Eurotravaganza, as we dubbed our recent European galavant, continued from London and the Cotwolds (posts 1 and 2) with a direct-flight from London Gatwick to Chania, Crete. Pronounced "hahn-YA", Chania is an ancient town on the northwest side of the island, the second largest town on Crete.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and in our few days on the island, we discovered enormous geographic variety: from olive trees and barren hills, to pristine-turquoise beaches, to some of the oldest historical ruins in the world.
So let's start with our arrival, around 11:00pm in Chania. Our cab driver took us nearly to our hotel, but the streets were so narrow that we had to be picked up in a golf cart from the end of the alley.
Our hotel, Casa Delfino, checked us into a room with a spa-like bathroom vaulted deep underground.
We asked about dinner hoping something in the small town would be open. And yes! At 12:30am, we sat down in a small alley for our first, authentic Greek meal, at Tamam. Locals and tourist meandered by smoking and laughing, and the stone buildings glowed into the night as we ate pieces of feta larger than my hand, grilled fish, soft lamb kebabs. Here's Tamam in the daytime.
We came home and climbed to the hotel's roof where we listened to the warmth rising from the town, music beating into the night.
We only had one day in Chania, so woke early the next morning to a huge Greek breakfast in the courtyard. Because I couldn't pronounce Greek letters, I struggled to hold onto words, and I don't know what we ate was called, but there was a marmalade cheesecake that was utterly delicious. Fresh orange juice. Soft sheep cheeses and meats.
We spent the morning climbing the maze of short stairwells and narrow granite streets,
past stalls of hats, leather goods, olive oil. The streets smelled like sweet oranges and ice cream.
But what will always stay with me was the stunning port that the whole town encircled.
I literally was so stunned by the clarity of the water (you could see straight to the bottom of the port) that when I sat down to admire it, I literally lost the map in my enchantment. (First panorama on the blog!)
Chania's port displayed its fused history of Greek and Turkish influences with both a mosque
and ornate Orthodox churches. Walk and I stopped in here for some cool air and literally stood shocked at the quantity of rich decor.
All the major towns on Crete we visited consistently had a tower or lighthouse extending out in the Aegean Sea.
And all the ports had little white fishing boats sporting tiny Greek flags.
When we met up with our tour guide (more on that in the next post), she told us that the economy in Crete is struggling. 60% of the income comes from tourism (so please visit!), and much of the rest comes from products like olive oil. Parts of the town seemed crumbly, but to our glass-and-steel norm, the place was charmed.
Chania was completely unique, but if I had to compare it to anything, it felt the most like the bright streets of Tuscany.
Everywhere we went in Greece, there were dogs roaming the streets, often asleep in the middle of busy passageways.
With its golden and coral homes, salty cheeses, and swollen markets, Chania was such a sensuous introduction to Crete and Greece. And then we were off across the island--up next!