Autumn in Crete
Recently I heard a description of Crete that grabbed my imagination: "In
the summer Crete is a blond. In the winter, however, it changes its
The summer "blond" of Crete is due to the almost non-existent rain
and a blistering hot sun, which causes the dried vegetation to colour
the landscape in a yellow hue.
Those of us who live in Crete, or have visited the island in November,
know that this is the month that a metamorphosis occurs - when green
grass carpets most of the island, and Crete actually seems to wake
up from its long summer slumber.
- Crete in Autumn -
In school we learned that fall and winter are the seasons during
which nature takes a rest, in order to be revitalized for its vibrant
spring. Thinking it over now, however, it seems that whoever wrote
that thought probably has never seen Crete in autumn. Also, winter
is supposed to be an inactive season, but on this island no season
is really inactive. However, nature seems to go through its least
creative period during the summer. Vegetation is extremely sparse
and the landscape takes on a desert-like appearance, especially along
its southern shore. Of course, we cannot ignore the plethora of fruits
and vegetables being produced during this period. Therefore, the "inactivity" is
in appearance only, which is caused by the intense drought that rules
- Crete in the summer -
In autumn, when the first rains wash away the summer dust, nature
seems to suddenly wake up and begin its chores, and within a few
days all is green again, with beautiful wildflowers dotting the countryside.
Listen closely and you can almost hear the heartbeat of the inner
island which now takes center-stage - away from the shores, which
was the epicenter of interest for almost six months, as Greek and
foreign tourists invaded the numerous seaside resorts.
Immediately at the end of the summer, farming activities get into
full swing with the gathering of grapes and the spreading and drying
of the raisins. Autumn sets in with the plowing and sowing of the
fields, and the stomping of the grapes for the year's production
of wine and raki. When autumn turns to winter, it's the time for
the olives to be harvested - an activity which involves thousands
of Cretans, farmers and non-farmers alike. Just about everyone on
the island owns at least some olive trees in the villages, even though
most of the population resides in the cities.
It is almost inconceivable for a Cretan to purchase olive oil for
home use. Most people produce a sufficient quantity for the needs
of the entire family, while a great many insure an extra income by
selling their production of olive oil to wholesale companies.
- Olive tree with nets underneath
it for collecting the falling olives -
Autumn Weather in Crete
Although autumn kicks off in September, most of the month is still
summer, and the weather continues to be warm and mostly dry. During
the day the temperature can reach 25 to 30 degrees, while at night
you may need a sweater or light jacket for the evening chill. Normally,
the strong summer winds die down by this time, and the days begin
to shorten. The first rains usually appear in September, although
there have been some years that the month remained completely dry.
In October, the days continue to shorten, but the sea becomes even
calmer than usual. The temperature remains user-friendly, averaging
around 25 degrees, and there are still many people enjoying the beaches,
including the last influx of tourists. Some rain falls, but not too
November is the epitome of autumn in Crete , with enough rainfall
and cold days so that home heating is turned on for the first time - but
not everyday. There are still plenty of sun-kissed, calm days with
the temperature climbing to 20 degrees or more by the seashore, while,
at the same time, the first seasonal snow dusts the mountain tops.
In the beginning of December there are still enough warm days when
the thermometer gets into the 18-20 degree range, but as the month
progresses, the days will get cloudy and colder. However, one must
remember that in Crete the seasons are not as clearly defined as
in northern Greece , or especially in some other parts of Europe
. Even in January, there are wonderfully sunny days providing enough
warmth to allow sitting on the southern beaches in shirt sleeves.
Crete is unlike northern Europe where, from the middle of autumn,
the days are continually cold and evidence of life in nature is almost
non-existent. In Crete , there will be cold and rainy days, of course,
but they will rarely last more than three or four days at a time.
Then, the clouds part and the temperature edges upwards. For this
reason, it is difficult to imagine another place with such a people-friendly
The colours of Autumn in Crete
The turquoise of the sea is almost ever-constant off the shores
of Crete . When the water gets rough, its colour will vary from dark
blue to gray-green, but the lovely turquoise will return soon enough,
together with the brilliant smile of Mr. Sun. The sea is the ruler
of Crete - the number one attraction for the millions of visitors - but
equally important are the island's picturesque mountains and small
fertile valleys. Let autumn be the reason to distance ourselves from
the sea for a moment, and turn towards the mostly unknown, inner
plateau of this unique Mediterranean island - those beautiful and
quaint villages. Many of these villages, spread throughout the countryside,
maintain the famous traditional character, with vineyards, olive
groves and other magical natural surroundings. Let us leave the much-traveled
roads so that we may trek a small narrow track on foot and re-discover
the inner beauty of this magical island. Let us walk the fields and
immerse ourselves in the colourful scenery - the richly green grass,
the silver hues of the olive trees, the gold and red of the vine
leaves, as they wilt and fall.
Olive trees and grapevines have co-existed in Crete for eons, and
it is a truly harmonious marriage, indeed. Where the yellow of the
vines ends, the silver-green colour of the olive trees begins - when
the picking of grapes finishes, the harvesting of the olives commences.
Century-old rhythms, which are repeated without interruption, create
and support this special lifestyle.
In the autumn, even the atmosphere is different, becoming extremely
crystal clear during those sunny days which follow the rains. Gone
is the haze of the August heat, and the "far-away" mountains suddenly
seem to be within arms length - each detail well-etched in the crispness
of the fall day. Once again, Mother Nature dusts herself off, and
begins to shine with the multi-colours of life. The sky becomes exceptionally
beautiful and exciting this time of year. Some days, a multitude
of clouds create dramatic icon-like figures and shapes, while other
times a cloudless sky seems to meld with the sea, adopting a deep
azure-turquoise colour of its own.
Snow-capped mountains are everywhere in Crete - it is impossible
to imagine the island without them. Their presence is a constant,
friendly reminder of the diverseness of Crete , and the Cretan soul
identifies with the boldness of those lofty peaks. Is there at least
one Cretan who could imagine his island without its mountains? Not
Close to the mountainous areas, vegetation changes greatly, becoming
more wild and imposing. The olive trees and grapevines no longer
rule. It's the acorn, oak, cypress, chestnut and plane trees - those
wonderful giants that live by the water as if trying to quench an
endless thirst - that become the dominate factors in the landscape.
In autumn, the leaves of the plane (platanos) trees take on all the
hues of gold and red to paint a fairytale picture of foliage.
eyes can never encompass all of this beauty, and there are no words
to describe the depth of its loveliness. We need the finger on
the camera to click these magical moments into permanence, thankful
that we are here in this time and place.
But, the gratitude is double: firstly, for the surrounding beauty
of the island; secondly, for the knowledge that these moments are
endless - that they will exist so long as I look for them.
Article by Yannis Samatas
with photos of Crete in November