Matala in the Sixties
Those of you who may have read my book Secret Crete, Searching for my Home, will have come across my visit to Matala in 1966. Or you may have heard the stories from the days when this tiny bay became the hippie capital of Crete.
Why Matala in the sixties happened I don’t know, but the bay was truly beautiful. It has lovely fine sand and the cliff on the right as you look out westwards towards the sunset has a large number of Roman burial places, effectively caves where you could stay if you had a sleeping bag.
When I went there it was truly amazing. To have been through many Cretan villages seeing only Cretans, I washed up in this lovely place to see dozens of hippies just lying in the sun and enjoying themselves. Their colourful clothes are a stark contrast to the Cretans. There were one or two stone houses and a kind of cave church, but it did not seem that any locals lived there at all.
There was a temporary taverna stroke bar that one of the Cretans had set up on the beach and with some beers and some wine and a souvlaki barbecue, he did very well. I remember that he also had an old Philips record player there that worked on batteries and he played LPs over and over. That was the Mermaid Cafe as everyone called it. Life in the hippy village crete.
Today there are hotels and rent-rooms establishments as well as tavernas and in the summer it is chaos. In the winter though, almost nobody lives in Matala. There are no cars and it is almost like it used to be, but no hippies, of course. Oh, and you are not allowed to sleep in the caves anymore.
I never met anyone famous when I was there, but one of the people that spent some time in Matala was Joni Mitchell and she wrote her famous song Carey all about the place, the beach, and it always brings it all back to me.