|Students played soccer with children in the villages and challenged the guys at the café (kafeneon) to a game of
backgammon (tavli). They felt very comfortable participating in local life. We cannot plan this sort of experience -- it has to
happen on its own. We provide opportunities for visitors to spend quality time with residents. After that, it’s up to them.
Key Greek words to learn to receive welcoming smiles are hello, please and thank you. Half a million people in Crete are
happy to teach key words.
Seminar attendees enjoyed discussions with musicians and impromptu jam sessions. In a beautiful village in the
foothills of Mount Psiloritis, we savored wild herb tea and honey with a fascinating herbalist at her workshop filled with
medicinal plants and tonics. We joined chefs and botanists in the countryside to learn about Crete’s amazing and fragile
botanical world. Meeting organic vintners for private tours of their wineries was a rare and wonderful privilege.
From the outdoor wood-burning ovens of traditional tavernas, we enjoyed tender roast lamb or pork with potatoes and
fresh tomatoes filled with seasoned rice (gemista). Other favorite delicacies were gigantes (giant lima beans in an
aromatic tomato sauce), cumin-scented braised goat, fresh cheeses and salads. At seaside tavernas, the grilled octopus,
sardines, fried calamari and salads quickly vanished from our plates.
Many attendees said they ate more fresh produce in one week in Crete than they do in a month at home. The flavor of ripe
fruit and vegetables from the garden meters away provides incentives. Note that growing and producing your own food in
Crete is not an elitist trend -- it is a time-honored necessity for many families and taverna owners -- heirloom seeds, good
weather and grazing land are the basic requirements.
Visitors marvel at food sources in Crete -- colorful tapestries of vegetable gardens, vineyards and olive groves blanket the
countryside. Small pots of chili peppers border doorways while massive grape vines and fruit trees shade courtyards.
One student said, “I cannot believe how much food grows on trees! That olive tree is one thousand six hundred years
older than the United States of America!”
What is not so obvious, particularly to people that have never needed to grow their own food, is that Crete’s natural
resources are at risk due to unsustainable development-tourism-agriculture and climate change. Conservationists-
sustainable organic farmers face an uphill battle around the world. This does not make sense, since we all need to eat. If
people researched their food sources as thoroughly as they research trendy electronics, they would definitely invest in real
and safe food. Professional organic farmers are teachers that can share valuable information, not to mention delicious,
healthy and safe food.
One visiting teacher said this was the first trip abroad for most of her students and they would not realize their experience
in Crete was very special until they traveled elsewhere -- it was so different from standard study tours. Students usually
stay in generic hotels or city hostels and are rounded up by the busload to visit major historic sites. What do people learn
about the world from a speeding vehicle, or huddled together with 50 to 500 other travelers? The only local dish served at
most generic hotels is the global interpretation of horiatiki -- Greek salad.
Crete’s heritage stretches far beyond the Minoan civilization. The wonders of the present should not be missed. There’s
so much to learn in Crete about sustainable living practices -- and why these common-sense necessities are under
constant threat. It’s good that a few educational institutions are choosing to participate in responsible travel/community-
based tourism programs. As the buzzword “sustainability” gets tossed around, those concepts need to be packed in
suitcases. To sustain something is different from waiting until it is destroyed to react -- like fish floating down the river.
Travelers can be active participants of sustainability-in-action that can enrich their lives and help protect our planet for
generations to come.
After our seminars, I visited a few new organic wineries. High-quality organic wine production is on the rise in Crete, which
is very encouraging. If we consider the bigger picture of cultural and natural heritage preservation, this makes perfect
sense. Wine has been produced in Crete for over 4,000 years -- about 3,900 years before the use of toxic chemicals in
agriculture. One new organic winery overlooks ancient settlements and the gorgeous south coast. The vintners are
creating exquisite wines with indigenous grapes. We’ll be visiting them during our seminars next year celebrating the
International Year of Biodiversity.
A few innovative heritage preservation projects are being developed by young farmers and entrepreneurs. They have
firsthand knowledge of the negative consequences of overdevelopment on their island and see their peers trapped in
menial jobs at tourist resorts that do not protect or celebrate Crete‘s heritage. Their experience at universities in big cities
(food deserts and environmental disasters) was a wake up call. We need to be sure that they have every opportunity to
realize their dreams -- to remain in their homeland to pursue meaningful careers that benefit society. We need to invest in
the people protecting the real Crete for generations to come -- not tomorrow (avrio) but now (tora!).
Natural Vitamin C Now: Ideal flavor
combinations using Vitamin C-packed food to
help keep your strength during flu season:
Greens braised with olive oil, garlic and fresh
lemon juice for extra flavor and protection
Quick and rich chicken soup (recipe below)
Broccoli with onions, parsley and lemon juice
(triple flavor and protection)
Smoothies -- berries, citrus juices and yogurt
Treat yourself to organic bulk herbal teas --
straight or with honey and fresh lemon juice.
|CCS 2010 Public Seminars
Join us for one of our fantastic seminars
celebrating the International Year of
Biodiversity and cultural heritage.
Excellent fresh and local cuisine is always
on our menu. See our schedule page
|A special thanks to Katalagari Country Suites for
sponsoring our Responsible Travel Workshop.
|Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries