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!
I'm so grateful to the lady I met by chance that autumn afternoon. It transpired that my neighbour was in fact her mother-in-law and she'd been to do some shopping for her. I had made the lady's family a little late for dinner that evening but she explained it was no trouble and Antonis and his team did a superb and affordable job on my new Cretan house turning it into the home I'd dreamt of.
This brief tale for me sums up my general experiences with the people of Crete for over 30 years. Yes of course like any society that are what the locals would call 'malakas' here and there (I'll leave you to translate that word!) however the vast majority of Cretans are truly and genuinely delightful, helpful, welcoming and wonderful.
You will find warm sun and sandy beaches in any number of countries and islands dotted all around the Mediterranean sea and some of those will be a shorter flight from northern Europe than Crete, but it's definitely worth the extra hour or two on the plane to experience for yourself the wonderful welcome you will be afforded by the people of Crete. They do need to visit as tourism and it's injection of international funds is a large part of the island's lifeblood but they go above and beyond quite naturally, and most who spend time on the island of Crete don't just make acquaintances they make friends, and in my case some of those people have been some of my most cherished friends for over 25 years.
It's easy to write about the history you'll find in Crete along with the climate, the food and the wide sandy beaches but I implore you if you make the superb decision to visit Crete go and get lost amongst it's towns and village and immerse yourself into the people of this special island. You will not regret it and their humour, kindness and welcome will almost certainly leave you with a feeling of wanting more.
There can be no doubt that Cretans are a unique and special breed. Their culture is steeped in history both wonderful and catastrophic but it has never waivered their outlook and their optimistic greeting for all who come. They are proud of their home and largely honoured you gave your money and your time to experience their island.
Go to Crete and enjoy the weather and the wonderful food but please take time to get out of the large resorts and above all enjoy your time with this wonderful and special people.
Photos of Crete bring you our unbiased and honest guides to the island of Crete, Greece. We've had a connection to the island for over 30 years and we as called on our own personal experiences to bring you what we think is important and our opinions on how to get the best from your stay as we write guides about each and every aspect of visiting the largest of the Greek islands... Crete. We have a SHOP and we also offer PROPERTY CONSULTANCY & MANAGEMENT within Crete so don't forget to take a look and have a wander about the entire PHOTOS OF CRETE SITE. Thanks for reading.
© Simon Mcilvenna 2020