After almost an hour’s drive we see the large wooden sign that shows us the way to Milia. In 6.5 km we are there. I know the road and I am happy every time I turn here, because already the drive to the resort is an adventure. We quickly pass eucalyptus and strawberry trees, up to 850 meters.
A short stop is obligatory because of the breathtaking view of the north coast, the slopes and gorges in the south and the white mountains in the west. In addition, from October to March you are very lucky and can see the bearded vultures flying right here. We have no luck today. Not yet.
Our first longer hike this year is scheduled for today. We are doubly happy because the weather is fantastic and we have company of two wonderful friends. Wakan is happy about two additional pairs of hands that he can force to stroke him and I am looking forward to exciting conversations. We leave our vantage point to drive the last 300 meters to the parking lot, which will be our official starting point.
Is Greek and means as much as “back to the basics”. The idea for this retreat was born in the 80s, when Jacob Tsourounakis had the vision to rebuild a village that had been abandoned for over 40 years. His village. Because of the rural exodus most of the cretan inhabitants left their villages to find work in the cities and larger towns, many living villages became ghostly places.
Jacob’s dream was to create a place where man and nature live hand in hand. What is needed is produced by the people themselves, and instead of constantly buying new things, they use what is available. And Jacob had probably taken the right path, because a little later he met George Makrakis, whose family were also landowners in Milia.
George had similar ideas as Jacob and so an idea quickly became a plan and a plan a building project. Materials were used from the region, where also craftsmen came from, who rebuilt the old houses according to tradition.
And during the whole construction project the idea was born to turn the individual houses into guest houses. A village for those who are looking for silence and retreat. Ecologically built and managed. The idea of the two was so perfect that in 1990 they even received EU funding and were able to complete the entire construction project in three years.
And so in 1993 the Milia Mountain Retreat opened its doors and its own restaurant, where there is only food from local cultivation and own livestock farming. In the year 2000 Tasos joined the founders, the restaurant was renovated and today Milia is one of the most established holiday resorts in western Crete.
When I walk the way from the parking lot to the village I always experience this magical atmosphere. You can feel a completely natural retreat. Because you can hear, smell, taste and feel the silence.
After a few minutes we meet the first hard-working people. There is a lot to do, because even Milia was not completely protected from the heavy rain. But in relation to other places everything is in the best condition here. This is probably also due to the fact that the restoration of the village did not affect nature.
All river streams were allowed to flow further along their way and paths were adapted to the river course at an appropriate distance. But there is still a lot to do. Beets are sown, facades are repaired, wooden doors are painted and paths are cleared of branches that could not stand the storm. And where humans are, there are mostly dogs. At least that is the case in Crete.
And so it doesn’t take long until we hear the first bark. The second one does not wait for long and with the third one the associated fur noses come immediately around the corner. Wakan is thrilled!
There are sniffs, the hierarchy is clarified and then he loses interest again. After all, we are here to explore something, there is no time for distraction. I am impressed by so much discipline.
We follow the road through the enchanting place until we reach the first direction sign. There are five possible destinations and all lead in the same direction. Getting lost is impossible.
Shortly afterwards we see a small church on our left, but we continue to follow the path in the other direction and arrive at the first gate. Who still follows us is one of the local four-legged friends.
We pass the gate and I close it before the little black one gets the idea we would take him with us. I have absolutely no problem with other dogs, but if you take them on a hike you have to bring them back. And you never know if they will make the hike on their own. So I’ve gotten used to only taking dogs with me that have their owner with them.
As soon as we have unhooked one of our four-legged friends, a second one appears. However from another kind. We don’t believe our eyes.
When I hear Maria speak out my thoughts. And as if it doesn’t happen too rarely anyway that you see domestic pigs in the wild, without a chain or fence, it’s the first time in 2 years that I see a pig at all.Wakan is obviously disinterested.
A pig is not exciting enough for him, especially because it doesn’t appear with a huge flock. His challenge only starts with at least five appearances of the same kind. I’m still a little happy about viewing this cuddly pink-black-spotted miracle and on we go.
The second gate is crossed and we come to the next marking. I suggest to take the left path. The signs tell us that this is the way to Agios Georgios Church. The other paths go straight across the stream and then uphill. But the way to the church leads along the river, clearly a good choice.
Everyone agrees, because rippling streams with crystal clear mountain water are as rare on Crete as pink pigs with black dots. Apropros black, what’s going on? The little black fluffy dog actually found a way to follow us.
