Anopoli = Animal Farm
If there would be an animal emblem for the Sfakia region, it should be a goat! You’ll encounter them everywhere – clopping along the road in groups or browsing in the rocky terrain. If you clamber through a gorge you just won’t believe the places they get to – places where a human would need mountaineering equipment is routine for these goats. Mind you, we did see one or two carcasses in the gorges where a goat has obviously slipped, but it seems to happen seldom.
The majority of these goats actually do belong to someone, and most probably will be culled for meat – if a goat has a bell round its neck or a yellow tag in its ear, then it has an owner. But even if not it may “belong” to someone.
On the last picture of the gallery (click the picture above to start it) you’ll see a sight common in Sfakia – goats at the side of the road using the metal safety barriers to shelter from the sun. They hardly bat an eyelid as cars go thundering past right next to them.
Get up at or just after sunrise and walk out of town to the west. On the right, about half a kilometer outside the town limit, is a non-residential farmyard, where a local man keeps various animals, including a clutch of hens. Since the ground of the yard is very stony and dusty, he simply throws the hens feed onto the road, so that they can easily peck it up.
Many Cretans are beekeepers, you’ll find sites all over Crete where the square wooden hives stand in groups on used tyres, presumaby to allow the bees access from below. Depending on their location the bees get different food, basically whichever wild herbs, plants and bushes grow near their location. This means that each local honey has its own distinctive taste and consistency – praise be that not (yet) everything in the EU has been squeezed into a common standard!
Right opposite Taverna Koulieris is a sheep pen. Every morning a friendly elderly lady in black (the traditional garb of cretan widows) comes and lets the sheep out to forage, driving them right past the Taverna. Sometimes an elderly shepherd with the typical crooked staff assists her. One day we had the good luck to observe her with two very young lambs: She carried one lamb back into the pen, causing the ewe (mother sheep) to follow her – we assume it’s their way of familiarising the animals with the pen as their “home”.
These are a really large hornet species (up to 3 cm in length), and quite common in Crete. As we were walking in the countryside behind Limnia we happened on an old bathtub beside the track full of water – and a number of these hornets drowning in it. Since they are so beautiful, and we did not yet know what they were, we saved those still alive. Afterwards Georgios told us they “are bad” – and now we know why: They have a very nasty sting, and have been seen to attack honey bees.
Mysterious cocoons in the pines
You’ll see these everywhere in Sfakia – but what on earth are they? Bagworms? No, they are the “tents” made by the larvae of pine processionary moths. It’s a pest in coniferous forests in southern Europe – but don’t touch the tents, they may cause skin rash, eye irritation and even allergic reactions.
Pet and Shepherd Dogs
We both love dogs, Tim especially so. There are dogs aplenty in and around Anopoli – but somehow we never thought to photograph any of them. Staying at Taverna Koulieris and walking out of town to the west, you’ll normally meet
- Big black (sick) dog – if he’s still going
- Neurotic dog – chained to a tree at a small plaza, who always barks his head off when anyone approaches
- a large variety of shepherd dogs, seen mostly standing in the back of some pickup
- Small dog (friendly)
- Tiny dog (shy – but who would’nt be at his size)
- and of course Bouliza, Georgios dog.
Occasionally you’ll find a place where one or two dogs live in kennels right next to the “road” (track) and seem to guard it and object (vociferously) to people passing, although it is a right of way. One is on the road from Anopoli to Phoenix Bay, shortly before arriving there. Another is when you go to Limnia (near Anopoli) and continue out beyond Limnia. There are two kennels, one on each side of the road, and a dog on a medium-length leash in each kennel. The barking the two of them put up quite daunted us – we were on foot – not to mention that the extent of their leashes allowed them to together cover the whole width of the track.
So at first we observed them: The dog on the left looked more like a wolf than a dog, a really nasty piece of work which neither of us wanted to go in reach of. The one on the right at least looked like a dog and that it may be possible to placate it. As hoped, the one on the right let us pass without biting; and on the way back we observed with a more practiced eye that the “friendly” dog actually seemed to be barking at the “wolf” dog and forcing it to give us passage.
Later that evening we were back at Georgios Taverna, relating our adventures to him and his sister, who had just dropped by. Imagine our embarressment, after our theatrical depiction of the encounter with the dogs as his sister noted “Oh, one of those is my dog”. Well, she’s still talking to us (we hope)…