Crete cultural holiday
Description of Crete cultural holiday
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Finding out exactly how many islands there are is like trying to get your head around the Greek alphabet. To most people it remains a mystery. And in ...
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PlanetBefore the 'Insights' holiday begins, we clean up plastic rubbish that has been swept in by the winter sea and put it into local municipality bins. Unfortunately there is no official recycling scheme in this area yet. On our walks, all rubbish is taken home after picnics. We also do regular open air sketching: Sketching outdoors is conducive to respect for and contemplation of the environment. It is an activity with minimal to zero impact. We use water based paints so there are no polluting thinners. The grey water can be re-used to water dry vegetation. We promote and share our real concern for the environment, talking about the birds we see (mostly raptors like buzzards and Griffon vultures, herons and finches and rarer migratory birds), the flora and fauna, such as tiny frogs on the road, taking great care not to tread on them. We point out badger holes and mourn the occasional dead badger or weasel on the road. We are constantly learning about the properties of plants and their uses, passing on this information to interested co-walkers or learning from them. For example, there are many carob trees around Kissamos Bay. Carob beans were a staple food during the Nazi occupation and are now a recognised nutritionally rich substitute for chocolate in vegetarian food.
As Walking Leaders, we are always willing to learn more about the history, botany, culture etc. of the area and to do what we can to protect it. We also grow our own organic vegetables, have a garden that is abuzz with insect life and use solar power for hot water.
The accommodation where guests stay also use solar power for hot water. Because our holidays are in the low season, it is rare to need airconditioning.
We walk a lot! As most of the walks are in the local area on old tracks we do not need transport, but if we go further afield, we use the public bus system.
PeopleIn our Insights holiday, we introduce guests to local people and local ways, developing an awareness and respect for a traditional way of life, based on the land and community. Eating and drinking with friends is at the heart of this way of life, as is their devotion to the Church Calendar, with its fasting and celebration; always communal and rooted in the past. The cookery lesson is offered in the kitchen of a local tavern by the excellent chef there, who invites guests to participate in the preparation of a regional dish such as Boureki, made with courgettes, potatoes and the Cretan soft cheese made from sheep milk. Everyone enjoys eating it later, helped down with plentiful wine or beer or fresh orange juice and other culinary delights.
Having mentioned the Church calendar, it is the time to introduce the opportunity to paint an icon, having seen them in the local churches. Icons are painted professionally by devout Orthodox icon painters and by copying their themes, we experience some of the devotion to a form of painting in which Cretan painters were famous; El Greco being one who developed from the School of Cretan painters. There are still mediaeval wall paintings in little churches to be found locally.
Another way that we give a taste of the culture to guests is to teach them some Greek phrases so that they can greet people or thank them in their own language.This is a fun way to enhance respect between communicators, especially for older people who are less likely to speak English. It also makes English speakers more aware of how much Greek there is in the English language. As Leaders, one of whom is a Greek national of Cretan descent, we both speak Greek and act as translators and teachers.
The final trip is to Chania Botanical Park, a green and reforested area which was once devastated by forest fire. There is a wealth of plant life and fruit trees from all over the world; we eat at their organic restaurant and then watch and take part in an exhilarating display of traditional Cretan dancing. This is truly an insight into an ancient form of expression, some these dances going back far into the past and expressing a joie de vivre that modern life tends to suppress. Anyone can join in at any point, old or young, linking hands and uniting in the rhythms.
We visit the new, family run oil producing factory to learn about its methods; this is where all the local people take their olives to be pressed and either sell their oil or keep it. Most families have their own oil. We buy ours from a friend who does not spray his trees so it is organic. Olive oil is basic to the Mediterranean diet promoted by modern medecine; it is incredibly nutritious.
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