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Matala

Matala, Crete is a popular destination on the Bay of Messara, in the southern part of the Greek island. Matala may only be a tiny village but it is world famous, thanks to the hippies who lived there from the end of the 60s and into the 70s. Among them was Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. "Life is today, tomorrow never comes”. That’s one of the many signs you can read when you reach the tiny village. The caves carved into the north face of the coast that remained empty for thousands of years, became the meeting point of the young people of the time who formed the hippie commune and praised their independence from the conservative society and the acquisition of material goods. Some of them lived in the caves of Matala for weeks, months or even years, experimented with sex and hallucinogenic substances while enjoying the beautiful beach with its crystal-clear blue waters. However, the society was still very conservative and some people revolted against the hippies. They were finally driven out by the church in 1977 and the caves closed.

Matala was nothing but a small fishing village up until that time. Back then, there were only a few houses and one tavern. Now, it is a popular holiday destination in Crete. Although hippies no longer live in the caves, thousands of tourists from all over the world, visit the legendary village every summer in order to feel its vibe and connect with the hippie side of Crete. The place still retains the charm of the past and the relaxed lifestyle. ​It has a lovely fairly long and wide beach but tends to get very crowded too almost in every season. Visitors can find all kinds of accommodation, tavernas, bars and gift shops. Matala is ideal for those who want to spend their holidays near lovely beaches, important archeological sites and traditional villages like Sivas and Kamilari. For those who are interested in Greek history, the Minoan Palace of Phaistos, Agia Triada and the ancient city of Gortys are very close. Matala is located 71 km from the city of Heraklion and getting there is very easy. Local buses also run daily connecting the village with Heraklion and the other villages in the area. So, if you are one of those who love listening to the Joni Michell’s song “Carey” travelling down the deep blue Matala Sea this is the place to spend your holiday.

 

HISTORY

Matala has a long history dating back to the Neolithic times. At that time, the prehistoric inhabitants of the island sculpted the rocks of the area. It is believed that the famous caves originally used as prehistoric living spaces and places of worship and centuries later as tombs. Matala was also the ancient port of Phaistos during the Minoan period and the port of Gortys during the Roman period when Gortys was proclaimed capital of Crete by the Romans. Ruins of the ancient city can still be seen on the sea bed. Today, Matala caves have been fenced, protected by the Archaeological Service and are accessible to tourists but no one is allowed to live there or stay overnight.

 

Lyrics from the song Carey by Joni Mitchell

The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn't sleep
Oh, you know it sure is hard to leave here Carey
But it's really not my home
My fingernails are filthy, I got beach tar on my feet
And I miss my clean white linen and my fancy French cologne

Oh Carey get out your cane
And I'll put on some silver
Oh you're a mean old Daddy
But I like you fine

Come on down to the Mermaid Café and I will
Buy you a bottle of wine
And we'll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down
Let's have a round for these freaks and these soldiers
A round for these friends of mine
Let's have another round for the bright red devil
Who keeps me in this tourist town

Come on Carey get out your cane
I'll put on some silver
Oh you're a mean old Daddy
But I like you

Maybe I'll go to Amsterdam
Maybe I'll go to Rome
And rent me a grand piano
And put some flowers 'round my room
But let's not talk about fare-thee-wells now

The night is a starry dome
And they're playin' that scratchy rock and roll
Beneath the Matala Moon

Come on Carey get out your cane
I'll put on some silver
We'll go to the Mermaid Café
Have fun tonight

The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn't sleep
Oh you know it sure is hard to leave here
But it's really not my home

Maybe it's been too long a time
Since I was scramblin' down in the street
Now they got me used to that clean white linen
And that fancy French cologne

Oh Carey get out your cane
I'll put on my finest silver
We'll go to the Mermaid Café
Have fun tonight
I said, Oh, you're a mean old Daddy but I like you
But you're out of sight

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