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A relatively undiscovered island in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete has become a popular tourist destination in the last forty years or so. However, although there is plenty for the tourist on the island by way of restaurants, bars and hotels, much of the island has remained the same and old Crete can easily be discovered by wandering a short distance off the beaten track. Crete has embraced tourism and has managed to create tourist entertainment whilst retaining its own unique culture and this is what makes the island so appealing.
Crete has been shaped by the various influences of its conquerors throughout the centuries. From Romans to Turks, Venetians to Arabs, different styles can be observed when it comes to buildings, food and even the music. Cretans love life as this is a truly beautiful island, blessed with a wonderful climate and the locals are friendly and welcoming.
Kalives, a seaside village to the east of Chania, is the ideal place to relax. The town has preserved much of its local character as well as peace and quiet. Kalives consists of a long road which has attractive Cretan houses fronting either side. There are low cliffs to the south of the village and a stunning sandy beach which has the coveted Blue Flag. Tourists visit the town regularly to enjoy its cafes, restaurants and tavernas most of which provide fabulous views of the sea. At the end of the village there is a small harbour where fishermen tend their boats and bring in the day's catch.
Kalives village centre contains everything needed for a pleasant stay. There are supermarkets and greengrocers selling local fruit and vegetables as well as bakers' shops with delicious cakes. Watermelons are grown on Crete and they are sold cheaply everywhere. Retsina and ouzo are two local drinks, which, once you get used to them, are delicious.
Although there are about seventeen tavernas in Kalives, only about half of them put tables out for tourists. The meals, however, are very reasonably priced and delicious so it is well worth considering staying, or at least eating, in one of these places as compared to local hotels.
Food is healthy with many salads, goats' cheese, local bread and freshly cooked meat or fish. Food in the eateries of Kalives is good value for money. Much of the Cretan cuisine is based on the olive and there are a good many meat and fish dishes. Wash them down with Retsina, a local wine and don't be afraid to try ouzo although it can be an acquired taste. Greek salads provide a cheap and tasty lunch option and can be ordered everywhere. Most come with an olive oil dressing and topped with olives which are grown on the island. In fact olives can often be seen drying out on rooftops.
Music plays a big part in Cretan life too. Much of life is spent outdoors here because of the wonderful climate. Music is played on flutes, mandolins and lyres and has its own distinctive sound. Dancing and eating play a huge part in the lives of Crete's people and you may be invited to join them in dance or at their meal table. Friendliness to strangers is an inherent part of Cretan culture.
Hiring a car is probably the best way to get around although local bus services are very good between the larger towns. The interior of the island is quite mountainous and consequently there are spectacular views over the countryside. On a journey round the island you will see small olive groves, little fields of cattle and vegetables growing as well as little houses nestling among the hills. Stop the car and get out for a while. There are lovely walks in the hills and spectacular wild flowers and herbs everywhere, some only found on Crete and nowhere else in the world. It can be fun to learn a few words of Greek such as "kalimera" (good morning) and "kalispera" (good evening) as you will find that people are friendly and will greet you when they meet on a walk.
You can fly direct to Crete from many UK airports. The island's two airports are at Chania and Heraklion. Alternatively, fly to Athens and then pick up a flight to the island. Many people like to fly to Athens and then cruise overnight on one of the ferries that service Crete. Departures are from the port of Athens, Piraeus and can take between six to nine hours depending on the type of ship. Arrivals are in the early morning and it can be a joy to wake up to see the distant shape of Crete slowly coming into view. The ships are modern and well equipped with excellent cabin facilities and a variety of food on board.