The Big Drama of Winter in Chania, Crete.
I arrived in Crete very early in the day, aboard a ferry from Piraeus. It was dark and cold, I was tired and cranky. The first thing I realized was that I didn’t actually arrive in Chania. The ferry arrives in a small town of Souda, some 12 km away from Chania center.
I am really glad there is a nice, warm café pretty close to the port. I could get a coffee, wi-fi and figure out how to get to the center. I had plenty of time – it was just after 6 am. Soon after I sat down a horrendous storm blasted over the town. Now I had even more time. After two hours the rain and gale strength wind quiet down a bit, enough for me to make the short walk to a bus stop. There is a ticket machine so no problem with buying one.
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After a rather short bus ride (but way too long for a walk) I arrived at the town center. I was really happy the rain stopped but it was still gloomy and windy. I left my big backpack at luggage locker at the bus station (highly recommend it, just 2E) and started my walk toward the old section of Chania.
I was looking by every open café but they all just had pastries. This is always the problem with me being gluten-free – it’s hard to just grab a breakfast on the go.
It was my first day on Crete but I found my experiences this day were repeating themselves also in other towns – most hotels or B&B’s closed and just a few businesses open. Chania is, of course, a big city to have a regular life outside of tourist season. But even here you could see the sleepiness and off-season mood. Or maybe it was just that I came on Sunday?
When I finally made it to the old Venetian port I was hit by really strong winds directly from the sea. There is this charming fountain on the Eleftherios Venizelos Square leading you to the port, still turned on. The water was flowing almost horizontally at times making a really nice prelude to what the sea was doing just a few steps later.
When I saw the port time after time flooded by waves of sea water, I wondered what it looked like in a sunny, summer weather. I still wonder if the water levels were much different when the port was built, centuries ago. All around the promenade, there are restaurants and cafés – some of them open.
All the pavements around were flooded and much of the water was getting also inside the outdoors parts of the establishment. I am guessing the locals are used to the force of the sea.
I had a lot of time to walk around and take photos. I tried to catch the best waves and catch the occasional sun rays forcing their way through heavy clouds. I loved the massive shape of the Mosque of Kioutsouk Hassan-Giali Tzamisi demanding your attention when walking by.
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Happy with the walk around the main promenade of the Venetian port, I made my way into the labyrinth of narrow streets.
I saw the tavern next to the Nautical Museum of Crete was open and as my stomach was demanding breakfast pretty constantly I moved in for a hearty home-made omelet and a delicious cup of coffee.
Over the next three weeks, I came to appreciate the local taverns. Even the tiny villages with no more than ten houses had at least one tavern. They were rarely empty – there were always a few people there, drinking coffee, raki (local vodka), smoking and chatting.
Nourished and rested, I could plunge into the maze of charming streets of the Topanas quarter, to admire centuries-old houses, tiny hotels, and narrow passages. Lazy cats and dogs looked at me with no apparent need to move much.
I loved the mixture of well-kept buildings with their lovely window shatters and old gates, huge potted plants, run-down houses with graffiti all over them… Turn by turn there was always something interesting to see.
I was happy that by a lucky chance I found a synagogue from the 15th century. It was closed, unfortunately, so I could only admire it from the outside. Later I read I happened to walk into the Jewish Quarter, called Evraiki or Ovraiki (the Hebrews).
After a while, I made it to the newer side of the port and walked over to the marina where I could admire the Venetian shipyards. One of them hosts a local yacht club (or at least that’s what it seemed like to me).
On the way through the town I could also see remnants of the defensive walls and fortifications from the Venetian Era.
Walking towards the lighthouse, I had to use the lower level – the winds were just too strong to enjoy a walk on the top of the wall. I had to put my rain jacket on to not get soaked in the sea water. I was again charmed but also energized by the image of the violent sea, dark skies and colorful houses of the Venetian harbor. What a perfect spot for all photographers!
After a few hours of wandering around the Old Town, I made my way back to grab a bus to Kissamos. The ride itself was a pleasure - it took me on narrow roads through picturesque villages, olive groves and vineyards.
I spent the night in a lovely Castell hotel, really close to the beach. I can highly recommend it - the managers were extremely helpful and friendly (no affiliation). They worried about me going hiking by myself and even gave me their phone number to call in case I needed anything. Niki and Katerina checked my trail, gave me a tourist map (very helpful) and a bunch of very useful advice - like, what I found true, Cretans are not exactly hikers. I could see it in their surprised looks! Lovely ladies. If you read it - thank you, Niki and Katerina!
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The next day I started the next stage of my Cretan adventure: walking through it. But before – I could enjoy a lovely, although windy, sunset.