Crete Is Neat

This item appears on page 31 of the November 2015 issue.

When we print the winning entries to each essay contest every few months, it’s a pleasant reminder of ITN’s founder and original publisher, the late Armond Noble, who originated the contest and had fun coming up with alliterative essay topics.

The subject “Crete is Neat” inspired a number of subscribers to write, and ITN staff has completed the judging, with two submissions standing out above the rest. ANNE SUPSIC of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, in first place, will receive a 3-year extension to her ITN subscription, and JAMES A. STEFAN of Sarasota, Florida, will have his subscription extended two years. We thank all of you who participated.

The essay contest currently in play for ITN subscribers is titled “Brazil Fits the Bill.” If you have been there, in no more than 300 words (note: 300 words), describe what you experienced in Brazil that evokes a sense of the country’s atmosphere, culture and attractions. Email your essay to or send it to Essay Contest, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is December 31, 2015. A prize will be given for the winning essay, which will be printed in ITN.

Now here are the winning essays about the Greek island of Crete.


I found Crete to be not only neat but sweet during my visit in May 2015. It started upon arrival in Herak­lion as I savored a delicious local pastry, bougatsa, at a café on the main square, Platia Venizelou. 

I explored the nearby Palace of Knossos with few crowds late in the day, when the ruins and murals seemed to come to life. Knossos (you pronounce the “k”), the largest and most impressive of Crete’s 4,000-year-old Minoan palace ruins, was enhanced by a strong Greek coffee and tyropita at the palace café. Further art treats awaited at the Heraklion Archeological Museum, with its world-class ancient ceramics and frescoes (and lovely terrace café overlooking Heraklion).

I rented a car and drove east, stopping at the Palace of Malia, a simpler version of Knossos with a dreamy setting near the sea. I drove up into the mountains to view magical sites of ancient city-states, such as Lyttos, before spending two unforgettable days on the Greek-windmill-filled Lassithi Plateau. There I purchased striking, locally woven textiles and visited the deep and mysterious mythical birthplace of Zeus in the Dhiktean Cave.

I crossed the island to visit Festos and nearby Gortys, which added to the history experience with a 1,600-year-old olive tree wrapped around a Roman pillar plus the best remaining early-Christian church in the Aegean. 

Back on the north coast, I enjoyed the classic Venetian lighthouses, forts and “arsenali” (shipyards) in Rethymno and Chania as well as mountain monasteries, such as Arkadi Monastery, where I joined dozens of schoolchildren visiting a shrine of independence. Delightful culinary stops continued with delicious harborside fresh fish.

Four thousand years of history and wonderful food seemed to abound in every corner of Crete. I’m ready to go back!

James A. Stefan, Sarasota, FL


Crete and its 4,000-year-old Minoan civilization have always intrigued me, but when visiting for 2½ weeks in April 2006, I discovered Crete is even neater than I thought.

I began in Heraklion, the place to be immersed in the world of the Minoans. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum has an impressive display of Minoan artifacts, including pottery, sculptures and dynamic frescoes, like one depicting the acrobatic bull-leaping ceremony. Nearby Knossos Palace provides a further look at the majesty of these ancient people, who created a vibrant, joyful style of artistic expression that some believe remained unrivaled until the Renaissance.

But my most unforgettable experience had nothing to do with art history. I attended Resurrection Mass on Easter Eve in the small, southern town of Paleochora, located on the shores of the Libyan Sea. The crowd spilled out of the church and into the courtyard, with everyone clutching elaborately decorated candles. At midnight, the church went completely dark until the priest began to pass a single flame from candle to candle. Soon the night glowed with hundreds of flickering candles.

That’s when the celebration really got started. Fireworks filled the sky, and an effigy of Judas burst into flame on the hillside. The church bells reverberated crazily and firecrackers exploded. Still the priest continued to chant, oblivious to the racket.

Trumping even ancient history and religious traditions, what really makes Crete neat are the people. This little island wraps you in a warm embrace with lively, roofless tavernas, where music plays, everyone dances and the desserts are often free. “A gift,” says the waiter. 

Generous store owners pour complimentary shots of rakı and chat companionably as you browse. When I downed a shot of that throat-burning, 80-proof liquid in one gulp, one storeowner grinned and said, “Now you are Greek!”

Anne Supsic, Saylorsburg, PA