The recent spell of scorching temperatures – four consecutive days of 40c-plus – made thoughts turn to pleasurable cool evening walks, followed by leisurely meals in village tavernas far away from Paleochora’s often “madding crowds” of July and August. A favourite is the Vavouledo Gorge, above Palea Roumata, and afterwards at the simple taverna in the village “platea” (ref. “Explore” August 2009). Others are a walk up to Ancient Yrtakina ( see “Explore” – February 2011) with dinner at “To Temenia” ; above Voutas ( “Explore” November 2015) with now a choice of two tavernas in the village, or an easy stroll around Azogires, and then to the “Alfa” cafenion.
Here’s my recommendation for an evening in July, escaping the heat of the coast for a short (less than two hour) walk in the foothills, then a meal of traditional Cretan food at a riverside taverna. Note that a car, or taxi arrangement, is necessary for this “experience.”
Many visitors to Paleochora will have driven, or travelled by ‘bus to Elos and Elafonisi, passed through Psariana, and seen …….. absolutely nothing, except for the village sign on the main road. And that’s where you need to drive to, just 20km from Paleochora, first north towards Chania and then turning left at Plemeniana (signed to Drys, Elafonisi). A little further on, look out for and pass by the roadside taverna “O Milos”, where we’ll return to after the walk. Then on through Dris to reach Psariana, parking 100m past the sign, at the foot of a surfaced road leading up to the village.
First, look for a “shaddock” tree, 40m away on the other side of the road, the only one I’ve ever seen, which in spring has pear-shaped citrus fruit similar to grapefruit, but a sharper taste.
Seeds were introduced to the West Indies (Barbados and Jamaica) c.1683 by Captain Shaddock of the East India Company, after a voyage from Malay, East Indies. How this specimen came to grow in SW Crete is a total mystery, but the fruit makes splendid ‘marmalade’.
Walk up, ignoring a turning right, into Psariana ‘hidden’ village, comprising of some half a dozen houses, and a similar number of loud (but chained) dogs. Continue ahead, the road soon becoming unsurfaced, below chestnut and several pear trees. The latter were laden with fruit on a recent visit, and a substantial amount fell into my rucksack as I passed by.
Avoid all left turnings, and keep to the main track. Alongside are myrtle bushes, currently in blossom ; the ripe berries, bottled in a solution of ‘raki’ and sugar, make a powerful spirit, similar to English “sloe gin”, and will be ready for Christmas.
Higher up are large areas of Arbutus Unedo, or Strawberry Tree, the red/orange berries edible, despite what the Latin name might imply. Truly a rural delight.
Twisting then rising, the track (now concreted) reaches a 4-way junction, height 460m. Ahead (left) is a contouring route leading to the high point of the Aligi/Sassalos road, from where you could walk NE over to Floria. But we take the second right, downhill. Distant, the commanding view is of the long ridge leading to Agias Zinas, our “blue moon” church high above Kandanos (see “Explore” – August 2015) and a landmark from many points in our Selino region.
Easy walking now, this time avoiding a track right, will lead into Despotiko, close to a splendid Umbrella Pine tree (Pinus pinea). We’ve been here before, on a walk from Floria (‘Explore’, July 2013.)
Turn right through the village, ahead at a fork, but soon afterwards make a detour, on a track winding up to the small church of Panagia, the short diversion worthwhile for the views, especially towards sunset.
Return downhill, avoid a left turn (into Fragoudiana), and soon reach the “main” road, virtually traffic-free, for a 1 km stroll back to Psariana.
Relax in the cool of the evening at “O Milos” and enjoy the “Eal (sic) park welcome”, where there are eels in the river below, and also possibly on the menu ……