01.04.2015 - 04.04.2015
An hour from Rethymno, Chania is Crete's second largest city and certainly more beautiful than Heraklion. There is an old Venetian port with a lighthouse and ancient walls, as well as an even older part of the city with narrow alleys, and stone and cement houses, a few of which have a second floor of wood in the old Turkish style.
Lighthouse and outer wall, built in 1538 to fortify the city
The port area is a busy place with restaurants, many now just opening for the season, cafes, bars, and tourists from various parts of Europe. The weather has improved significantly, and for the most part, the days have been bright and warm, though often with a stiff breeze over the water.
Ancient mosque no longer in use by the waterfront
Old buildings and the port chock full of boats
The high snow covered mountains are visible over the ancient walls, and provide a stunning backdrop to this lively place.
Picture taken from outer wall.
People continue to be friendly, and the food is nothing short of fantastic. After just a few days, some of the shop and restaurant owners are already recognizing us and saying Yasou, hello, or Calamara, good day, not squid, although we had some delicious stuffed squid the other day. The restaurant where we had it is owned or managed by someone who looks like a cross between Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. He stood out in front, trying to drum up business, as do so many of the restauranteurs, and he made a big deal over us when we told him we were from New York. It didn't take long before he belted out New York, New York, and then I Left My Heart in San Francisco. Of course we had to eat there after that, and were glad we did, returning a couple of times for more seafood. On the waterfront, where Tony Bennett's place is located, there are number of excellent fish places, especially as you walk further down into the inner harbor area. Every one of them gives you raki and desert, free of charge, and meals are a very leisurely affair.
Looking up at waterfront promenade outside Tony Bennett's restaurant
Most days we have spent walking and looking at the old walls and alleys, and often just sitting and reading by the waterfront. We found some Minoan ruins, some of which are 5000 years old, and we learned that parts of Chania have some of the oldest Minoan sites in Crete.
In our meanderings, we also discovered a very local place in a non-touristy part of town, with the unlikely name, in English at least, of Chicken LTD. Great veggie options, salad, and boureki, Greek pie, which is not a dessert, but a full meal somewhat like chicken pot pie, only better, with veggies and cheese. Unlike most of the waterfront places, there were few foreigners eating here, perhaps because of the location and the prices, cheap.
Olive oil container at Chicken Ltd.
It's all Greek to me on the chalkboard menu at Chicken Ltd.
Our restaurant meals have also been supplemented by Michaelis, who runs our tiny three room guest house. He brings us something homemade and organic every day.
All of the Greek street and city names that have been translated into English letters are still impossible to pronounce, and there seems to be no consistent spelling. Most have at least 10 or 15 letters. Even Chania, relatively easy to say, can be spelled without the C , ie, Canea, Hania, etc.
One of the main shopping streets with an impossibly long name
It was with some trepidation that we decided to rent a car once again, as this will give us the opportunity to travel up to to a few of the smaller villages in the hills, and we will keep it for our time in Paleochora, as we have a week there. Perhaps the GPS will be more effective here than in Italy. Vamos a ver.
We continue to be impressed with good spirits of the local people, who are always eager to communicate, and luckily for us, many speak English well. Yes there are some beggars on the streets, but not that many considering the economic situation. Folks have told us that Crete is doing better than other places in Greece, particularly Athens, perhaps because it has a strong agricultural base and tourism remains fairly robust. Some of the younger ones have relocated here because there are more jobs.