Monday, 26 May 2014

Rememberance: Battle of Crete

The 10 day Battle of Crete was fought during WWII and started on 20th May 1941 with an airborne invasion by Nazi Germany code named Operation Mercury.

Crete Veterans

It was the first airborne invasion in military history and the first time German paratroopers were used on a massive scale.  It was also the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from the Enigmacode meaning that the German troops encountered surprisingly mass resistance from the Greek civilian population.
Allied Cemetary, Souda Bay

The Germans suffered very heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would prevail against the invasion.  However, through miscommunication and a series of fundamental failures by Allied commanders, the airfield at Maleme (opposite the Mistral Hotel) was captured by the Germans enabling them to fly in reinforcements and overwhelm the defenders.

Cretan Resistance

Today, the Battle of Crete is commemorated each year in and around the Maleme and Chania area with the few remaining Veterans.  A week of services culminates in a wreath laying ceremony at the Allied War Cemetary in Souda Bay.

By Donna Southgate-Smith

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Kolymbari - A Traditional Fishing Village

Kolymbari is situated just 5 kilometers from the Mistral, at the base of the Rotherpou Peninsular and is a small fishing hamlet with a few hotels and award winning fish tavernas serving traditional Cretan cuisine.  The long sand and pebble beach is largely undiscovered by tourists and is ideal for those seeking peace and quiet.

Kolymbari fishing harbour
Geese & Goslings
A short walk from the village is the 17th century monastery of Gonia which houses a unique collection of icons dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Today, the monastery incorporates Crete's Theological Academy and is open to the public throughout the year.

By Donna Southgate-Smith

Thursday, 1 May 2014

St George's Day Pilgrimage

Today, we took all the Mistral guests and Gialamarakis family to the tip of Rotherpou Peninsular to take part in a traditional festival to celebrate the day of Agios Georgios.  This is a special day when shepherds bring their sheep to be blessed hoping to ensure healthy flocks and a prosperous year.  In return, the shepherds distribute free sheep's milk.

Eating goat & rice

Chapel of Agios Georgios

It is also tradition to make a wreath of wild flowers to "catch" May.  The wreath is hung over the doorway to dry the flowers until the month of June when they are burned in the street and everyone jumps over the fire.
Ringing of the Chapel bell
Wild flower wreath
By Donna Southgate-Smith

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Loggerhead Turtle Nest Excavation

On Friday 6th September, two Loggerhead turtle nests were excavated on the nearby beach at the village of Rapaniana.
In total, nearly two hundred empty shells were recovered along with twelve unfertilised eggs and four dead hatchlings.  It’s considered a good result for the nests but only one in one thousand hatchlings will survive to return to the exact same spot for nesting in around thirty year’s time. 

Channel for the hatchlings
Carefully digging down to the nest
Parasols on the beach are a major problem for the turtles which return to the same nesting area every three to four years.  Light pollution also causes confusion for the hatchlings which head towards the brightest lights after emerging from the nest.  This should be the moon and the ocean but can often be harsh lighting from nearby hotels and tavernas.

Measuring the depth of the nest

Empty hatchling shells

Archelon volunteers: have worked closely with local officials and hoteliers to combat some of these problems and one successful solution was to black-out paint one side of street lamps casting light away from the beach.
By Donna Southgate-Smith

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Another lazy Sunday afternoon by the pool!

Jo & Andrea 

Playing backgammon around the pool on a quiet Sunday afternoon is just another way of enjoying the Cretan sunshine in a friendly and relaxed environment.

It was a difficult match but, Jo eventually won the day!

By Donna Southgate-Smith

Saturday, 15 June 2013

After Carnival Season: Clean Monday!

Clean Monday is the first day of Lent (signalling the start of spring) and refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods.

Greek Dancing

Kite flying, Chrissi Akti beach
Kite flying, Chrissi Akti beach
Kite flying, Chrissi Akti beach

It is a public holiday in Greece where it is celebrated outdoors with consumption of shellfish and other fasting food, a special kind of ofazyme bread called "Lagana" and the custom of flying kites.  It is said that the higher your kite flies, the further away your troubles will be.

By Donna Southgate-Smith

Thursday, 13 June 2013

APOKRIES: A Time For Celebration!

With February brings Apokries which is carnival time in Greece and a time for celebration, a feast of dance, wine and meat before the sacrifies and fasting of Lent.

The tradition started in Ancient Times and is believed to be as a worship to Dionysos, the God of wine and feast. The word Apokries literally means saying goodbye to meat and in Orthodox tradition is the preparation period before Lent.

The carnival parades take place on the last day of Apokries and it’s the last time until after Easter that church weddings are allowed.

The largest parade in Crete is held at the historical town of Rethymno and has 20,000 participants and over 100,000 spectators. The theme of the floats are decided by teams of friends and all are original with custom made costumes each year. 

By Donna Southgate-Smith