"Exploring Crete" is Peter Sommer Travels' first scheduled tour in 2017. This year, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a diary of sorts on our blog. Rather than describing every day in detail (you can check our itineraries on www.petersommer.com for that) every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
A wonderful day, full of fascinating, wonderful and diverse sights. I dare say most of our guests will remember one specific aspect of today more than any other, so that's what I have chosen for this post.
All went according to plan today. We left Chania in the morning, made our way to the nearby Akrotiri Peninsula and spent a very serene hour or so in the Venetian-era monastery of Agia Triada Tsangarolou - maybe I'll write about it some other time... Then there was a short visit to the Commonwealth Cemetery at Souda, a reminder of the violent events that took place in the region during the Battle of Crete. Around mid-day, we reached the great and superbly-set Greek and Roman city of Aptera, set high above Souda Bay and commanding extensive views. We had a lovely rural lunch nearby, stopped for coffee in a tiny village with a most extraordinary painted church (more about this some other time) and finally reached Rethymno, the other great Venetian city of West Crete.
But there can be little doubt, whatever we showed our guests today and whatever stories we told them, that the most memorable part of it all were the flowers of Aptera. You can never predict the state of vegetation precisely, but this year, we saw Aptera at the perfect time. Sure, the site has impressive Archaic walls, a Hellenistic theatre, Roman cisterns, a medieval monastery and an Ottoman fortress, making for an impressive assemblage of historic remnants spanning much of Cretan history, and sure, it has wonderful views of Souda Bay, the Akrotiri Peninsula, the Aegean Sea and the White Mountains, making any visit impressive.
But today, Aptera was more than that: it was a sea of flowers, a kaleidoscope of nature itself, a catalogue of plant life, an embodiment of spring. More than 1,700 species of flowers are native to Crete, and about a tenth of them are endemic to the island. They are a well-studied topic, and much has been written about them. Today, it felt like they were all assembled at Aptera!