I first came to Crete in 1998 and I t was one of the few places that I felt I wanted to return to. It was on my second visit, 10 years later, that the idea of acquiring a vacation home in Crete was born.
Once I began seriously looking, the name of a village in eastern Crete kept coming up: Kritsa. Living in Norway, I contacted Sol-Eiendom who work exclusively with Crete Homes in North East Crete. I had seen information for a very sweet house. It was the bright colors, the fact that it was a restored traditional house and that it was being sold furnished that appealed to me. And the price was right.
And so one day, after contacting Crete Homes and arranging an appointment, we drove to Kritsa to view houses. From my online research I wasn’t convinced that I would like Kritsa, however, as the village came into sight, clusters of white buildings in the shape of a scorpion, nestled against the cliffs, it was love at first sight.
Kritsa is a large village, inhabited mostly by Cretans but with a few ex-pats living there or having holiday homes. So the village combines the best of both worlds – authentic Crete as well as an international community of long-term visitors or inhabitants. Seasonal day time tour busses visit briefly after stopping at the nearby historic sites. In walking distance there is a Byzantine church with well preserved frescoes, a spectacular gorge, and a Dorian archaeological site. The village has shops and services and the seaside town of Aghios Nikolaos is only 10ks away and there is a bus service.
I was actually after a 2 bedroom house and Hilary, the lovely British lady from Crete Homes that I had been liaising with, met us and showed us around. She had prepared a prospect in advance detailing houses we were going to view. We looked at several and there were a couple that I really liked. Just for fun, we asked to see the house that had originally sparked my interest, even though it only had one bedroom.
I loved it! It may not have had the greatest view, or been the most spacious, but it had the best workmanship – and no wonder, it had been restored by the owner of Crete Homes for his own use – and it was ready to move into. I felt it was the house where I would get the most for my money. And there was something inherently cozy about it. So I thought: “What the heck, where there is room in the heart, there is room in the house!”
Now here comes the exciting part. When I wrote to Hilary saying that I’d decided on the small house, and mentioned that we’d figure out accommodation for guests as the need arose, she wrote back saying that the stable, which was tucked between my house and the neighbor’s had just come on the market. I didn’t hesitate for a second. “I’ll take it”, I wrote back.
One of the things that had most impressed me about my house was the quality of the workmanship, as well as the peculiar marriage of traditional and artistic details with modern comfort. So there was no question in my mind that Manolis Peponis, the architect owner of Crete Homes, who had studied restoration architecture in Venice (could there be a more appropriate place for that specialty?) should be the one to undertake the transformation of the stable into an annex to the house.
He kept me informed every step of the way. Originally he had showed me plans of a traditional enclosed sleeping alcove. However, when we looked at the stable together and I saw the hay loft, I thought: “why not keep the idea of the loft, making that a sleeping area, with a sitting place beneath it?”. And that is what we did. Where the fireplace had been there are now steps going up to the mezzanine, what I call the hay loft, where mattresses can be laid down to sleep 2 or 3 people. Manolis, ever practical, and with a fantastic eye for the use of space made the seating benches hollow, for storage, and the longer one exactly the size of a single bed! Under the stair is a Harry Potter style cupboard, with beautifully stained doors. For the floors, Manolis was able to acquire traditional tiles that people were tearing out of their houses. So it came about that I got the house I most wanted and it ended up having two, even 3, bedrooms, if you count the mezzanine.
Working with Crete Homes has been and continues to be the best experience. Fanis, the realtor in the partnership, speaks excellent English and takes care of everything. In fact, when dealing with Crete homes, you can be certain that all the regulations have been followed in every way, so that there are no unpleasant bureaucratic surprises. In Norway, once you have purchased your property and paid the fees, you never see the estate agent again. With Crete Homes, the relationship is ongoing. They will arrange for your bills to get paid, for repairs and upkeep, and promptly and eagerly address any problem. It is such a pleasure to work with them, and today I am pleased to count Hilary, Manolis, and Fanis among my friends.
Gudrun Lillekroken, Norway