Tzatziki, raki and dakos: a beginner’s guide to Crete 🏖️

So, another year has passed and the busuu team is off again on its annual ‘busuu beach’ holiday. This time, we’ve come to the Greek island of Crete. We’re spending a few days in the sun to get some team bonding in before the end of the year – very important, I think everyone would agree! I’m here a couple of days early and have had the chance to explore the island a little bit, as well as eat enough Greek salad 🥗 and tzatziki to feed the whole company! So as I sit here on my balcony soaking up the last few rays of sunshine and waiting for everyone to arrive tomorrow morning, I thought it might be interesting to share with you a little bit about the history, language and food of this little Greek island.

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The beach of Elafonissi, a small islet connected to the main island by a lagoon well known for its pink sand.

 

So where did it all start?

Ok, well for starters, Crete is the birthplace of Zeus (the ruler of the gods, people and hospitality) which is even reflected in Cretans’ hospitality today. They are very welcoming people I must say! The island has been conquered by various peoples, including the Venetians, who have really left their mark here. So much so, the harbour in Chania is called the “Old Venetian Harbour”. Interesting stuff, eh?

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The Venetian lighthouse in Chania

 

And what language do people speak there?

The majority of Cretans speak Cretan Greek, which is considered a dialect of Greek, having different sounds, words and expressions. Here are a few words I wish I had known before I came out here:

 

Greek Pronunciation English translation
Γεια σας (Yassas) Ya-sass Hi / Hello / See you
Ναι (Nay) Nay Yes
Οχι (Ohxi) O-shee No
Ευχαριστω (Efharisto) Ef-ha-ree-sto’ Thank you
Παρακαλώ (Parakalo) Pa-ra-ka-lo’ You’re welcome
Συγνωμη (Signomi) See-gno’-mee Excuse me

 

Top tip: Make sure you don’t confuse the Greek words for “yes” and “no”!

 

OK, enough history and language… what about the food?

Well, since the island has lots of different terrains, as you can imagine there are many different foods to try!

img_3304In Crete there are hundreds of different types of wild mountain herbs and greens, lots of cheeses, and of course about 1.5 million olive trees worth of olive oil…! Here are some things you should try:

Greek salad 🥗:  A delicious mix of ripe tomatoes 🍅, crunchy peppers, black kalamata olives, sweet red onion, cucumber 🥒 and a big slab of feta on top… yum!

Cretan cheeses 🧀: We all love cheese… and Crete has loads of them! When we think of Greek cheese we all think of feta, right? Well there are more! There’s also anthotyros (a goat’s cheese), kefalotiri (a hard cheese made from sheep’s and/or goat’s milk), and graviera (a classic Cretan hard cheese made from sheep’s milk)… to name but a few!

Dakos: These are a bit like Italian bruschetta. They consist of finely chopped tomato 🍅, fresh cheese and a mix of herbs and olive oil placed on top of a paximadi (Greek hard bread/rusk).

Fried snails (chochlioi boubouristi) 🐌: I wasn’t brave enough to try these 🙈, but they are a delicacy in Crete. The snails are fried with flour and olive oil and then drenched in wine or vinegar. In some local towns, they are collected by hand and are then cooked alive!

Raki: Also know as tskoudia in some parts of the island, this is a type of brandy made from grape skins. People usually drink it neat after a meal. It’s quite strong so watch out! Most restaurants will give you a complimentary shot of raki and a small dessert when you ask for the bill. I expect the busuu team will be drinking plenty of this over the weekend… Yamas! (That’s “Cheers!” in Greek if you were wondering!) 🥃

 

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Emma (third from the right) with the Education Team. Emma is one of the French Language Experts at busuu.

 

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