LivinginCrete | BritsinCrete Winter of 2004

Being British, the weather features a lot in everyday conversation. It is part of our psyche. For those of us that have moved to Crete to enjoy "warmer" weather have found that climate change has impacted on the Mediterranean isle as well.

Thankfully, this winter 2006/7 has been unseasonably warm, but with just a few short sharp bursts of cold spells and rain.

The picture to the left was taken at exactly 1047pm on the evening of January 24, 2004 in Vrahassi, Lasithi. The village nestles between 400 and 550 metres above sea level.

That night in 2004 was significant.

It became the debating point for days after, starting the next morning in the Kafeneio in the main square. The old folk were saying how cold the night had been with the "Snow" actually settling on the ground in "Vra-HAS-SI". When the locals get excited they roll their "rrr's" and emphasise the last two syllables with a rising tone.

It is also often the reaction I get when travelling around Crete, when other villages ask where I stay. They respond also with the V-rrrr-HAS-SI after I tell them, but this time it is with disbelief. You see, the Vrahassiotis have something of a firebrand reputation for being independently minded. And sticking to their guns - literally.

Back to the morning after...The seventy somethings were saying : "Not in their lifetime - this was the first time they remember snow actually staying on the ground, while those into their 90s were adamant that as youngsters, the village being like that, 'more winters than not'.

And so it became a tussle between the senior, senior Yiorgos and the senior Yiorgos.

Perhaps they were proving a point that weather patterns can and do change quickly between generations. Or are their minds playing tricks in their progressing years?

The news of snow reached Sissi fast (the coastal "lower" village of Vrahassi) where the residents saw none of the white stuff in their courtyards. And so the next day became a day of visitations, not only the relatives but an English couple who lived down in Sissi, a mere 5kms away.

They actually came up to photograph the winter's scene, and play snowballs, dressed suitably for the occasion, of course. Although it has to be said this was not Gstaad.

Ironically, I know how cold Sissi can 'feel' in winter cold spells -- due to its location next to the sea and high humidity while in Vrahassi the mountain air is drier and fresher, somehow. I prefer the mountain air.

Anyway, that date in 2004 was a watershed (excuse the pun), a turning point in weather patterns, because while snow has not really settled again since in the village, the cold snaps do seem be colder than before, if briefer.

And the villagers can recall with glee that night in 2004 that reminded them of what it used to be like in the Crete of old.

Just as well, it was a one off, it is hard work keeping the wood burner going day and night to keep the house cosy. It is also a reminder of why the animals used to be kept indoors with their owners in winter - their body heat did the job intended.