Showing posts from January, 2018

#CreteNature Almanack 2018 – Late Winter

A little break as we wind towards the end of our East Crete Upland Village Tour. This week sees the true midwinter between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. This is the coldest part of the year here in Crete (as it is in the rest of the northern hemisphere) so I thought I'd compile a little list of some of the things to look out for in the coming weeks. February 1st was long considered the beginning of the year before Julius Ceasar got his hands on the calendar and it is still celebrated as such in the Pagan wheel of the year as Imbolc. A time for resolutions (in case your January 1st ones have gone by the board) and for starting the spring cleaning (watch out for the Greek version: Clean Monday on February 19th which is a national holiday). Or if all that sounds a bit onerous why not have a midwinter party instead and celebrate the oncoming warmer weather?
Cretan Sowbread, Cyclamen creticum
This is a lovely little Cyclamen endemic to Crete, where it is widespread, …

Pefki - Top of the Gorge

Last week we were walking down by the White River at Makry Gialos. If we had continued up the gorge this is the village at which we would have arrived. It is called Pefki (or Pefkoi) which means Pine Trees in Greek. The Pines to which the name relates are these, the Turkish Pine, Pinus brutia. Although native to the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly Turkey, you will also find them in Australia and New Zealand and the reason for this goes back a little over 100 years to the 25th April 1915. Aussies and Kiwis will recognise this immediately as Anzac day which commemorates the Gallipoli campaign where many Australian and New Zealand lives were lost. 
One of the major landmarks of the Gallipoli landings was a lone pine tree and in the aftermath of the campaign soldiers took cones from the battlefield and planted the seeds back home as living memorials to the fallen. Which is why you have Turkish Pines half a world away in Australia and New Zealand.

But to pleasanter thoughts – this is the…

White River (Makry Gialos - Aspros Potamos)

Considering that this is supposed to be a tour of the upland villages of east Crete you could be forgiven for wondering why I have brought you down here to the coastal resort of Makry Gialos. Apart from the fact that it is a beautiful little place and well worth visiting in its own right it is also the point where one of the main winter watersheds reaches the sea. If you remember back to Chrysopigiand Skordilowe passed beneath the massif of the Ornos mountains and we have now circled around to the mouth of what is grandly called the White River (or Aspros Potamos) in Greek. So today I thought we'd take a gentle riverside stroll and see what is about before motoring up to Pefki next week.

Well, this is it folks and if you are wondering where the water is then I have to tell you that we are still awaiting any significant rainfall. What little flow there is appears to be choked with Giant Cane and after last week's escapade I'm in no hurry to get down amongst it. We'll cro…

A Nose For Navigation

Last time we were together we finished up looking at a dead grasshopper so this week we'll start with a live one. We're very much in grasshopper territory here and this is our local version of the Meadow Grasshopper, Chorthippus bornhalmi. Crickets and grasshoppers are well known for their songs and it is a common myth that they sing by rubbing their legs together. Almost true. Generally speaking crickets chirp by rubbing their wings together whereas grasshoppers rub their wings against their legs. I see that there's an old stone bridge down there crossing a small gully that gets considerably deeper as it heads southwards. Definitely worth investigating methinks.

The gully seems to be running into a bit of a ravine which is absolutely inundated with Giant Cane. Despite its massive height it is, like bamboo, a type of grass. Also, like bamboo, the young shoots are edible and you can eat the boiled rhizomes apparently. I haven't tried it myself and I've never seen any…

The Problem With Icarus

A beautiful sunny start to 2018 and I wish you all a Happy New Year. The other day I passed the back of a curious concrete structure south of Lithines and I decided to stop and walk around to the front of it. Here it is, come on I'll show you. Once upon a time these hexagons were all mirrored which would have been a spectacular sight for that buzzard up there. Despite looking like something out of a Bond movie, it was actually an early solar power experiment. Crete is no stranger to discovering the power of the sun of course. Back in the day an engineer called Daedalus was imprisoned on Crete with his son Icarus by King Minos. In an ingenious escape plan Daedalus made wings of feathers and wax for the pair of them. Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax melted and he fell back to earth with a splat. Actually both Icarus and the story crash at this point because the higher you fly, the colder it gets. Far from melting, the wax was more in danger of icing up. The result would ha…