Alex at Liquid Gold Cave in Richmond (who comes from Crete) kindly sent me an email full of suggestions for what I might do here. Her description of the nearby fishing village of Mohlos with its excellent waterfront taverna, Ta Kochylia, made this outing a must. With the weather set to change towards the end of my week and rain forecast, I decided to make the most of this beautiful sunny day and head off to Mohlos quite early, stopping at the Minoan ruins at Gournia on the way.
Apart from the ruins themselves, the view from there was just fantastic. Arriving quite early, I found I had the place pretty much to myself for a while, having paid just €2 to go in. The more famous Knossos close to Heraklion was controversially partially reconstructed but the small Gournia lacks this modern interference. You can still see the evidence of streets and buildings, which are clearly marked with explanatory signs.
The Minoan civilisation dates from about 3500BC. Gournia is a Late Minoan site – 1550-1450BC. I didn’t know much about the Minoans before doing some reading prior to this holiday but I liked what I read. Minoan society was highly structured; its wealth derived from the trading of copper, tin, pottery, gold, silver and saffron was distributed amongst its citizens. They were highly advanced and houses even had underfloor heating and the earliest known flushing toilets. Their history is steeped in mythology – most notably the Minotaur – and arts, craft and culture. No one is quite sure how they came to an end. Was it a gigantic earthquake or invaders? Whatever it was, their influence is an integral part of modern Cretan life.
I came across olive trees and clumps of wild thyme. Olive trees are everywhere I go of course, their branches bending with the weight of what promises – so everyone tells me – a bumper harvest this year. The olive is part of life here. Manolis told me most of the villagers here have olive trees and in the autumn 2-3 months are given over to the harvest and production of olive oil. This is part, of course, of the famous healthy Cretan diet: wonderful quality, low acidic olive oil that is full of goodness and health promoting qualities.
Moving on the Mohlos, I had to turn off the main road and follow a narrow winding, and sometimes cliff-hanging road down to the village for 5km. Fortunately I’d read warnings of the drive so was prepared and took things very slowly. I noticed that shrines marked some of the spots where there was no crash barrier and a sheer, rugged drop below. Not a journey I’d like to do at night! I had Leonard Cohen playing in the car. I dug out an old CD remembering Cohen’s love of Greece; he’s had a home on the island of Hydra since the sixties. I couldn’t help laughing at my choice as ‘Hallelujah’ blasted out as I negotiated a particularly treacherous part of the road. But arriving in Mohlos was a joy and worth every nervous moment of the journey. It is beautiful. It’s very small and parking in a car park is free. I walked down in search of coffee and found a wonderful cafe.
The Rocks cafe was lovely. Coffee good enough for me to have two cappuccinos as I sat for a while reading my book (Travels with Epicurus) and stopped periodically to just enjoy the view and peace of the place. The owner pointed out Ta Kochilia for me – in fact, just opposite across the water. Then, after a time I got up and wandered a little before lunch.
I introduced myself to Ta Kochilia’s owner, George Fragkiadakis, telling him that Alex had suggested I come. He’s helped source olive oil for Liquid Gold Cave. I asked advice about what to eat and chose a typical Crete salad, Ladopsomo, which is dried bread with tomatoes, soft cheese, olives, oregano and lots of olive oil.
I loved the trip to Mohlos so much I hope to go back, perhaps depending on the weather. It’s not far away, only about half an hour. On the way back with the sun high and the sky a deep blue, the scenery was stunning. I had to remember to concentrate on the roads though but fortunately came across a couple of stopping places for views. This was just coming down into Istron; nearly home.