Walking with Gods and Saints

Loutro-Agios_Stavros-04
colin dixon | walking with gods and saints | aghios stavros, crete

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and strategically separates Europe from Africa. Here on the southern edge of Europe King Minos once ruled; the legendary Minotaur roamed deep in the labyrinth of Knossos and Zeus is claimed to have been born in a cave in the Lefka Ori mountains which form the backbone of the island. To walk along sections of the south west coast of Crete is to travel back in time. In places, where the limestone cliffs fall vertically into the sea, the old sea level is clearly visible. Seismic activity has violently tilted the land upwards until it is three metres higher than in ages past. As well as a journey through geological timescales there are also events which occurred in more recent times. Shortly after leaving Chora Sfakion, where over 20,000 British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers were evacuated when the Germans occupied Crete during World War II, a walker travelling west comes to the steep descent down the cliff face to the long sweep of Sweetwater Beach. So named for the freshwater springs which emerge here after percolating from high in the limestone mountains. St. Paul landed here as the ship he was travelling on collected fresh water. Two kilometres further west from Sweetwater one comes across the tiny church of Aghios Stavros perched above a semi-circular bay. On a hot day a swim here in the silky waters of the Libyan Sea is refreshing before continuing the walk along the oleander fringed path to Loutro, five kilometres further on. Half way round Loutro Bay is the Blue House restaurant and their fish soup makes a perfect first course followed by tender artichoke hearts in lemon sauce. Take your time at the Blue House if you are waiting for the 5.00pm ferry back to Sfakia but be warned, as Loutro may work its magic on you and you decide to find a room here for a night or two.

Colin Dixon

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