By Dr. John Paitakes-Special to Hellenic News
My wife and I finally decided to return to Crete, Greece, our favorite vacation place, after a four year hiatus due to COVID. We had been in regular contact with our relatives via email and telephone during this period monitoring health conditions. We decided to make the trip this past May. My niece and her husband (our Godson) joined us.
Kalyves is a small village on the Western side of Crete in the Apokoronos area of Crete, about a 30 minute drive from Chania. It overlooks Souda Bay. It is a working village which provides a taste of traditional village life providing delicious cretan dishes and hospitality. This village has all the necessary accommodations of a town to include numerous restaurants, mini markets, pharmacies, bakeries, butcher shops, gift shops, several banks and a Greek Orthodox Church. Numerous coffee shops outline the main street where locals and tourists frequent.
For the past twenty years, we have vacationed in this small village staying at the same hotel, The Kalyves Beach Hotel, located on the beach facing the sea. We have dealt with the contract manager of this hotel and their sister hotel the Kiani Beach Resort. Penelope Vassolou is the office manager who is most gracious also. They have always provided us with excellent accommodations and services at a reasonable price. Their sister hotel, the Kiani Beach Resort on the outskirts of the village is a large all inclusive resort with numerous amenities and services. We prefer the Kalyves Beach Hotel which provides excellent services but also the exposure to village life within walking distant. We also enjoy talking with the locals and gaining insight into their lives, goals and politics (which Greeks always enjoy discussing). We immerse ourselves into their lives and thoughts and develop a deep understanding of their daily life. The vast majority of residents of this village have never left the village and surrounding areas. As a Greek American, this vacation experience in this village has enriched our lives over numerous vacations to this small village in the past twenty years. My wife is not of Greek descent; her ethnic background is Slovakian and Hungarian. She grew up in a large family with numerous cousins and strong family relationships. Over our 54 years of marriage, she developed a strong bond with the Greek family culture (similar to hers) and customs. In fact, she can cook and dance much better than I!
During the past fifty years of visiting Greece, we also visited numerous other islands to include Santorini, Mykynos, Rhodos, Karpathos, Kefalonia, Aegina, Chios, Hydra and Tinos, and several others. However, we have spent the most vacation time in Crete as it was my dad’s birthplace. My dad, John Adam Paitakes, was born in 1910 in the tiny village of Vafe in the Apokrono sections next to Vrisses. This village had a small population of several hundred at that time. His father, Adam and his three sons John, Gus and Michael came to the United States through Ellis Island around 1917 to find a better and more prosperous life. His wife Irene, remained in Greece until her husband and children settled in America and then joined them.
Over the years, my wife and I discovered numerous relatives who were offspring’s of the Paitakes family. As of this writing there are approximately twenty-two other Paitakes we have discovered thus far; there may be more. We remain in regular contact with them during the year. My wife and I feel very close to these new found relatives. This is our second family discovered over the years in this beautiful village and island of Crete.
Much of our appreciation is also extended to the excellent management and staff at the Kalyves Beach Hotel. (Despina Voutetaki, Contract and Yield Manager of Sea Crete Hotels, website is www.seacretehotels.com.)