Crete, the largest island in Greece and the fifth in Mediterranean Sea, is also the most fascinating one. With a remarkable history which the traveler can admire all over the island, from the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos to the Venetian fortress of Rethymo, Crete is renowned for its natural beauty, diverse landscape and fertile valleys and rich gastronomic culture. Crete simply has it all!
Cretans have a lot history and modern-day culture to be proud of and, with each day, they prove the Minoan’s spirit is still alive on the Island.
As November and fall comes to Crete, these Islanders prepare for the autumn activities: grape gathering, wine and tsikoudia making, among others.
Starting tomorrow and for an entire week, Tsikoudia, a local spirit also known as raki, is the subject of another great Cretan festival in Voukolies, West Crete.
Tsikoudia or raki is a local Cretan strong distilled spirit with approximately 37% alcohol per volume (it’s similar to Scotch whiskey or gin), it’s produced from must-residue of the wine press. After the grape harvest, when the vines have been pruned, the remaining crushed grape skins comprising seeds, pulp and stems are distilled to produce Tsikoudia. The entire process is a family and friends celebration, where everyone brings food to share while sampling the drink as it is being made.
This is the Cretan’s way of paying tribute to gods for giving them fertile soil, as least historically. Research into the history of Tsikoudia tells us it was the favorite drink of ancient Minoans and Myceneans, and accompanied each of their meals. Though the Minoans diet was quite different from the nowadays Mediterranean diet (it included meat while the fish was the last on their list), it is thought Tsikoudia was always present at mealtime.
Every autumn, Cretans celebrate the end of the grape harvesting by drinking tsikoudia. The name tsikoudia is also unique to Crete, as the rest of Greece tends to drink a similar spirit called tsipouro. This clear and fragrant liquor is offered to visitors as a welcoming gesture or at the end of a meal, and it is served straight, in shot glasses, usually well chilled.
This November the warmth and friendliness Cretans are famous for is once again played out at the local level. Villagers and townsfolk, always willing to share with visitors the best of their culture, are welcomed once again to the Voukolies. So if you are on the Island, or intend visiting, be sure and share in the festivities.
Voukolies is a little over half an hour South and West of Chania by car or bus. Be sure not to miss the Saturday market the village is noted for, too.