Anogia is a small but very important village in the centre of Crete island in Greece. I spent one month during the summer in Anogia. Sometimes you just wouldn't drive for one or two hours to the beaches. But, hey, lots of things to see in this interesting place!
It is the highest village in Crete and sits at 700-790m above sea level. It is the birthplace of the famous Xylouris family with internationally acclaimed singers and Lyra players, the most known being Nikos Xylouris (aka Psaronikos, 1936 - 1980). In the morning, you could be drinking your coffee with Psarantonis (Antonis Xylouris), Nikos' brother who is a very famous Lyra player and singer as well. I really enjoy watching him play because of his fierce, almost prehistoric temperament.
When I met him, after extending my admiration and thanking him for offering his music to everyone, I asked him to go to his brother's house, which now serves as a folklore Museum about Psaronikos, kept by his sister, to make a portrait, and he gladly obliged. He is a very calm and polite person in real life, which may strike you as odd.
At the shop next to the cafe I was having my breakfast with Greek coffee and maybe a raki (a traditional spirit made of distilled grapes), or two... or three... or... anyways, there was a lady sitting with her friends, gossiping about village matters. Her name was Irene and I took the time to meet her. She was a very sweet lady, but the next day you would probably have to re-introduce yourself to her. She even gave me a piece of advice. That we men, should be very careful and never trust women. She said that as a Mantinada (Cretan narrative poems improvised on-the-spot).
She asked me to take her picture, so she could use it as a memorial photo on her grave. She also asked me that when I visit Anogia in the future, after she had passed away, to say, "please God, forgive her". So, Irene, there you go.
I took a random road, after meeting with Irene, to see the small alleys of the village. A few meters down the road, a lady asked me to go inside her shop to see her handcrafts. Her name was Gianna and the shop was also her house. This is true for many shops in Anogia. I met her, she told me about her family and offered me another raki. I even bought a nice bag for my back, handmade by her, which fits my camera nicely and really looks cool.
Entering an alley, I went through a beautiful garden full of pots of plants and flowers. The home's door was open and a white cloth curtain kept you from seeing inside. I lingered for a few minutes as I really liked the plants and the whole scenery, when Zafirenia came out and invited me to the house. The house was even prettier.
Zafirenia said she would prepare a little something to welcome me. I told her not to bother but she insisted. After all, she said, it wouldn't be anything much. Yeah right. She brought raki -of course-, cheese, traditional rusks, fruit, sweets and soon the whole table was full of stuff. We stayed there for some time and she told me many stories about her life.
Her hospitality, I told her, reminded me of an abstract from a book by N. Kazantzakis - one of the most famous Greek writers of all time...remember Zorba?, he is Cretan by the way -. In that, he mentioned that his grandfather was picking his oil lamp every night and would go outside to look for any foreign visitors, to provide shelter and food for them for the night. She told me, well, here is the oil lamp and pointed to an oil lamp hanging by the fireplace.
I enjoyed Zafirenia's home so much, so I met a girl in Anogia, Zacharenia - yes, it's a different name, the first one is derived from Sapphire and the second from sugar -, and asked her to wear the traditional clothes Sartza and make a few images in Zafirenia's house.
Here I can share a fun story. Trying to find Zafirenia's home for the second time, to ask her if it was ok to make a few more pictures with Zacharenia, I got disoriented - no, I get it all the time, it was not the raki if you were wondering - and went into the house just across the street. This door was also open. I went in and the whole family was having lunch. The owner of the house stood up and with a big smile on his face, he exclaimed "Welcome to our home! please take a seat, eat with us!". Noooo... not again, I thought! But I rejected politely, as I had Zacharenia waiting, and was full already!
After getting the green light, I took Zacharenia with me and made the pictures.
After taking the pictures, Zacharenia insisted to take me out to lunch to thank me for the photos! If you are on a diet, you should think twice before visiting Anogia.
In the afternoon, after lunch and a small power nap, I went back to the base cafe and after the coffee, I went for another stroll to another side of the village. A few meters away, was the store and home of Hermione. She was making several traditional items with her loom and she took the time to show me how that works.
She offered me - I don't expect you to guess - raki, cheese, and rusks. She also took me to her room behind the store and showed me how to spool the thread into a ball. She talked mostly about her family.
Further down the road, I met a Lyra maker, Stefanos Ploussis, at his workshop. The instruments he made were really beautiful and you could feel the great craftsmanship behind them. But there was something more to Stefanos, other than the instruments he made.
During his spare time, Stefanos was making wooden sculptures, out of tree roots. He sometimes looses his sleep over that. The sculptures are really surreal and each one tells a story, usually a known myth or even a historic battle. I was so interested in that, so we spent some time talking about this venture. He even took me to his warehouse where he keeps these beautiful pieces of art!
A day at the village is not very often so full, especially around rural Greece. Anogia is a place full of culture and things to do. The locals, although may look a bit scary at first sight because of their black clothes and beards, are very kind, polite and hospitable.
Later, my company and I, enjoyed a magical night at the local theater with music by Psarantonis and Loudovikos (Lewis) of Anogia. Many more full and beautiful days followed!