First – I’ve uploaded a number of new photos. You can access them in the following Albums:
We awoke around 11 am, made our way down to the bus station and caught the bus to Chania, one of the larger cities in Crete and a former Venetian port. The bus ride lasted about an hour and was fairly uneventful. The scenery was beautiful, but not captivating… olive groves, orange groves and the occasional rocky valley. Crete itself is a rocky island and as a result, the countryside shows it’s rugged nature. About 20 minutes before we hit the city proper we started entering the suburban sprawl that coats the coastline outside of Chania. A mish-mash of restaurants, mini-golf courses, hotels and bars all closed during the off season – it was interesting only in that it must be an exciting madhouse during the summer. It in many ways reminded me of Puerto Penasco, Mexico and how it is during the winter.
When we arrived we set off to locate a hotel. We checked out a number of places and eventually, negotiating with a hotel owner, we were able to get a nice room for 30 Euro a night – at 15 Euro each, it ended up being cheaper than most hostels. The room has been a comfortable change of pace with 3 beds, a rooftop balcony including clothing lines, a small room with a wooden desk, a portable camping burner, and a decent bathroom. We dropped our bags and set off to explore the town. Our hotel is about 50 feet from the quay side in the old port and right in the middle of the old town. A beautiful, picturesque set of tiny streets with blooming bouganvilla and other flowers growing all over everything. The buildings are an odd mix of old, painted structures that lean into the alley as often as they stand up straight. In many ways, Greece is very similar to Croatia, from the warm people to the ever present cat population, even the architecture is fairly similar.
The port is a beautiful stone area with a large breakwater and old lighthouse at the mouth all enclosed by a crumbling castle wall which has been consumed by the city. The water is a rich blue teaming with small fish and feeding mullet. The port is lined with small hotels, fun cafe’s and the occasional nightclub and bar. After walking around a bit we set to the task of finding food, eager to take advantage of our rare luck and the presence of a semblance of cooking facilities. Before long we found a fish monger selling what appeared to be fresh fish. We picked up some shrimp and then some small octapai. In the supermarket next door we located some artichoke hearts and pasta.
For lunch we decided to try something different and went to a small restaurant the concierge had recommended. The place had terrific ambiance…located on the ground floor of the building, but below ground level, it had several steep stairs that dove down from the doorway. There were candles burning on candle stands that still had the wax trailings from hundreds of previous candles creating stalagmite-like wax mounds. In the center of the small space, the floor was lowered about 3 feet. Around the edge of the room was a raised area which was just wide enough for a ring of tables. Eager to mix things up, I left my meal selection in the waiters hands. As usual, being a total pain in the ass, I asked him to give me something Greek, without cheese, for 7 Euro or less. Lander did the same and a bit later the waiter showed up with two plates which we split. One was a delicious rice concoction with pine nuts, mushrooms and all sorts of other delectible goodies. It tasted incredible and melted in your mouth. The other plate was french fries with delicious smoked pork souvlaki. As we prepared to pay, they brought out a few shots of what might have been Ouzo – though I think it was Retzina or something of the sort and two local deserts which were like a moist banana bread in texture but completely different in taste. They said they were on the house and to enjoy our stay.
We got back to the place and after a nap began to figure out how to cook everything in the frying pan I had with me…on a tiny burner…with salt, olive oil and artichoke juices as our only seasoning. Unfortunately, after a good 2 and a half hours cooking everything the meal was incredibly disappointing. Despite Lander and I both being good cooks the meal was a bust. The octapai ended up tasting bland and horrible. The shrimp were mushy and not much better. The artichoke hearts didn’t have any of the usual bite (they came from a can…), even the pasta was horrible – so starchy that even after we rinsed it before cooking it and after cooking it, it still congealed into an oatmeal like paste. Incredibly disappointed, wondering how the meal went so astray, we ended up eating a gyro after trying to salvage and force down what we could.
By the time we ate our gyros and checked our e-mail it was about 11:00. As we were walking back to the hotel, a promoter for one of the bars offered us a free shot if we would check it out. With nothing better to do and itching for some night life after over a week and a half without…we gave it a go. The bar had a few gorgeous bartenders and a bunch of guys sitting around. We had our shot, then ordered a beer – before long one of the bartenders recruited Lander to do some weird line dance. Then shortly thereafter I snagged another one of the girls for a quick salsa. Growing bored and eager to see what else was going on, we left the bar and after checking out another one wandered into a third. As we were leaving, one of the female bartenders waved us over and poured a few shots. We put em’ away with her, then ordered two steins which were on special and started socializing. The bartender ended up being a cute little Romanian spending some time in Greece working. She took a liking to us and ended up plying us with shots for the rest of the night. After a few more odd line dances, and pulling her out for a merengue (she was surprisingly quite decent) we eventually decided to go find the internet cafe (it was almost 3:00AM) and try and connect with the boys back home. In a fairly drunken state we hopped on the net, chatted briefly then called it a night.
This morning we awoke and headed straight to the archaeological museum. Even though it was small, it had a nice assortment of old vases, sculpture and artifacts as well as several beautifully preserved floor mosaics. The things that stood out however, were several sets of gold jewelry – earrings, necklaces etc. from the 4th and 5th centuries B.C. The level of craftsmanship was fantastic. They looked better than most modern metalwork I’ve seen and had amazing detail.
From the museum we set to wandering the city a bit, exploring the small streets and wandering aimlessly. As far as what tonight will bring? All I know is it will be an adventure!