Many of you will know how much I love Crete and the easy Cretan way of life. Not only does the sunshine stop you from running around at 100 mph but the attitude of every local person and charisma towards life is admirable. Good natured, friendly people who would share their last meal with you. If a Greek person can share with you, they will and there is always plenty to go around. No Greek likes eating on his own, sharing a meal is something that ought to be enjoyed with the rest of the family. Unfortunately, in our modern day of life it is not always possible to have long lunches or dinners with family and friends. Somehow the Cretans do manage to take time out for this important time of the day. I often get told ‘come and sit down’, ‘what would you like to drink?’, ‘ have some food with us’ and it’s not just out of politeness, they really want you to share and listen to you finding out how you have been getting on.
I was a tour leader and spent 2 long summers in Gouves with the Greek family, looking after holiday makers. The apartment block we occupy consists of 16 apartments, a large immaculate and well- maintained pool and a little taverna, where you can indulge in authentic Greek food.
We always talk about how lockdown has affected our British way of life but this pandemic affected the Cretans in a very hard way too. A nation, who depends on 6 months of work during the summer to keep them going for the remainder of the year, has been hit twice as hard. Not only was their last season of welcoming tourist onto the island in the summer of 2019, but they had to live on government handouts for the last 24 months, and to live on EURO 500/month covering bills and looking after a family is certainly not easy.
As if the lockdown and loss of income wasn’t enough, in early November 2020, 5 days into the 2nd lockdown, torrential rainfalls on the island of Crete turned roads into rivers, flooded homes and businesses. The mudslide coming from the mountains destroyed most of the village and livelihood of many locals. Dozens of motorists were trapped in rushing waters as rivers and streams overflowed. The rushing waters swept away parked vehicles into the sea.
I managed to come back to his beautiful sunshine island this year to help the family to get their apartments and taverna ready for more holiday makers. One day I ventured into Heraklion, the capital city of Crete via the local bus service, which is actually very well organised, if you don’t mind waiting for a bus, which might turn up anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes of its scheduled arrival time. But this is life in Crete, there is no rush and no-one will blink an eyelid, if you turn up a little bit late.
Heraklion is a beautiful city with lots of history, but I was more interested in the wonderful cafés along the piazzas where you can sit for hours and watch the world go by. ‘Phyllo sophies’ , which means wisdom of the phyllo – a reference to the old, wise family recipies, is a coffee shop with tradition since 1922, when Apostolos Salkintzis set his foot in Lion’s Square. You will find a lot of Greek families in the café, which lets reputation speak for itself.
Bougatsa is the trademark of Phyllo sophies and the recipe has remained unaltered since 1922. Fine phyllo pastry served with vanilla crème and icing sugar and cinnamon will awaken your senses. I have tried to replicate this delicious, mouthwatering recipe and I hope it will take you back to a carefree holiday in the sunshine.