Our Family visit at the Lasinthos Eco Park at Lasithi Plateau, Crete
I never thought much of any theme parks that do not feature a roller coaster but a chance visit to Lasinthos Eco Park changed my view. PhotoMan* was called to do his Super Hero Photography Thing there and was invited to stay overnight. Since pets and family are welcome at their apartments, Deka, our dog, and I went along.
Lasinthos Eco Park is located on the Lasithi Plateau which attracts a lot of visitors because of the Psychro Cave, also known as Zeus’ Cave, where Zeus’ mother Rhea hid him shortly after he was born for fear that his father Kronos would eat him. It is one of my favourite local attractions also because of the charming villages in the area.
It is simple to drive to Lasinthos Eco Park from Heraklion and takes about an hour. According to the navigation app, there were three different exits we could take from the highway to Malia. PhotoMan and I had traveled to the Lasithi Plateau a few times and we had taken all three routes. Each of these routes took us through beautiful scenery as we ascended the mountains.
You might like to know which of these routes is the fastest. As far as I can remember, the difference is slight and I suggest that you allow plenty of time so that you can stop on the way to enjoy the view, and perhaps stop at one of the picturesque restaurants on the mountains before you reach the Lasithi Plateau.
When we reached the Lasithi Plateau, we looked for a bakery in search of πίτες (pEE-tehs. which mean pies) as a quick lunch. Villagers told us that the only bakery that offered πίτες was in Agios Georgios. When we finally found the bakery in Agios Georgios, the baker apologized that all the πίτες were sold. She gave us some muffins (she called them in another name which I can’t recall) with seeds as a gift and we bought a box of store-made cookies which turned out to be so crunchy and yummy.
The next day we went back in search of πίτες again. The bakery was opened for business but no one was around. There was also no πίτες, maybe because it was Sunday. While looking around, I noticed a couple of awards on display.
I had a mind to get more cookies but we didn’t know what to do when no one was there to accept payment. Next time.
Lasinthos Eco Park here we come!
When we arrived at Lasinthos Eco Park which was actually on the fringe of Agios Georgios village, gentle Greek music brought the quaint entrance alive. A vase was on display and I remembered PhotoMan told me that there was a pottery workshop at the premises. Upon entering the courtyard, we were met with rows of colourful pottery products on display and I started browsing happily.
Manos, one of the owners of Lasinthos Eco Park, greeted us and had a brief chat with PhotoMan regarding the photoshoot. He went back to trimming a tree afterwards. I often see business owners here in Crete being very hands-on and during our visit, I saw Manos attending many tasks around the premises as well as serving many visitors.
A small chapel dedicated to Saint Ephrem was at the other end of the courtyard, directly opposite the main entrance. A restaurant took up one side of the square while the other side was a café and the entrance to the souvenir shop. The rows of pottery products were next to the entrance, in front of the pottery workshop. There were other rooms with colorful doors on the other side of the entrance for other workshops and everyone is welcome to look around.
We had a late lunch at the restaurant. We were served simple local dishes which were delicious. As soon as PhotoMan had a bite on the chicken, he said he could taste that it was ‘real chicken’. Manos confirmed that it was locally sourced.
Souvenir Heaven for all senses!
While waiting for the shoot, PhotoMan settled himself and Deka at the café. Where did I go? The souvenir shop! We’ve been living in Greece for five years now but I still enjoy being a tourist!
The first items that drew my attentions were the icons. There was a small selection of icons and all of them have a hand-made certificate on the back. I was surprised that there was only one of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus which usually features heavily in an icon shop. While trying to identify all the saints, Dimitris, a soft-spoken gentleman, came to offer me assistance and his knowledge on the icons. I fell in love with an icon of Saint Pantelemon and brought him home with us.
Dimitris offered to show me around the shop. Usually, I prefer to browse on my own but I accepted his assistance because he had this gentleness about him. I was surprised that he was from Athens – his gentleness was so un-Athens like! He said his wife was from Crete and he had been working there for so long that he felt he was part of the family.
