The sun is burning in Chania, but I can clearly see the slopes of snow on the distant mountain tops. This is why they are called the White Mountains. Ombre and juicy green colours are making the scenery around the city, while beautiful bushes covered with vibrant pink and red flowers are lining the streets, even the highway. Cars are parked next to boats on trailers in courtyards of the houses with earthy walls and red roofs. Yes, I’m definitely in the Mediterranean. I’m on Crete!
On my first evening I make my way to the famous Old Venetian Harbour, built by Venetians in the 14th century, during their colonization of Crete. Banks set along the water provide the possibility to sit down for a few minutes, or longer, and admire the picturesque scenery. And there’s plenty to admire – from the Maritime Museum to the Venetian Lighthouse.
I choose to have dinner in one of the taverns lining the harbour. I find myself a table with a view, just in time to watch the setting sun reflecting in the harbour’s waters. I place my order and focus on the things happening around me. There are quite a few men packing up after spending the last few hours with their fishing rods. One of them places the catch in a plastic bag and I see the fish jumping around inside. Three elderly Greek women, who sit by the table next to me, discuss something enthusiastically and pour themselves another glass of raki, the strong local schnapps. Once in a while a horse carriage with a happy couple passes in front of the restaurant. This local tourist attraction seems to be very popular.
My meal is served after half an hour, but it makes my taste buds dance. Octopuses are usually fished in autumn and winter on Crete and I’m aware that mine was frozen, but it still tastes delicious, sprinkled with some lemon juice and accompanied by toast made from local bread. A local custom in most of the taverns is to give the guests a complimentary dessert and a small carafe of raki. I realize the latter is the same size as the one shared by the three ladies at the neighboring table, and there is only one of me. Oh, well. I have a long time to sip on it, as I wait ages for the bill and another century for the change. When you come to Crete, you need to have time, lots of it. Besides, being in a hurry on vacation is silly. But wait, I’m actually working. I almost forgot. I make my way back to Porto Veneziano, the most beautifully located hotel in Chania, and fall asleep thinking about all the things I still want to see during the following days.
In the morning, I decide to take a trip with the glass bottom boat that docks in the Venetian Harbour. It gives you the opportunity to see a bit of the life going on underwater, but mostly, to see the imposing coast of Chania from a different perspective. The boat trip is fun, but lasts only an hour, so in the afternoon I borrow a bike from my hotel and go on a trip along the coast. I don’t get very far, because at some point, after a 30 minute ride, the road leads only towards the mountains, with no possibility to follow the coast line. Nevertheless, I get to admire some pretty views during this short escapade, including a few beaches. I decide to soak up some island sun on one of them.
The evenings in Chania are best spent in the maze of the old town’s charming streets – filled with crazy romantic restaurants and shops ranging from souvenir vendors to exclusive boutiques.
In order to be close to the centre of things, it’s a good idea to book a room in Hotel Kydon, which is situated behind the old town and right across the street from the old Market Hall and the ancient Agora – the square that is the heart of every Greek city.
After a couple of days in Chania I’m enchanted, but also happy to change the location for the remaining time of my trip. A comfortable 20 minute bus ride brings me to Kalyves, a sleepy little town in the Apostiraki region of Crete, where I spend two more nights in the friendliest place in the world – the Apokoros Family Club Hotel. The season is yet to begin and on my walks around Kalyves I see people doing last maintenance work around their properties, setting up their restaurants and cleaning the beach for visitors who will crowd the place in a couple of weeks. I can see why those visitors are expected in such great numbers again this year.
It’s a sad day, when I finally have to leave Crete behind. Someone I’ve met during this trip told me that one should never visit Crete too early in life, because, chances are, one will never want to leave. The only reason I was ok with leaving was that I promised myself to return someday.
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This article was first published od Roomauction.com
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