“Hello, Crete! I love you”, were my first words as I stepped on Cretan soil off my plane. Sure, I’ve seen how blue the sea is out of the plane window, and I felt the warm air on my face even though it was early morning. However, it was more than that that won my heart. There was some energy that appealed to me before I’ve even seen what this ancient island, where Zeus was born, has to offer.

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Plakias, Rethymnon

Soon enough I’ve started experiencing the genuine kindness of the people. Living in NYC, this is something I really appreciated. Genuine smiles, kind energy, it was a very nice welcome. In fact, throughout my whole ten days on the island, I’ve experienced kindness multiple times a day. It felt very refreshing, and helped knock the NYC cynicism out of me.

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Then, once we were somewhat settled in the room in a little town in the south of Crete, I finally tried my first Cretan meal. It was a simple Greek Salad, but it made me realize that I’ve never had olive oilbefore. Or feta cheese. Or even tomatoes. It just tasted so good, so fresh, so real! The fact that I was having my meal right by the sea of course added to my delight. And yes, I did step into the water while waiting for my food, I just couldn’t resist.

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What I quickly learned is that time there does not flow in the same way as it does in NYC. A day felt like two, but in the best way possible, and meant that my short vacation can feel longer. Another thing I quickly learned is to not plan anything out, whether it is where to have lunch or what to have for dinner. Cretan gods always knew better than me what the plan should be, and it always worked out for the best.

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I woke up happy every day, enjoyed not having to rush anywhere, and not using an alarm clock. My mother and I had breakfast on the balcony everyday, very much enjoying “real” Greek yogurt from a nearby village, fruit and coffee. These morning rituals made the vacation even better, and I am sure that it’s the best vacation I’ve had up to this point.

I also have to mention the colour of the water and the clarity of the Libyan sea. It surprised me and wowed me every time I got into the water. I’ve never seen anything like it. Such a beautiful blue, which changed shades with the weather, yet always staying beautiful. Always very clear, even if the sea chose to show some character and send some waves to the shore. It was simply amazing!

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Leaving was definitely hard, and like a child I just kept repeating “I don’t want to! I don’t want to!” However, my suitcase filled with homemade fantastic olive oil from a wonderful man, and some Greek words under my belt, I knew that sooner than later I will step foot on this wonderful island again, and will say καλησπέρα, Κρήτη.

Written by Evgenia Ilienko