What if I tell you there is a small village in Crete without any electricity trail and that Lonely Planet listed it as one of the top 50 magical places to see in Europe?
People here don’t watch television, they aren’t hooked on social media and they cook only what they gather from nature. No, I didn’t take this story from a tale by Hans Christian Andersen! This village is a reality. Well, almost…
I heard of this place called Milia and I was so curious to discover it for myself- to see how it came about, discover who lived there and I couldn’t wait to visit- to see with my own eyes what it looks like.
Months before my departure to Crete, I read about it.
In fact, it was an abandoned village for about four decades, when in the early 80s, James Tsourounakis had this dream to see Milia come to life again! He wanted to salvage what was left of the ruins of the houses of his ancestors and to come closer to nature, cultivating the land, reforesting, producing organic products, next to a small farm.
Along with his dream came the will of his fellow villager, George Makrakis in 1982- and so their “kouzoulada” (craziness in Cretan dialogue) was united at this mountain in Crete, where Milia would soon “flourish.”
A little bit later came the idea of turning the old houses into hotels, offering the opportunity for other people to also be fully integrated into nature. In 1990, they managed to become financed by the European Interreg Program and started the restoration work that lasted more than 3 years. The village-hotel first opened in 1993 and has since operated all year round.
But enough with the history.
The time to see Milia with my own eyes had finally arrived and I was driving along a dirt road in the mountains and thought Ι was going absolutely nowhere, when suddenly Ι arrived at this little parking spot and found a path to… happiness.
From the first moment I saw this path I felt like I entered a fairytale. The princess is lost into the woods or…not! She knows perfectly where she is going now.
Following this path I found myself in front of natural beauty, featuring stone houses, trees and flowers, a scenic storyline! I was surrounded by peace that seemed unusual, almost strange, to people like me, who live in the city and are used to a hectic pace. This was paradise. Eco-tourism at its best. I wandered into the village-hotel with 13 rooms, to take pictures and I fell in love with the small doors of the houses that reminded me of the homes in Hobbit.
Guests come here to come in to contact with nature. They all seem calm on a hammock beside the creek, or sitting on the terrace overlooking the landscape.
When night falls, the scenery becomes even more idyllic since the lighting is created with oil lamps, while you can hear the water coming from the nearby source.
I loved this place at first sight for the idea, for the nature, for the tranquility, for the priceless serenity and certainly for the food.
In Milia’s restaurant, all the products served are biologically cultivated by the owners and cooked in the pan or the wood-fired oven, as is the handmade bread. The first time I visited I had chicken with potatoes and the second, pork with orange. Both were the most delicious dishes I had ever tasted. They melted on my palate. The wine is also local, made from their own production.
So cheers to that, by the candlelight!
*All images by Polina Paraskevopoulou