The Greek language spoken on the island has a distinct Cretan Greek dialect with an extended vocabulary that is Crete-specific. Cretan wine and tsikoudia, a potent distillate, are the traditional drinks. Crete has its own distinctive Mantinades poetry. The island is known for its Mantinades-based music (typically performed with the Cretan lyra and the laouto) and has many indigenous dances, the most noted of which is probably the Pentozali. Cretan authors have made important contributions to Greek Literature throughout the modern period; major names include Vikentios Kornaros, creator of the 17th century epic romance Erotokritos (Greek Ερωτόκριτος), and in the 20th century Nikos Kazantzakis. In the Renaissance, Crete was the home of the Cretan School of icon painting, which influenced El Greco and through him subsequent European painting.
Cretans are fiercely proud of their island and customs, and men often don elements of their traditional dress in everyday life: knee-high black riding boots, black shirts and black headdress consisting of a fishnet-weave kerchief worn wrapped around the head or draped on the shoulders. Black is the color of mourning, and since Cretan families are notionally considered so extended as to include greatgrandparents or second cousins (although they may have little actual contact) as well as all their respective in-laws, one is theoretically justified to be in continuous mourning for some relative or other, however distant. On festive occasions those who are not in mourning wear white.
The economy of Crete, which was mainly based on farming, and fishing, began to change visibly during the 1970s. While an emphasis remains on farming and stock breeding, due to the climate and terrain of the island, there has been a drop in manufacturing and an observable expansion in its service industries (mainly tourism-related). All three sectors of the Cretan economy (agriculture, processing-packaging, services), are directly connected and interdependent. The island has a per capita income close to 100% of the Greek average, while unemployment is at approximately 4%, ½ of that of the country overall. As in other regions of Greece, olive growing is also a significant industry; a small amount of citrons are still cultivated on the island. The eastern part of the island is most developed as agriculture region of Crete.
The island has three significant airports, Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion, the Daskalogiannis airport at Chania and a smaller one in Sitia. The first two serve international routes, as the main gateways to the island for travellers.
Crete is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Fifteen percent of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Heraklion (port and airport), while charter journeys to Heraklion last year made up 20% of all charter flights in Greece. Overall, more than two million tourists visited Crete last year, and this increase in tourism is reflected on the number of hotel beds, rising by 53% in the period between 1986 and 1991, when the rest of Greece saw increases of only 25%. Today, the island's tourism infrastructure caters to all tastes, including a very wide range of accommodation; the island's facilities take in large luxury hotels with their complete facilities, swimming pools, sports and recreation, smaller family-owned apartments, camping facilities and others. Visitors reach the island via two international airports in Heraklion and Chania, or by boat to the main ports of Heraklion, Chania, Rethimno and Agios Nikolaos. Popular tourist attractions include the archaeological sites of the Minoan civilisation, the Venetian old city and port of Chania, the Venetian castle at Rethymno, the gorge of Samaria, the islands of Chrysi, Elafonisi, Gramvousa, and Spinalonga.
here are a large number of archaeological sites which include the Minoan sites of Knossos and Phaistos, the classical site of Gortys, and the diverse archaeology of Koufonisi, Crete which includes Minoan, Roman and World War II ruins.
Enviromentally protected areas
There are a number of environmentally protected areas. One such area is located at the island of Elafonisi on the coast of southwestern Crete. Also, the palm forest of Vai and the Dionysades islands, close to the coast of northwestern Crete, have diverse animal and plant life. Vai has a palm beach and the largest natural palm forest in Europe. The island of Chrysi, 15 km south of Ierapetra, has the largest naturally grown Lebanon Cedar forest in Europe.
Newspapers have reported that the Ministry of Mercantile Marine is ready to support the agreement between Greece, South Korea, Dubai Ports World and China for the construction of a large international container port and free trade zone in southern Crete near Tympaki; the plan is to expropriate 850 ha of land. The port would handle 2 million containers per year, while as of 2007, there has been no official announcement of a project not universally welcomed due to its environmental, economic and cultural impact. As of January 2009, it appears the project has been canceled, in part due to the strong opposition from the local population, mostly on environmental grounds.
Crete's mild climate attracts interest from northern Europeans who want a holiday home or residence on the island. EU citizens have the right to freely buy property and reside with little formality. A growing number of real estate companies cater to mainly British expatriates, followed by German, Dutch, Scandinavian and other European nationalities wishing to own a home in Crete. The British expatriates are concentrated in the western prefectures of Chania and Rethymno and to a lesser extent in Heraklion and Lasithi.
