One of the pleasures of winter in Paleochora is spending evenings in the “To Scolio” cafenion in the nearby village of Anidri. With an extensive menu of both Greek dishes and international influences, prepared and served by Georgia and Emilia, and warmth from an exceptionally efficient ‘zomba’ (woodstove), it’s a wonderful place to pass an evening with friends, especially, if the weather’s been good, after a walk in the vicinity to build up an appetite.
Here’s a walk starting and ending at the cafe itself, in the centre of the village. The shorter version is only around two hours, the longer and more difficult route an hour or so longer. Both have superb views along the southern coast of Crete, and inland to the mountains. The terrain on both requires good footwear and sure-footedness, and maybe a “head for heights.”
Begin by walking 500m down the road towards Paleochora, past the village sign, and turn left along the track known locally as “Christos’ road” (of whom more later.) This bends right to a fork, and after 250m it’s already decision time – the shorter route goes up left through a wired ‘gate’, and the longer walk continues along to the right. The shorter one first : pass through the gate, and climb the track, concreted in part, to a ‘col’, then contour on a wide track high above the Anidri gorge. Where the track ends, a footpath begins, ending on a broad ridge with the sea and Ianniscari beaches far below.
Christos, who has lived in Anidri all his life, tells how men and boys from the village took mules down this trail to collect sea salt. After four or five days, they returned from the coast loaded with salt, important in meat preservation . The wide path Christos recalls is now unclear, but head down the ridge, finding a way between rocks (loose at times), thyme bushes and spiny spurge. An outcrop to the right provides a “birds’ eye” view of the beaches, where two cantinas (in summer) will provide refreshments before or after a swim.
For the longer route, and the more adventurous, keep on Christos’ road (which was the original way from Anidri to Paleohora before the road through the gorge was built c. 1970) . This rises gently, then levels to take you past a track (left) and another (right), both gated and avoided, to reach a small plateau. Continue ahead for views overlooking Paleohora, then look for a way through the fencing to the east – the easiest way is to the left of a small depression (pond in winter). If you miss this, the fencing is easily negotiated further along.
When you reach the open hillside, pick a way carefully up through the rocks to a concrete pillar (in England a ‘trig point’.) Enjoy superb views of the peninsula of Paleochora, out to Gavdos island, c.50 km distant, and it would be rare not to see freight and container ships heading through the Libyan Sea en route to/from Suez. The way along the ridge is not easy, with deep fissures and ‘grikes’ in the limestone, potential traps for a twisted or broken ankle, so tread warily. Losing height, look for a rocky platform to the right, from where are the best and most direct views to the beaches, and along the coast to the ‘Crocodile’. Soon after, join the shorter route described earlier, and head down to the sea.
The way through the gorge back to Anidri is unmistakeable, following the streambed, and marked by somewhat unnecessary stone cairns. Three obstacles, a ‘water-slide’, small waterfall (only after heavy rain) and a cave can be climbed direct or avoided by side paths.
Take the left fork at a junction (signed to Anidri), and then leave the gorge to walk up a wide track towards the village. Keep right to the 14th C church of Agios Giorgos, inside which are some of the best frescos in the area, and there you are, back at the cafenion.
With a record number of entries, all correct, tension was high in the cafenion when Emilia and Georgia made the draw. And the winner is …….. Olle Meurling, who receives a €10 voucher to exchange at ‘To Delfini’ bookshop. Olle will also receive an extra special prize very soon. More on that later….
And, lastly, here are some hardy
lunatics souls braving the chilly water at Anidri beach on Christmas day…