We live to explore Crete. Follow us!


All Rights Reserved

All articles and photos published in CRETAZINE is available to visitors strictly for personal use. It is not permissible to reproduce or retransmit in any manner or to any extent whatsoever any part of this web site, with or without editing, without the written permission of the publisher.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

  • The highest working employee of CreteThe highest working employee of Crete© Nektarios Pogkas
  • Sunset and fog over Samaria gorgeSunset and fog over Samaria gorge
  • Kallergi refuge... by night!Kallergi refuge... by night!© Kostas Iordanou
  • © Christos Paterakis
  • Feeding the vultures of SamariaFeeding the vultures of Samaria© Andreas Brokalakis
  • A snowy selfie of the refuge-manA snowy selfie of the refuge-man© Christos Paterakis
  • Watching mountaineering movies at nightWatching mountaineering movies at night© Christos Paterakis

Interview: the “highest working” employee in Crete, at Kallergi refuge!

Christos Paterakis is the 'key keeper' of Kallergi refuge in the winter season. This honor was bestowed upon him by the Greek Mountaineering Club of Chania and –as a result- we proclaim him “the highest working employee” of Crete. He is the man who welcomes you with a smile on his lips (and a wooden spoon in his hand) when you complete the one-hour hike from the plateau of Omalos and desperately seek the warmth of the refuge. Strange as it may sound, this little refuge, overlooking Samaria gorge and surrounded by the imposing summits of Lefka Ori, becomes a crowded hotspot almost every weekend in the winter. Kallergi refuge is a popular destination for every type of nature lovers: experienced or beginner hikers, families, groups of friends or solitary wanderers who wish to live a different (mountainous) experience on the island.

IMG 0537Give us precise geographic position, altitude, wind speed and temperature inside and outside the refuge right now. Tell us what you see outside the window. Take us where you are...  

I will tell you what we see as we climb up the mountain ... We see three seas: Libyan Sea, Cretan Sea and another sea that appears when you reach the summits above 2,000 meters. Around us we see the summits Pachnes, Melidaou, Psari, the rocky monster of Gigilos and Volakias, rising over Samaria gorge.

It is cold up the mountains… right now the temperature outside is about 3 °C but inside the refuge, with the wood oven burning and the food cooking, the temperature is over 20 °C! As for the wind, today it is mild and barely makes a noise.

We are 500 meters higher than Samaria gorge, in an altitude of 1.680 meters, and geaographically speaking, this is perhaps the highest party place in Crete every weekend!

Are you the highest working employee of Crete?

I guess I am the only one who works in such a high place in the entire island. Plus, on snowy days I must be the only person in Crete that goes to work with skis!

Tell us about the difficulties of working in an altitude of 1680 m., surrounded by wilderness.

I will start with the most practical difficulty, which is access. On snowy days I have to climb up the refuge with skis, carrying the weekend supplies on my back. And then, the adventure begins…everything is frozen: the door lock, the water in the toilets, the oil I use for cooking….and in general, the temperature here is so much lower compared to the plateau. Sometimes the windows are covered with ice and I cannot open them. These are just a few of the many difficulties that you cannot imagine unless you have lived up in the mountains like a hermit!

uea cut

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced since you started this job?

The biggest challenge has been to convince people to leave the comfort of their couch and climb up here to experience a different life. On the other hand, the satisfaction I get every weekend when I see an increasing number of people coming here is so great, I forget about the challenges.

koutalaWhat’s on the “menu” this year at Kallergi Refuge?

Good company, positive attitude, and many delicious dishes cooked in the wood oven: bean soup with sausage, pork baked with mustard and honey, and - of course – good raki. Αh! And after dinner we usually watch a mountaineering film to help us digest the food and increase our appetite for hiking the next day! Our goal is not to come all the way here and just eat; our goal is to climb up the summits, and then eat! 

How many kilos of beans –approximately- you cook every season?

40 to 50!

At Kallergi’s yard the snow never ends

As soon as the old one melts, new snow comes again

What’s the most magical image you have ever seen up there?

Every time I come here I see a different picture. Whether it is sunny, snowy, foggy or rainy, the mountain always surprised you with a different image that leaves you speechless. One time, I remember, I arrived at the refuge and I had to dig for an hour to find the door… 

A night in the refuge that you will always remember?  

Every weekend there is a feast for different reasons and with different guests. There are countless nights to remember, so it is hard to distinguish just one. Perhaps the most recent one, when the Cretan musician Yiagkos Chairetis was amongst my guests and played with his lute beautiful melodies and sang lyrics that touched our hearts.

xestraIs it true that the outdoor WC, hovering over the gorge, is not exactly…decorative? 

I don’t know why the function of our outdoor WC is so often misunderstood! Of course it functions as a toilet, offering nature’s pleasure with the best view, without unpleasant smells, while at the same time we contribute to the fast development of flora down there! 

Give us a few reasons why we should walk the trail that leads to Kallergi refuge, and convince those who are still thinking about it.

It is the perfect place to start mountain hiking, safely and without hassles. You don’t need to worry about where to stay or what to eat. It is also the best place to socialize, meet many interesting people and spend a different night out up the mountains. At the end of the day, aren’t you tired of living the same Saturday night over and over again? Live a bit differently!

Should we close this interview with a Cretan rhyme (mantinada)?

At Kallergi’s yard the snow never ends
As soon as the old one melts, new snow comes again…

kal pan cut