The first human settlements on the island, dating to the aceramic Neolithic, used cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and dogs as well as domesticated cereals and legumes; ancient Knossos was the site of one of these major Neolithic (then later Minoan) sites.
Crete was the center of Europe's first advanced civilization, the Minoan (c. 2700-1420 BC). This civilization wrote in the undeciphered script known as Linear A. Early Cretan history is replete with legends such as those of King Minos, Theseus, Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus passed on orally via poets such as Homer. Beginning in 1420 BC, the Minoan civilization was overrun by the Mycenean civilization from mainland Greece. The oldest samples of writing in the Greek language is the Linear B archive from Knossos, dated approximately to 1425-1375 BC.
Crete has a rich mythology mostly connected with the ancient Greek Gods but also connected with the Minoan civilization. The labyrinth of the palace of Knossos has the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur where the Minotaur was slayed by Theseus. The Paximadia islands are believed to be the birthplace of the goddess Artemis and the god Apollo. Their mother, the goddess Leto, was worshipped at Phaistos. Europa and Zeus made love at Gortys and conceived the Kings of the Minoan civilization. King Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The goddess Athena bathed in Lake Voulismeni. The ancient Greek god Zeus launched a lightning bolt at a giant lizard that was threatening Crete. The lizard immediately turned to stone and became the island of Dia. The island can be seen from Knossos and it has the shape of a giant lizard. The islets of Lefkai were the result of a musical contest between the Sirens and the Muses. After losing the contest the Sirens were so distraught that their wings fell off, turned white, and fell into the sea at Souda Bay where they formed the islets.
Music of Crete- local instruments and the ancient instrument-Cretan Lyra
The music of Crete is a traditional form of Greek folk music called κρητικά (kritika). The lyra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; there are three-stringed and four-stringed versions of this bowed string instrument, closely related to the medieval Byzantine lyra. It is often accompanied by the Cretan lute (laoúto), which is similar to both an oud and a mandolin. Thanassis Skordalos and Kostas Moundakis are the most renowned players of the lyra.
The earliest documented music on Crete comes from Ancient Greece. Cretan music like most traditional Greek began as product of ancient, Byzantine, western and eastern inspirations. The main instrument lyra, is closely related to the bowed Byzantine lyra. The Persian geographer Ibn Khordadbeh (d. 911) of the 9th Century, in his lexicographical discussion of instruments, cited the Byzantine lyra (Greek: λύρα - lūrā), as similar to the Arabic rebab and a typical Byzantine instrument along with the urghun (organ), shilyani (probably a type of harp or lyre) and the salandj . Bowed instruments descendants of the Byzantine bowed lyra (lūrā) have continued to be played in post-Byzantine regions until the present day with few changes, for example the Calabrian Lira in Italy, the Cretan Lyra, the Gadulka in Bulgaria, and the Armudî kemençe (or πολίτικη λύρα) in Istanbul, Turkey.
Following the Crusades, however, the Franks, Venetians and Genoese dominated the island and introduced new instruments and genres and in particular the three-stringed lira da braccio. By the end of the 14th century, a poetic form called mantinada became popular; it was a rhyming couplet of fifteen syllables. The introduction of the violin by the end of 17th century was especially important.
Some of the earliest popular music stars from Crete were Andreas Rodinos, Yiannis Bernidakis (Baxevanis), Stelios Koutsourelis, Stelios Foustalieris, Efstratios Kalogeridis, Kostas Papadakis, Michalis Kounelis, Kostas Mountakis and Thanassis Skordalos. Later, in the 1960s, musicians like Nikos Xylouris and Yiannis Markopoulos combined Cretan folk music with classical techniques. For the above choices, Nikos Xylouris received the negative criticism of conservative fans of the Cretan music but he remained popular, as did similarly-styled performers like Charalambos Garganourakis and Vasilis Skoulas. Nowadays, prominent performers include Antonis Xylouris or Psarantonis, Giorgis Xylouris, Ross Daly, Stelios Petrakis, Vasilis Stavrakakis, the group Chainides, Zacharias Spyridakis, Michalis Stavrakakis, Mitsos Stavrakakis, Dimitrios Vakakis, Georgios Tsantakis, Michalis Tzouganakis, Elias Horeftakis, Giannis Charoulis, etc.
As Magrini (1997) has argued, modern marketing of Cretan music has concentrated on the lyra as the most distinctive Cretan instrument, to the extent that other instruments are seldom heard. This includes the violin, as well as the bagpipes [askomadoura].