I swear: I closed both gates but Wakan is happy. Sure, it would be really unfair if I had buddies with me and he didn’t. So we all take the risk and trust that a dog from the mountains is also suitable for hiking.
And so it goes along the stream, past Agios Giorgios at the base of the mountains, further on our way.
The weather rewards us with a bright blue sky and for sure 26 degrees. The birds sing like crazy, the stream rushes and along the way it blossoms and hums, that one could think it would be Spring on the alps. And after some time our way is even marked and we follow the green-white path in this wonderful landscape. It is always fascinating for me how different nature feels here.
I know streams and rivers, no question about that. But a creek in Crete is so special that I have to keep a tear of touch from myself. What a beautiful world.
Secretly I am glad that there are still places where the destruction of nature for raw materials hasn’t left its traces yet.
However, in Crete the destruction took place many centuries ago, when the Venetians destroyed most of the huge forest areas to build ships. And to this day the island has not really recovered. Destruction happens fast, but regeneration takes its time. I am suddenly brought back to the present by another unexpected encounter.
In the middle of the way a donkey stands and nibbles the olive leaves with pleasure from a branch draped especially for him. He is wrapped in traditional harness from the snaffle to the saddle and I’m in love by shock a second time! Wakan is only shocked because he remembers his donkey encounter a few years ago in Germany.
They weren’t so friendly. They were on an attack course immediately after they had spotted him and only with difficulty to distract from him.
Since then I know that donkeys were carried in flocks of sheep to defend against wolves. Were there wolves on Crete? I’m looking for a way to smuggle the dogs past the donkey when I notice a man in a small garden. He must be the donkey owner. I ask him if his donkey has any problems with dogs. He smiles friendly and clicks his tongue, which means ‘No’. The dogs pass the donkey without any problems and I’m even allowed to take some pictures of him.
Past the donkey our way leads through two small villages, to an archaeological site and the one or other hidden natural phenomenon, until we are led again on the green meadows around Milia.
The green-white path goes downhill and on the map it looks like it led us a good way back on the same path we already walked.
We decide to take an adventurous path off the beaten track which led us on a direct, but well overgrown path up another hill. Wakan does what he does best and goes ahead to find the best way through the thicket.
We are up in a blink of an eye and cross a marked path. The marking is red and we remember that at the starting point we also had red among the five colours. Perfect!
A ‘Hurrah’ to the best scout south of Spitsbergen. Not to be forgotten is also our guest hiker. He has much shorter legs than all of us and runs like a professional over stick a stone. Respect!
The red path leads us over a miniature edition of a plateau and also this piece of nature comes not around an admiring:
Awwwwwwww, look how beautiful!
We are unanimously enthusiastic! Finally this path crosses another hiking trail. We need to laugh. Black-yellow. Three women, three ways. And everyone had his charm. We agree that we will come back to discover the partially explored paths in their entirety.
Now heading back to Milia. If we are lucky we get a fresh mountain tea with honey. And we have already seen a pig, luck can’t be far away. And as ordered we see another pig on the way back. Motionless under a tree.
It’s huge! I can’t resist. My zoom does not reach that far. I creep up, press the release button, it clicks and I hear a soft grunt. The next moment I realize that I have no chance against the pig. If my photography’s ambition has contributed to making it feel threatened, I’m done. There it is again. Grunt.
And now I see it! The pig is dreaming! It lies there in a blissful slumber and grunts while dreaming. I really thought the sweetest being is Wakan when he’s dreaming and all four paws run for her life and he quietly barks inside himself. But for this moment he has lost this predicate. A dreaming pig!
I am grateful. For such a through and through special day!
Arrived at the Milia Restaurant we are already expected. So is our little companion. The tea is ready, the view a dream and a final look at the map confirms us again that we have walked 3 parts of 3 hiking trails. We walked about 6 km in 4,5 hours.
Comfortable and with breaks. It couldn’t have been better, though. We would all have had nothing against spending the night in Milia, because at least there are 4 more hiking trails that we don’t know.
Milia is part of our daytrips as well as a place for retreats. If you don’t want to live directly by the sea and like hiking, this is the place for you. The beaches of the north and south coast can be reached in approx. one hour by car. Don´t hesitate to contact us for further informations.
All dogs from Milia escort us to the car. As if they had heard that it is exciting with us. A beautiful conclusion for a dreamlike day!