new guide to walking in western Crete
Plus, 10 July 2009
It's not so long since anyone who cared to explore Greece offroad was
pretty much on their own. Few detailed maps and even fewer guidebooks
were available. Recent publications have begun to remedy the deficiency
and a new book, "Hikes, Walks and Rambles in Western Crete: A Guide," published
by Kritiki, is a welcome addition to their number.
While the authors, Angelos Assariotakis and Yannis Kornaros, are dedicated
mountaineers, their book does not assume specialized knowledge or expertise
and, as the title suggests, the routes they describe are graded for
difficulty, from easy to very tough. They are clearly of the persuasion
that it is better to travel than to arrive: "Fundamentally," they state
in the introduction, "we think that the beauty or a place lies in the
trail which leads us to it and the effort we make to reach our destination."
The book reflects their enthusiasm for the less-trodden paths of their
native Crete and a practical approach to walking. A concise section
introducing the geology, climate, flora, people, mythology and history
of Crete precedes tips on how to get there, accommodation and food.
Some of that material may be available in a general guide, but Assariotakis
and Kornaros inject invaluable local know-how. Their tips on clothing
and equipment, for instance, are tailor made to help walkers prepare
for three things that Crete, as they note, "has in abundance: stones,
thorns and sun."
They have walked, climbed and scrambled every step of the way and can
suggest when it's better to go against the flow, as in beating the
crowds and the worst of the sun in the popular Samaria Gorge by walking
up it instead of down. Detailed instructions include when and where
to collect water, where to slide down a hill on your rear or clamber
across a creek and what alternatives there are to some scary descents.
Brief highlighted texts offer intriguing background to everything from
a bear-shaped stalactite, the wild "kri-kri" goat and the native herb
dittany that was used by Hippocrates, to Cretan heroes, dances, folklore
and traditions that include sheep-stealing and vendettas.
Each of the 51 routes comes with its own small map and an information
table listing the level of difficulty, duration, elevation changes,
terrain, signposting, recommended season, availability of water and
shade, popularity of the route, food and accommodation, access to the
trail and sights to be seen on the way. The book concludes with a summary
of routes, useful telephone numbers and addresses, a map key, bibliography
Despite all the information it contains, the guide is surprisingly
compact, kept small partly by limiting illustrations to maps and a
few indicative photographs of what you can expect to see. It will make
a perfect companion for walkers at all levels of ability who want to
explore the natural beauties of Crete.
"Hikes, Walks and Rambles in Western Crete: A Guide" is published by
Kritiki in Greek and English editions. The English translation by Aristos
Grigoriadis is a little stilted at times but never less than clear.