(You can read Part 1 of this post here)
On the way to my next stop in the Lassithi region, I pass by many unfinished building along the road and the former coastal fisher village Chersonisos which today is the epicenter of all-inclusive party tourism for the Dutch and English market. I get an idea of what has dominated the perception of tourism on Crete for many years. Although such mass tourism is often seen as an opportunity of income, it is also perceived as imminent threat which does more evil than good. Fortunately my research takes me again to the hinterland to the Country Hotel Velani.
The Country Hotel Velani is a horse-riding ranch remotely located in pristine nature next to Avdou village close to the Lassithi Plain. Here I got a stronger sense of the Cretan rural lifestyle. As I looked down into the valley, I could see the endless rows of olive trees and vineyards form the typical uneven patterns of Cretan agriculture to be found in large parts of the island. The stables, a small garden in front of the main building, the remoteness and the explanations of the owner Manolis Fragakis gave me a better understanding for the up- and downsides of agritourism business-owners. Although the business operator is able to enjoy almost unspoiled nature to the fullest, the combination of daily operations of a tourism business and agricultural work is highly demanding and needs precise planning. As I talk to more and more business owners and visit the differing regions of Crete, I slowly dive into the agritourism system of Crete learning about the experiences, needs and wishes of agritourism business owners.
After I experienced the north side of the island and its hinterland, my next interviews now take me to the South-east of the island, namely Kato Zakros and Makris Giallos. Both places are fairly remote so it took me what felt like an eternity to arrive at my destination. The public transportation system in Crete is fairly well developed and takes you anywhere you want to go, still, I feel that the mountainous character of the island makes travelling more time-consuming than one thinks beforehand.
When I got off the bus on the southside of the island, the difference in weather, environment and vegetation instantly struck me. It was much hotter, drier and very rocky unlike the north . Also the accommodations I visited where very different. Stella’s apartment and White River cottages, both featured traditional houses that had been reconstructed. The earthiness of the places felt much more like what I had expected of agritourism in terms of accommodation. Both places appeared to be basic and traditional in style, however, did not miss any commodities such as warm running water, modern showers of wireless internet. Though the guest houses appeared to be traditional farm houses, unfortunately there were not apparent agricultural activities or present direct ties to agriculture. It became clearer and clearer that the theoretical approach of agritourism was only an ideal concept, while Cretan agritourism is influenced by many forces and takes on many differing faces.Check for part 3 in the next days.