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Glossa, Crete

by Jon Bush

A tiny village on a faraway isle, Glossa is the hidden gem of Crete

Velvety, purple skies at sunset. The bleating of young lambs being herded in for the night. Smiles and warm calls of “Yassoo!” from workers coming in from the olive harvest. These are the sensations left by the small, undiscovered village of Glossa, Crete, the stubbornly mysterious Greek island in the southernmost Mediterranean.

Tucked up into the rugged foothills of the glorious White Mountains, about 45 miles west of the bustling port town of Hania, Glossa is a truly magical place, as if a portal opened up and transported you 150 years into the past. Perched precariously along a winding dirt road, smelling of sweet fennel and wild sage, the town is a tiny cluster of ancient Greek- style villas, a patchwork of stucco and cement, painted bright white with blue trim. A place where the popular mode of transportation is still the cart-and-donkey, where an explosion of bougainvillea blooms brightly almost year round.

Along with its charming exteriors, Glossa’s people offer the travel-weary a welcome surprise: Hardy, weathered souls literally emerge from their homes to beckon you in for a coffee, a meal, even a place to sleep. Tourist traffic is rare, so a backpacking trekker is made to feel like a king or a queen, treated to the attention of practically the entire population of this remote village, really only about 45 people of all ages, who greet and pamper you with incredible hospitality and true kindness. As with many places far off the beaten trail, it’s the people that make it special.

You can expect to be plied with tasty meats, sweet candies, and strong liquor. Homemade red wine and the potent drink raki are tossed back with a hearty “yammas!” Sit and enjoy a lunch of locally made sharp feta cheese, drenched in homemade olive oil, rich, strong coffee and a hardboiled egg at a small cafe. Stay for dinner and you may be considered family. Stay the night and you won’t want to leave.

You don’t speak Greek? As long as you know how to say “please” and “thank you”, you’ll be fine. The rest can be gleaned from hand gestures and facial expressions, and as Cretan peasants are a passionate people, it isn’t difficult to get what people mean. Often, that meaning is deep and heartfelt, kind and caring, and you’ll leave feeling as if you’ve truly experienced the beautifully rich soul of the Old World.