Anidri Gorge

The area’s morphological characteristics – low, uncrowned, rounded mountains, valleys of chestnut groves and strawberry trees studded with bright red fruit – bled with ancient villages full of fresco ed churches and chapels, the most authentic expression of sacred art produced by Crete’s artists from the year 1000 to the first half of the 15th century. This distinctiveness, combined with an extensive coastline on the Libyan Sea with large and small bays of rare beauty stretching from Sougia all the way to Elafonissi, make Selino an ideal location in our search for “eclectic” excursions that offer not just fascinating natural setting but cultural and spiritual stimulation as well.

The “high points” of the excursion are a visit to the frescoed chapel of Agios Georgios (St. George) in Anidri at the beginning our foray into the gorge as the naturalistic intermezzo and our destination, an enchanting cove, at the end.

To reach Anidri, you have drive along the eastern shore of Paleochora, with its numerous cafes and taverns, heading in the direction of the campsite. Then, for roughly 6 kilometers you follow a winding road that crosses a narrow, shady valley.

The church of Aghios Georgios is located in the village’s small cemetery, where a great many if the tombs all have the same last name. The church has two naves, is surmounted by a capital with the engraved bell in the center, and is completely fresco ed inside. The most precious paintings are located in the north-western nave they date back to 1323 and were painted by the 14th century artist Giovanni Pagomeno. His work is characterized by large, expressive faces, the freedom and airiness of his lines and the disguised realism in his rendering of the saints’ solemnity. The priest Nestore, the monk Isaia Mamos and the noble families of the area – Papadopouli, Meropouli, Skordili – must have paid Pagomeno in silver “iperperi,” the money used at the time, which the artist spent on room and board, as well as on the powders and herbs he needed to mix his colors, like the carmine red if the parton saint’s cuirass and the ochre of the Virgin’s halo.

After this plunge into medieval religious art we are spiritually prepared for our hike. Near the chapel of Saint George, a sign announcing “beach” is perched in the hollow of an olive tree and sets us off along a paved road among contorted, knotty olive trees whose skinny branches reach to the sky like the arms of a thousand-year-old Methuselah. You pass cultivated fields and two lovely houses owned by Germans, as is indicated on the front gate. A stone stairway, which perhaps used to lead to the old wash-house, conducts us down to the bed of a stream, the Dichalomata, which at the moment is dry. But the vegetation that surrounds us with the perfume of spiky myrtle, the dark carob trees, tenacious chaste trees, and still flowering oleanders all indicate that in the wintertime the dry stream becomes a copious torrent. You walk along an easy path that is flanked by the black, snake-like tubes of the waterworks that accompany us to the end of the ravine. In the first part of our hike the low sides of the gorge are reassuring, we aren’t compressed between towering, rocky walls. In fact, we don’t even need to follow the usual path markers created by the little pyramids of stones. But these markers have extraordinary artistic value because the imagination of one or more improvised naturalistic artists has created extravagant rock gardens, minimalist sculptures of stones and contorted pieces of wood that enliven an otherwise rather monotonous hike. As we advance, the sides of Anidri gorge begin to rise more steeply and further on our progress is hampered by cumbersome piles of boulders that fallen from above us over time and then been dragged downstream by the force of the water.

The gulch provides the one thrill of the entire excursion. After thirty-five minutes, a passage force us to slide down a long smooth hollow for a few meters and land with the help of a robust rope that is well-anchored to the rock. Toward the end of the hike, the walls of Mount Paroupa tower above us with their luxuriant maquis. Along the wall to the left of us there are reddish grottos of various dimensions, one in particular, that is over three meters high.

The deafening sound of angry waves warns us that you are near the sea. A faded sign advertises beauty treatments on the beach, using the term that is so popular nowadays, “spa!” The two sandy shores of Gialiskari are nearby, divided by a low stand of Phoenician Juniper. The sea is choppy, you don’t dare go for a swim and instead rest on the fine sand and the solitary markers of the European trail seem to invite us to head east and cross the flanks of the promontory of Cape Flomes to discover another gem of the island, the Hellenistic and Roman archeological site of Lissos.