Crete Culture

Crete traditional dance

Cretan culture is hard to describe and impossible to forget once you’ve experienced it. It encompasses the wealth of musical tradition that can be traced to the Minoan times, leaping dances, the tales of Greek mythology, influential and important painters, singers and organ players, and a gastronomic culture that has visitors returning year after year.

As the largest island of Greece, and one of the most visited by international and domestic visitors, Crete combines a rich cultural heritage and modernity seamlessly. Known as fierce warriors, brave and proud of their homeland, the Cretans have always considered themselves as Cretans and not simply Greeks. Their musical tradition, songs, dances and dress style, mirrors the harsh landscape, rugged mountains and fighter spirit allowed them to persevere through centuries of occupation. The influences of the Venetians, the Arabs, the Byzantines and the Ottomans have carved their own paths on the architecture, art and lifestyle but without changing the core ethos.

When it comes to food, Crete once again differentiates itself from the rest of the country with imaginative dishes, combining local herbs and styles of cooking. The following section will guide you through some of the most important cultural events on the island, like the Renaissance festival in Rethymno, or the Music Festival in Choudetsi. The latter is the brainchild of Ross Daly and highlights Cretan musical styles and invites artists from all around the world to come together and learn about the art of traditional instruments and music.

Another area where the island has a lot to offer is folk art. For this, it is best to head out of the busy urban centers of Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion and travel to the villages and less popular regions, to witness and learn more about the art of ceramics, weaving and wood carving. Above everything else, Cretans are known for their warm hospitality and friendliness. Visitors are always served first, offered drinks, made to feel comfortable and welcome and do not be surprised if you get invitations for an actual dinner or lunch, especially in the villages and more remote areas. The Cretans value honesty and will always speak their mind. They also know how to have fun, something that you will get to experience in any summer festival or “panigyri“.

Greek Language – Learn the basics of Greek

Greek Language – Learn the basics of Greek

If you are visiting a Greek island that has even the most basic of tourist facilities, you can, quite happily enjoy your stay with absolutely no knowledge of the Greek language, as many of the Greeks you meet, such as waiters or bar staff, are usually able to speak some English. As these people have made such an effort to learn your language, it only seems polite to at least make a small effort to be able to speak a…

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Famous Cretan Musicians & Composers

Famous Cretan Musicians & Composers

When we talk about famous Cretan musicians and composers, there are so many names that come to mind. In the first half of the 20th century, the so-called First-generation Masters of Cretan music were at the height of their popularity. Amongst them, we have Rodinos, Baxevanis, Kareklas, Charilaos, Foustalieris, Koutsourelis, and other less known but just as influential figures whose impact is still felt today.

Traditional Cretan Dances

Traditional Cretan Dances

The character of Crete and the Cretans is reflected in their music and dance. Crete is one of the very few places in Greece where the traditional music heritage is growing rather than remaining static or even withering away.

Music in Crete

Music in Crete

Music and dance are directly woven into the Cretan psyche and their social life from the earliest days to the very present. Traditional music and local dances play a major role not only at festivals and social occasions but also in the day-to-day life of the ordinary person.

Michael Damaskinos – Cretan Artist

Michael Damaskinos – Cretan Artist

Michael Damaskinos is arguably the most important painter of the Cretan School. He was born in Candia (modern-day Heraklion) around 1540 and practised painting at the School of Agia Katerina of Sinai. At the age of 32, he was working in Venice and came into contact with the contemporary art scene.

Domenikos Theotokopoulos (aka El Greco)

Domenikos Theotokopoulos (aka El Greco)

Domenikos Theotokopoulos was born in Venetian Candia (as Heraklion was then known), in 1541 and is one of the most important figures in the history of painting.

Nikos Katzantzakis

Nikos Katzantzakis

Nikos Kazantzakis is one of the most well-known Cretan figures; a writer, he was born and raised in 1883 in Heraklion. At the age of 6 he witnessed the 1889 revolution, and at 17 saw his country freed from the Turkish yoke. These heroic events in Cretan history influenced him greatly and he went on to make many a reference to them in his writings.

Cretan Architecture

Cretan Architecture

The architecture of the island of Crete has been closely tied to the natural physical landscape – not just with respect to the materials employed but also the forms and types of the structures.

Cretan Folk Arts

Cretan Folk Arts

Crete can claim, amongst other things, a tradition rich in handicrafts and manufacture in areas such as pottery, wood-carving, weaving, embroidery, metalwork and jewellery-making.

Cultural Events in Crete

Cultural Events in Crete

Crete today – just as it has been throughout its long history – is a cosmopolitan island. Nonetheless, it has managed to preserve those elements which belong customarily to the folk tradition.