I had a taste of almost everything: from cheese to sweet wine to essential oil (sniff, not taste). The sweet wine from white grape was my absolute favourite. I could taste peach and pear and I felt like a professional connoisseur. Out of the selection of raki (I tried them all!), my favourite was the one flavoured with cactus fruit. I enjoyed the sweet fragrance without interruption from all those pips from the actual fruits. I also took home with us a round of smoked cheese.
Dimitri told me that all their products were locally sourced, a lot of which were produced in-house, including the essential oils. At the moment, they only produce sage and lavender essential oil and they are going to extend their range. I asked if they would have rose oil. Dimitri explained that roses don’t grow well in highland and the new range would include herbs like dittany** and oregano from their own organic farm.
Experiences at Lasinthos Eco Park
We were there for PhotoMan’s shoot but I like to gather information and file it for later. I was impressed by the wood craving on display in the workshop and started looking through their website. Nine categories of experiences were listed: cookery, raki distillery, aromatic plants processing, traditional weaving, waxwork, wood crafting, art of pottery, hiking and mountain biking. I couldn’t find prices anywhere though, nor schedule for the workshop. I asked Manos about it.
Manos replied that at the moment, all experiences are available on request basis and his team gives quotation based on the type of experiences, duration, number of participants and the visitors’ specific requirement, for example, the destination of the hiking tour or how many courses they want to learn to cook. I expressed to Manos that I wouldn’t know which destination or dish I could choose from unless they were listed and how I preferred to know the prices before contacting for availability. Manos listened thoughtfully and said he would discuss my request with his team. I really appreciate how he valued my feedback.
The Animal Farm
Recently I came across an article about how interacting with horses has a therapeutic effect on people. I was mighty excited when Dimitris told me they had horses in their animal farm. He said the horses were friendly but Lasinthos Eco Park didn’t offer horse-riding because they would like the horses to be free.
There was one horse and one pony when PhotoMan and I visited the animal farm. They were both busy eating though and didn’t seem to want us to go near them. Much as I would love to pet them, I kept a polite distance. Maybe next time I will ask Dimitri to give us a formal introduction.
We took a look at the other farm animals. My disappointment dissipated instantly when a few baby goats climbed out of the fence to take a closer look at us. They were so full of joy and excitement. They even let us pet them. What joy!
Manos showed us to our apartment when PhotoMan took a break. We stayed at one of the standard apartments, which was unexpectedly spacious and was fantastic for Deka. The room was decorated with Cretan traditional linens and potteries. I appreciate the thoughtfulness, however, I put them all aside before letting Deka loose.
Our apartment was at the top level of the complex, with an amazing view from the balcony, overlooking the Lasithi Plateau. Time ceased to exist as I watched the colour of the landscape changed in accordance with the movement of the clouds.
I enjoyed the scenery on the other side of the plateau when I took Deka outside, behind our apartment, to play. From the cliff there we could see a dam which was so peaceful to look at.
Some people think that we rejuvenate when we are surrounded by nature. This might be true but for me, usually I start with feeling tired. Perhaps the purity of the environment helps my body let go of any tension and when one relaxes, one easily drifts off to sleep. It was peaceful and quiet during the night inside our apartment and I relished the sweet deep sleep in the comfortable bed.
The next day when PhotoMan went to work again in the afternoon, it was still peaceful and quiet in our room and the bed was still comfortable and so I drifted off to sleep again with Deka napping away in his rug next to the bed. That’s the benefit of marrying a Super Hero.
Walking with Deka
The amazing view from the apartment balcony gave Deka and I an appetite for a walk. I was drawn to the little chapel on top of a green little hill. You can see it at the beginning of the video featuring the view from the balcony above.
