to various engagements we had to settle for the end of July. We chose to visit Crete for about 20 days and we stayed in Elounda at the house of an old friend from my student years. However, our friend came up with a somewhat unusual proposal. He suggested going to as many festivals and traditional celebrations as possible because the end of July is full of such events. We thought it was a very interesting idea and we managed to go to eight (!) different events and festivals in 23 days! Our friend had even prepared a calendar of all the events in the area!
On the very first day, with our entire luggage still unpacked, we left for the village of Kritsa; a beautiful village with a long history. The event was called “Magerotsikaliasmata”. The women of the village prepared exquisite local dishes and we tried delicious traditional recipes in an event that attracted thousands of visitors. Live Cretan music by young talented artists, a lot of dancing and smiling. We could not have asked for a better welcome!
About a week later, our friend suggested going to Neapoli, a beautiful town and historic capital of Lassithi Prefecture. The vent was actually a three-day music festival (“Square Festival”) on two of the many beautiful squares of the town. The event was dedicated to a specific musical instrument. This year’s honoured instrument was the accordion. We listened to beautiful music by renowned artists from Crete and all over Greece in an event that won us over with its originality and the kindness of the organizers. It was really interesting listening to various music genres at the same event given that the focus was on a musical instrument and not a particular music genre.
The next event was in Kritsa once again. August 13th and “Festival of Myzithropita”! We went to the same place where the first event had taken place and we had a great time in an event with exquisite food, lots of people, excellent musicians and of course one of the most delicious and simple sweets of the Cretan cuisine. The famous myzithropita with honey!
What was next? Neapoli again!! This time it was the biggest festival in the prefecture and one of the biggest in Crete, on the occasion of the festivities for the fifteenth of August (the Assumption of the Virgin Mary). Neapoli has a huge square in its centre on which, every year, a unique two-day festival takes place with music, drinks and food. The event is part of a series of events that includes religious, sports and cultural events. We were almost five thousand people! It was by far the biggest festival we had ever been. On August 17th we visited an extraordinary beautiful village called Fourni, for the annual festival of the village. Traditional music and food, in one of the most traditional events in the area.
Two days later we found ourselves in the village of Prina which is another beautiful village of the area. The event was the “Honey Festival” which is the traditional product of the village. Great food and music once again and a beautiful exhibition space dedicated to apiculture. We also tasted honeycomb!! We were determined not to miss any event and so we left Prina in the middle of the night to go to another festival in the nearby village of Andrianos. The event was dedicated to another unique delicacy of the region, xinohondros. Xinohondros is actually whole wheat coarsely ground and mixed with goat’s milk left under the sun to dry up. We had never tried it; it was really delicious.
It was our last night in the area when we visited Kroustas, a beautiful semi-mountainous village with a unique vibe. It was the traditional celebration of “Ftazymo” bread, the method of preparation of which remains a secret well-kept by the women of the village! A wonderful celebration, with the whole village participating in the organization, delicious food at an altitude of 500+ meters and of course fun and dancing until sunrise! It was the best ending to a unique experience. We came back full of beautiful images, exquisite tastes, a huge number of new friends and respect for a region where the summer festivities, traditional or not so traditional, are a top social event.