Culture and society on Crete

"Crete's mystery is extremely deep. Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force branching warmly and beneficently through his veins, senses his soul begin to grow."
from 'Letter to El Greco' by Nikos Kazantzakis

The story of Cretan culture began more than 8.000 years ago when the first settlers arrived on the island, probably from Anatolia and North Africa. The long lasting rich history and the dramatic influences of social transitions, immigration and emigration, trade and alliances, occupation by foreign powers and eventual liberation are all reflected in the Cretan culture and traditions of today. But of course Crete is not a quaint open-air museum! It is a modern European society with an ever increasing number of people moving out of the villages to live in the major towns, increased living standards and levels of education. And tourism has made its significant mark on the island. During the last decades some of the former villages along the north coast have turned into huge resorts catering for the 2,5 million tourists or so that visit every year. But its an intriguing place to be all the same.

It is a big - and a small island - at the same time. The mountains divide the island and make it appear much larger than it really is. It's not that quickly traversed as one might think. On the other hand, the hustle of the city life and the tourist areas can be replaced with the tranquillity of the small mountain village literally in a matter of minutes. Just by going a few kilometres away from the major centres. And crossing the contrast between town and village are customs, habits and ways of life that are as much an integral part of 'modern' as 'traditional' Crete. To mention but a few things, Crete has a vibrant musical tradition and the Orthodox church is still a major social institution everywhere. And definitely, you can meet the famous Cretan hospitality in the town as well as in the village.

When browsing though these pages, you will hopefully, get a well balanced idea of some of the characteristics of Cretan culture and of the traditions and customs that you can experience yourself when you visit the island. We are far from experts in anything Cretan but with the help of literature and friends we have tried to describe Crete and its people to the best of our abilities and we hope that you will find our work useful. We have divided the presentation into various subcategories which you can access by clicking the links to the right.