It was an enjoyable walk for both of us. It was a warm day in May. There was no traffic or animals along the way so Deka was free to walk without a leash. As we got closer, I noticed there was a giant rock next to the little chapel. Not sure how it got there – relocated there by Giants?
The most curious things during this walk was that Deka seemed to know where we were going. He walked ahead of me but he knew to wait at the gate instead of continuing on the path. He also knew where the door to the church was and waited for me there.
After enjoying the tranquility of the dam from afar, I decided to go over to have a closer look. Deka loves water and was totally up for another walk.
It wasn’t as leisurely as going to the giant rock though. I had to keep Deka away from a flock of sheep while the shepherd kept his intimidating German Shepherd away from us. A boxer (dog) from a gated house somehow opened the gate and startled us by jumping right in front of us. Luckily, the boxer decided that we were no threat and only gave us a low growl as we slowly moved on.
The strange thing was that the dam disappeared on us. I kept expecting that we would come into view of the dam soon and I kept checking the navigation app. I thought we had walked into a portal and missed the dam, until a lovely cool breeze came. Not just any lovely cool breeze but one that felt like it was from a cool spring. And then I noticed fences all around this area in front of us.
We continued onto the path thinking that there would be an entrance somewhere. The breeze was still lovely and cool but I started feeling intimidated by this vast amount of invisible water beside us while we seemed to be going nowhere, in the middle of nowhere. Finally, I gave PhotoMan a call hoping that he could ask one of the Lasinthos Eco Park team about it.
PhotoMan said a large group of people just arrived (later I saw about 30 four-wheel drives parked outside the premises) and everyone was occupied. ‘You are not meant to go into a dam anyway.’ Oh! I didn’t know that!
With that, I gladly head back with Deka. We did stop at the little chapel that is surrounded by cypress trees, which you can see at the end of the video featuring the view from our apartment balcony. It turned out to be a cemetery and the chapel is dedicated to Saint Fotini. I did a search and read that Saint Fotini’s encounter with Jesus was recorded by Saint John in the New Testament and that she was one of the first apostle of Jesus.
At the chapel, I had an epiphany. The journey to the dam reminded me of a recurring theme in Dolores Cannon‘s books, in which Dolores reported cases from her hypnosis method Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique that takes clients to other lifetimes. In many cases, while deciding on their life-plans in the spirit realm before reincarnated into the physical realm, her clients thought they could breeze through all the challenges that they had chosen for themselves. But nothing seemed as easy after they were born because they had lost the divine perspective and had to view everything from ground level.
When looking at the dam from a high ground afar, I thought visiting there would be straight forward but then once I was on ground level, I could no longer see what I had set out for and felt so lost. The vast well of water became daunting instead of tranquil because I couldn’t see it even though I knew it was there and even felt the lovely cool breeze.
I’m not going to give up though. When we return to the Lasithi Plateau, I will ask PhotoMan to drive Deka and I to the little hill next to the dam so that we can enjoy a closer look of the dam. Hopefully he will have time to do nothing with us next time. During this visit, he was working the whole time. Only when we were leaving Lasithi Plateau, he finally took a moment to take some photographs for his own pleasure.
*PhotoMan AKA Konstantinos Anastasakis is my husband. He has a Super Hero name because he is my έρωντας.
**Dittany in Greek is Δίκταμο (Diktamo, with the stress on the first syllable). It is known as the king of herbs and is native to Crete. It is also known as έρωντας (erontas with the stress in the first syllable) which means passionate love, usually for describing romantic love. This name came from the probably true story that long time ago, a man would show his woman his love by gifting her this prized herb. The best time to pick dittany is the hottest day of the summer and the best place to collect them is to go as high up in the mountain as possible so that they are pure. Summer in Crete can be harsh and the mountain terrains are designed for mountain goats. But nothing could stop a man who was in love! Therefore, they named dittany έρωντας.
***I do not receive any money or material reward through writing this or any other articles in my blog. The reward I get is the joy of sharing and recommending wonderful people and places.