“There’s a place in the middle of the wine-dark sea called Crete,
a lovely, fruitful land surrounded by the sea” –
For anyone wanting to explore the city of Rethymno, its landmarks, culture and character – and then to taste a variety of the famous Cretan wines afterwards to relax, this is the tour for you!
Your local private and licensed tour guide with transportation will meet you your hotel, to whisk you away! Once in the town, we set out from the small but picturesque Venetian harbour with its fishing boats, overlooked by the Egyptian Lighthouse of the late Ottoman era.
Nearby are Venetian private residences (Palazzos) and their Ottoman equivalents (Konaks),
as well as Venetian public structures like the Loggia, and the Lion Fountain. Renaissance and Baroque architectural touches can be spotted by the eagle-eyed, as well as plentiful Turkish carvings on door frames and lintels
… the Lion of St Mark rubs shoulders with his fellow symbolizing the Sultan.
The city has religious structures of both Christian (basilicas, cathedral, churches) and Moslem origin (now just minarets attached to churches); and is well equipped with schools – one built 250 years ago still functions; another is now a bijou hotel – classrooms turned into classy bedroom-suites. Modern exponents of much older skills may yet be found: a shop making phyllo-pastry (with sweets like dragons and floral wreaths sculpted from bread), another making the stringed lyra that epitomizes Cretan music at present.
The Archaeological Museum of course displays the wider history of the region. The municipal garden of Rethymno, dating from the Ottoman period, hosts every summer the Cretan Diet and Wine Festival.
Our walk then takes us up to where in the past the ancient Greek goddess Artemis (Diana to the Romans) was worshiped; she is the older sister of Apollo. Together they were the Patron Gods of Rethymno in antiquity: the ancient coins of the city depict Apollo or dolphins (the latter remain the emblem of Rethymno even today).
The view is tremendous from the temple area – to the West, the White Mountains chain and to the East, the highest mountain of Crete (Mount Ida), with the blue sky overhead merging with the sea on the horizon
The Venetian Fortezza of the 16 century now stands where did the ancient temple of Apollo (the God of Music among his other talents). How very appropriate then that here today the Renaissance Festival of Rethymno is held every summer: in the grounds and structures artists, performers, and musicians from all over the world perform under the starry summer nights.
Our journey into viewing and appreciating the myriad influences that shaped the city of Rethymno and its people is not only acquired through its monuments and stories, but is also a venture into aromas and tastes!
So finally we arrive at our oasis for the wine tasting. We visit the wine cellar and our tour with the sommelier begins, as we venture into the world of Dionysus.
Remnants of grape seeds have been found in vessels dating back to the Early Bronze age – five thousand years ago; wines both pure and resinated, even mixed with beers and herbs (surely an acquired taste!), have been detected in Minoan pots.
Wine and vine fruits constitute along with oil and bread the fundamental parts of the famed triad of foodstuffs that made up the backbone of the old Mediterranean Diet. With the addition of copious meats, the Homeric heroes stuffed themselves at banquets and meals
Cretan old-style wine is a thing unto itself .. a taste other westerners will not have met: rather like an immature sherry. It grows exceedingly mellow after 40 years, as you will after 40 minutes of its imbibing! Crete is the most important and active vinicultural district of Greece.
Its geographical situation and particular soil conditions make its wine exceptional and varied. The island has many vinicultural cooperatives producing wines that can stand alongside any others in the world .. often mixing very old grape stocks known on the island with more famed names found from Europe to California today.
Discover the wines that may be as ancient as the Minoans. Give your palate something new to appreciate and savour!