Book Review: Crete- A Notebook, Journeys Through a Mystical Landscape by Richard Clark

cerete-a-notebook“I thought about how tough life was for the majority of everyday Greek people without the home comforts we take for granted.”

When I was first told about Crete-A Notebook I was intrigued. It certainly is not a travel guide – which meant I was even more interested in reading it. I did like the “Get by in Greek” section at the end of the book, which offers a very good selection of Greek phrases for those planning to travel to Greece (and no, you don’t need to know how to read the Greek alphabet).

Written by an English journalist who has lived on Crete and traveled a lot to the island since the Eighties, the book takes you on a journey on the island of Crete, sprinkled with some interesting details regarding certain historical events, mythological creatures, important sates men or Greek writers. A lovely thing about Clark’s style of writing is that he can add all these details without sacrificing the descriptions of the places he visits.

I have yet to visit the island of Crete and Clark’s book only makes me want to go the soonest possible. The book highlights places which are away from the beaten path, as well as very well known tourist destinations (Heraklion or the Palace of Knossos).

I’m born and raised in the Balkans, in Orthodox Christian faith, which means I know quite a lot about what certain religious rituals mean ; or about the shrines located on the roads as a way to remember those who died in accidents or put up by those who thank God for surviving one. But even for me, the way he writes about them makes me understand how unique these things are to someone who doesn’t know much about Crete or the Orthodox faith. Add to this the detailed information on food and drink , and you are left with a superb description of the island of Crete and those who live there.

“The shouts from the stallholders, mingled with the smells of their wares are a distillation of all that is best about Crete.”

I have read the book as a novel, waiting for the next things to happen, laughing at the subtle jokes, and feeling sad about the many problems Crete has had with invaders. I knew quite a lot about the Turks and Germans – thanks to some documentaries I saw – and the book managed to add even more details.

All in all, I recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn more about Crete and wants to understand its history. Although not a travel guide per se, the book is a good intro into the history and geography of Crete, an ideal way to start dreaming about a vacation here. For those who have been to Crete before, there are a lot of interesting details which might have escaped their attention.

>>you can buy the book here

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