ANOGEIA Crete Greece Visit — Ground Zero on Sirtaki Trail

Late April, just before tourism’s high season begins, you too will likely find Anogeia’s weather a bit cold.  You are near the final ascent to Crete’s highest peak, Mount Psiloritis.  Most of the hotels are closed.  You find yourself alone in supersized restaurants that seem geared for tour bus floods during the high season.  Compared to Cretan tourist havens like Chania and Rethymno, you find English in relatively scarce supply.  There is also a welcome absence of shops hawking Cretan mementos.  

The visage of Anogeia’s first son, Nikos Xylouris, and his welcoming statue at the outdoor music theater space on the town’s edge, announces that you have arrived in what might be called Sirtaki Central.  Older readers will know this composer as the source of the famed Zorba the Greek film soundtrack.  Devotees of Greek music and dancing know that it is not only Xylouris but also many generations of musicians that also hail from this town.  It is the place for sirtaki dance and bouzouki music.

Anogeia Crete surrounds Photo credit: wikimedia Tango 7174
Anogeia town center cafe and performance space
This is new construction, you realize

The richness of the town’s musical legacy and Anogeia’s launch point to the nearby mountain hikes is what puts the village on a Crete tour itinerary for most.  During high season, and even on most off-season weekends, there are musical venues with traditional Greek music performances.

A crude mural near town center showing a peasant with a gun on one side and a pastoral shepherd on the other, conveys other poignant reasons to put Anogeia on your map.  You learn that the legendary fighters of Anogeia so angered their last invaders, the Nazis, that they burned the entire village down and killed all the men.  You realize that the woman hotelier in her late ‘80s who gestures insistently to  ply you with seconds and thirds of her homemade pastries was likely a child when this massacre occurred.  You notice that little of the town seems old, especially in the Greek sense of old. 

A cafe owner not only waved off payment for our espresso and tea, but also gave a gift of an English language book about the town's musical traditions and enough herbs to make a second cup of tea. The tea herbs, he explained, were collected by his mother in the countryside. His shop opens in the wee morning hours to serve the area's shepherds.

The pastoral side of that telltale mural is clear when you look over the town’s walls and spot sheep.  You will also likely see pens of sheep and goats on a hilltop outside your restaurant window.  The sheep and countryside blend.  Forget that biblical image of the shepherd though.  Think instead of a man rushing out of a cafe in the early morning with a paper tray of cappuccinos.  He hops into his pickup truck to drive to his nearby herd, shortly after dawn.  

With trademark Cretan hospitality, the cafe owner waves off your payment for espressos if you don’t have proper small change.  



Photos by Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated

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