There can be no doubt that one of the big reasons people return to Crete over and over again is the people. The Greek people in general are welcoming but the hospitality afforded by Cretans is something truly special.
The Cretan people have seen invaders come and go since ancient times, but it is an interesting fact that the ancient Minoan Palaces discovered dotted all over Crete do not have any fortification. With the island being such an important strategical base within the Mediterranean throughout the Minoan period how could this have been? Well it's believed that the Minoans were expert traders and that Crete was a melting pot of exchanges for civilisations from Europe, Africa and the wider east, and as such people from all over the known world would visit Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and the other palaces to trade their goods. Maybe this is where the famous hospitality of the Cretans was formed?
On thing is for sure.... The legendary Cretan hospitality has been tested on more occasions than the locals would like to recall. Venetians, Ottomans and Germans to name a few have occupied the island and eventually been repelled , and whilst the spirit of Cretans is fiercely patriotic toward their island if you wander off the beaten track you will never fail to be greeted generously and warmly wherever you venture. There's a good chance you will be offered a drink or food and conversation will ensue. Language can be a barrier but somehow whenever this has happened to me we have always found a way to communicate warmly with some very basic Greek, enthusiasm and sign language!
If you stop in a village kafeneio (a traditional Greek cafe/bar & sometimes taverna) there will almost always be someone with enough English who is more than happy to patiently translate.
I'd like to impart a story of an early encounter I experiencd with the legendary help and hospitality of the Cretan people.
I first bought a home in on the island of Crete some years ago. It was cheap and privately purchased from a local family living within the small village the property was nestled within. The house was a traditional village home as found all over the island but it was tired and broken, and I needed a local builder to complete the renovations.
I'd had quotations on the works from some of the larger and more 'shiny' building companies from the island's capital Heraklion which lay about 20kms away. You know the type: Big impressive web site and generally conducting more elaborate projects than my budget could afford. Not surprisingly the prices that came back were way beyond my reach and just as the week I'd set aside on the island to find a contractor was about to end I drove up to the village from my Airbnb base in Iraklio to have one last look around the property. I closed the front door for the last time with a reluctant acceptance in my heart that I'd failed on my trip, but as I turned a lady was leaving the house next door so I acknowledged her with my best 'Kalimera Sas' as I wanted to be polite.
The lady quickly established that English was my native tongue and took time in more familiar dialect to enquire if I was the new owner. "You'll need a builder your house needs a lot of work." she remarked with a smile.
As I agreed and explained my dilemma she quickly explained that her husband was a painter and that he worked for a builder who lived in the village "He's probably at the kafeneio now" she continued "would you like me to go and get him for you?"
I excitedly agreed and 10 minutes later she arrived back to my house in a builders truck!
The builder was Antonis and he spoke no English at all so the lady that I had met just 20 short minutes before remained with myself and Antonis the builder for over 2 hours to translate our conversation and a my unsuccessful trip to find a builder turned out to be a glorious triumph!