Tell any Greek that you are visiting Chania (pronounced Hon Ya) and they will say “ti oraia”…How Lovely!!!!! Little known outside Greece, Crete’s cultural captial has long been Greece’s favourite city. A gentle and sparkling mix of historical beauty and seaside charm.
Crete is the largest Greek island and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. It has pretty much escaped the tourist hordes but that may be changing. People are finding out about the absolutely fabulous beaches, the rugged mountains and gorges, the food, and, of course, the people. Crete is part of Greece, but is seems to have its own culture. One thing you can be sure of, at every meal you will be served some Raki, compliments of the establishment. You need to be extra careful drinking Raki….at 37% or more alchohol, the effects can quickly sneak up on you.
We took the fast ferry from Santorini to Heraklion, Crete….rented a car and drove the almost 150 kilometers to Chania, mostly in the dark. Driving is something else here in Greece. Important to understand that you drive on the shoulder pretty much all the time. This way, those who want to go fast can get around you and those in the opposite lane can also easily pass if you are off to the side. It seems to work, and we have quickly become shoulder drivers. At one point we almost had a few passengers with us. Right as the sun was setting, nature called and we pulled into a small gas station right on the coast. While I was busy exploring the men’s room, Heidi was busy snapping pictures of the sun dropping into the sea. All of a sudden the back doors opened and in popped a couple Greeks. A more astute partner outside the car noticed Heidi inside and at the same time spied their car just 10 meters away. Communication became a bunch of hand gestures and a lot of laughing. Seems everyone rents the same model of white Nissan Micra.
Chania is this “Cute as a Bug” city, with its narrow, labyrinthine alleyways to the historical Venetian Harbor. We heard one woman explain, “So cute!!! You can’t swing a dead cat in any direction without hitting something cute”. Never had heard that expression before, but she was spot on. Chania is dripping with cuteness. Getting lost should be your goal as you wander down alleyway after alleyway. It’s a shopper’s paradise and a feast for your eyes. Stroll past old Venetian homes and gaze upon ruins from Byzantine times, your camera your inseparable companion.
People have been living on Crete since the dawn of time, well at least over the last 6000 years…first by Neolithic people, then the Minoans, the Mycenaeans, the Dorians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians, Ottoman Turks, and occupied by the Germans during WWII. All left their mark on Crete, but for Chania, the greatest influence were the Venetians. Approximately 1/6 of the population of Venice moved here in the 13th century. They fortified the city and the harbor and built most of the buildings still standing in the old section of town.
I was reading another travel blog, and the author described Chania as “a jewel in the Mediterranean beautiful enough to make your eyes feel as if they’re going to burst into tiny little hearts and spill out all over the turquoise sea.” I can’t think of a better description.
Tomorrow going for a drive to visit some mountain monasteries and do a small gorge hike.