Candie, a former name of Crete, exported candied fruits that were so popular they were known as ‘candy’.
We are often fascinated with how the names of cities and towns evolve and as we shared in last week’s blog, Yasou from Crete, this city and island has been known by many names.
For centuries the city and island fell under the rule of Arabs, Byzantines, Venetians and Turks and its name has been changed many times: Al-ḫandaq – Chándax – Candia – Kandiye – Candie – to name a few. All these names referred to both the entire island of Crete as well as to the city that is now named Heraklion.
Food + Flavors
Before leaving Athens we were told that if a Cretan invites you to their home, you really must say yes. So when we received an invitation to lunch by our Airbnb hosts we were delighted to accept. Their lovely home was perched high on a hill above the city with outstanding views of the Aegean Sea, the harbor and the city of Heraklion beyond. We spent a wonderful afternoon getting to know our very interesting hosts who have lived and worked around the world and enjoyed a terrific Cretan meal with local wine and raki.
Our hosts then invited us to a Red Cross dinner the following week where we were able to taste more local cuisine and watch local dancing. The program began with a number of speeches and the Archbishop of Crete, Irinaios Athanasiadis gave the blessing. Our hosts were so gracious they made sure we met as many English speaking dinner guests as possible. Crete was a great destination and these two events will forever keep it in our hearts.
October is the time when Cretans begin making fresh tsikoudia or raki. It is an alcoholic beverage, a fragrant, grape-based pomace – the remains of grapes after winemaking, Cretan brandy that contains 40% to 65% alcohol by volume. The pomace ferments for about six weeks in a tightly-sealed barrel, and is then distilled. Consumed during feasts and festivals, this spirit-of-choice, served in a 1-2 ounce glass is also sipped before and after a meal. Cretans are exceptionally healthy and claim tsikoudia / raki is the reason.
One day when we sat down to have a glass of wine, it was accompanied with a dish peanuts, raisins and stragali – a crunchy white chick pea that had been dried. It had a satisfying crunch and flavor.
Among our favorite light dishes were the wonderful Greek salads as well as a salad called Dakos, made with fresh tomatoes, Cretan mizithra cheese and olive oil all on top of crispy chunks of bread.
The photo below is something that caught our attention as we were walking past a market. It is called askolymproi and is the outer thick skin of a root from a wild thorn bush. It has white carrot-like roots and seems to grow wild on the island. When harvesting, they do not uproot the entire plant but harvest it like asparagus, allowing it to regrow for the next year. We looked for this dish the next time we ate out and were lucky to find it on the menu. Traditionally cooked with onions or fennel in olive oil, and served with a lemon sauce they were indeed tasty. It is often served with lamb.
Museum of Christian Art
The Museum of Christian Art is located inside the church of St. Catherine. The main theme of the exhibition is how religious art developed from the 14th through to the 19th century.
The collection also included murals, stone sculpture, wood carving, coins, post-Byzantine metalwork, devotional objects, miniature art embroidery, manuscripts and books. Admittedly we have seen a fair amount of ecclesiastical art, but this was an excellent museum and we feel, worth a visit.
Heraklion Municipal Art Gallery
The Heraklion Municipal Art Gallery is, at least currently, using the beautiful space of Saint Mark’s Basilica as a temporary exhibition hall. We visited a painting collection called “the roots” by Kostis Moudatsos.
The artist was born locally in Heraklion and now lives and works in Athens. We appreciated his clean style and vision.
This night we filled our souls with lively Greek music followed by the wonderful old 1964 movie, Zorba the Greek with Anthony Quinn. The movie has a fantastic ending – a reminder perhaps to live and enjoy every moment.
Yasou from these Cretans,
Ted and Julia