Thursday, 27 March 2014

Climbing, hiking or picnicking in Patsos Gorge ... with your dog

Climbing in Patsos Gorge
I was invited to Patsos Gorge on a day trip with some friends of mine who were involved with the Cretan speleology group (cave people as we call them). The plan was to gather at the entrance to the gorge, then some of the more energetic people to make their way through the river, while the rest of us would have a leisurely walk along the path a few metres higher up. We would then stop by the little church of Agios Antonios to ceremonially cut the vasilopita (New Year's cake). 

The gorge is extremely beautiful, especially in mid-winter when everything is green and lush and there is a heavy flow of water in the river bed. It is one of the lesser-known Cretan gorges, and except for trips by large groups of cave people, there are relatively few visitors here.
Dogs greet each other on pathway up through the gorge
Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos during my trip here, so I am using Sage's friend Mayia (on her recent trip to this gorge) as a stand-in traveling dog. Sage was still very puppyish when we did this walk, and we hadn't quite learnt each other's boundaries at this point. I don't remember too much about the day, except for a constant anxiety that my dog was out of control. She wasn't, just a bit over-excited to be in a big group of people, away from the city.

Mayia enjoying the view from the top of the gorge
I remember another girl who had a much smaller puppy with her. This little thing had to be carried quite a lot of the way, as she couldn't make it over some of the rocks. I also remember the girl's frozen expression of fear when Sage (all 20kgs of her back then) went bounding towards her puppy in an excited frenzy, and we saw the puppy get bounced over the edge of what I now remember as a ravine. Looking fearfully over the edge we saw that she had only rolled a very short way and was scampering back up towards us. I kept a good hold on Sage after that, and avoided the girl as much as possible.

Sage was also a pain around food (still is actually). So trying to stop her from begging, barking, haring around gathering up whatever crumbs of cake fell to her level... while in a large group of people I didn't know very well, all eating, was not an easy experience. We are much more relaxed around each other these days, but back then it was a bit of a nightmare.
Picnic area by the church
Despite all this, I did get a moment to go and explore the church. It's really beautiful, hidden away in a cave in the gorge, surrounded by trees and running water. The church is dedicated to Agios Antonios, and a few icons are hung around the outside. People also leave votive offerings, as prayers for health or good fortune, or else in thanks. Interestingly, offerings in the form of figurines found in this cave date back to the Bronze Age, and archaeological evidence suggests that this spot has been an area of worship ever since. It's easy to see why - there is a real beauty in this wild and slightly mysterious place.
Church of Agios Antonios in Patsos Gorge
Offerings and icons in the church

For more info on the gorge, have a look at the CretanBeaches website here

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Tai chi on the beach at Cape Sidero...with your dog

Crete's Next Top Dog Model - Mayia
Sometime in February some friends of mine went on a trip to Cape Sidero, at the far eastern end of Crete. This is a beautifully wild, undeveloped peninsular, with several beaches that are popular for windsurfing and fishing. It is easier to have your dog with you on the this wild stretch of coast, as there are no organised beaches. Of course, during winter this is not such an issue.

One or two of these friends are photography enthusiasts, others are tai chi experts, and others are experts at playing on the beach with their dogs. Mayia (Sage's best friend) was on this trip, posing for the cameras, and my friend was kind enough to share her photos with me, so here is a small selection...

For more information, have a look at this description of Cape Sidero by

Thursday, 13 March 2014

A rainy walk around town... with your dog

Dog walking in rainy Heraklion
I don't have much to write for this week's post. It's been a busy week of work, and it's too cold, rainy and windy to want to go out exploring. So, here are a few photos from a short walk I did last weekend with Sage's best friend Mayia.
We met a few friends along the way

Due to the non-stop rain, this was just a quick walk around the streets of Heraklion, in the area of Komeno Mpenteni (one of the gates into the old city), and up towards the neighbourhood of Mastambas. 

We played a little with some of the  beasties we found on the way (some with owners, some were friendly strays of the area), and we messed around taking selfies while waiting outside shops for our friends... 
Mayia browsing the daily papers

Selfie with Mayia

Then we went home to dry off and warm up... and that was pretty much it for the weekend. 

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Enjoy the quieter side of Malia... with your dog

Iris and white poppies at Malia
You might notice that this post about exploring the area around the Minoan Palace of Malia with your dog is actually completely dogless. I have come to Malia for a work trip, and have left Sage with instructions to continue exploring and blogging about her experiences being a traveling dog in Cyprus. I did stash a couple of dog biscuits in my pocket before setting out on this walk, hoping to coax the excavation dog into joining me, but she is a free-spirit and was off somewhere else.

I did find some evidence that dogs had enjoyed this walk, not too long before I got there...

If you find yourself in the area of Malia, with or without a dog, and feel like escaping the tourist strip, head off in the direction of Agios Nikolaos and take the turning for the Palace of Malia, which you'll come to after just a couple of minutes driving. There is a parking area just outside the gates to the site.
Road by Palace of Malia

The road curves around the site, next to the sea. You will pass by Quartier Mu - a part of the Minoan town contemporary with the first of the Bronze Age Palaces at the site. From outside the fence you have a good general view of this section of the site, which is extremely well-preserved. The buildings are constructed from mud brick, which survives to heights of a couple of metres - enough to give a real sense of how the town would have appeared. A modern shelter protects the site from above.
Quartier Mu, Malia, view from the road
On your right just beyond Quartier Mu are several turnings and a network of small footpaths. This is a great place to let your dog have a run around - and I missed my girl while exploring there by myself. To the left (West) these paths lead round to some small beaches, to the right you get to the Minoan Cemetery, straight on is the sea and behind are the mountains... perfect!
View from behind the Palace of Malia towards Lasithi Plateau

I found my way along by the coast on small footpaths, enjoying the huge range of Spring wild flowers - irises, white poppies, bermuda buttercups (Oxalis) and many more. It's a truly lovely time of year to be in Crete. My photos were taken in the early evening after the buttercups had closed;  during the day the flowers open and there is a sea of bright yellow and green.


The Chrysolakkos Necropolis is quite visible from outside the perimeter fence. This necropolis is also contemporary with the first palace and Quartier Mu (the so-called Protopalatial period). This was a monumental stone tomb, resembling a house in style and structure, with a grand facade of large worked stones. The finds from here were also particularly special, including the gold 'bee' pendant which is used as a sort of logo for the Malia area. 

Although this site is not very well preserved, there is a useful information board that provides a plan of the building and a brief summary of the construction, use and excavation of the site. Despite the fact that little remains here, especially in comparison with the amazing buildings in the Palace complex, it's really fun to wander the coast and enjoy the scenery of this area, and to stumble across hidden-away Minoan sites. 
Chrysolakkos Necropolis

Chrysolakkos Necropolis
Information board visible from outside the Necropolis