Chania and Area
Trip Start Apr 23, 2009
17Trip End Jun 23, 2009
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Chania (pronounced Hania, former capital of Crete) is a beautiful old, city with a 16th century harbour and striking minaret lighthouse. If you have to drive in the historic area near the harbour, you need nerves of steel, patience, and some luck. Many of the narrow streets are one way, and with oncoming vehicles often swinging onto your side of the road. Trying to navigate through the streets can be stressful. We finally found our way to our tiny hotel after making several circles, and backtracking a few times. Of course, the small Greek street names on the corners of the buildings were almost pointless! It was "all Greek to US"!
The wonderful Archeological Museum was free on the day we went, so that was a nice surprise! The collection of ancient Minoan pottery, glass, jewelry, and sculptures was impressive. We also toured the Naval Museum on our only rainy day. Their collection of old maps, models of boats and marine history engaged us for a few of hours.
This is one of the most popular cities in Crete, as it still has many interesting, old houses in the harbour area. Some date from the time Turks controlled Chania, while most demonstrate Venetian influences. We spent quite a lot of time wandering through the close, winding streets built long ago to accommodate donkeys and people. We enjoyed the freedom of being in pedestrian areas, where the shops and buildings were quaint and full of character. There were attractive doors and windows around every corner.
Getting out of old Chania was a LOT easier than getting in! We drove north up to the peninsula where we visited two very old monasteries. The first was Agio Triadha, that was built around 1700 BC. Clay seals and rare tablets with Minoan Linear A script were discovered here, along with a magnificent painted sarcophagus that are now in the museum in Iraklion. The present monastery dates to 1884 and the monks are well-known for their organic olive oil and wine.
The second monastery, Gouverneto, was just a ruin. It was quite a walk down the side of the mountain toward the sea. Somehow, Matt and Judy passed right on by when David and Gail were in the Cave of St. John, and carried on down toward the beach thinking we had walked further. When we got back to the car and didn't find Matt and Judy, we couldn't figure out where they were. They ended up doing a longer hike than expected. We told them they were conditioning for the Samaria Gorge!
On the way to Kissamos, (Kastelli), we stopped at the German War Cemetery at Maleme. Here, 4000 German Paratroopers landed in Crete on May 20, 1941. Their remains were gathered from areas around Crete and buried here. The graves are tended by the Volkbund group of young volunteers who promote peace.
Kissamos is where we spent two nights in the pleasant waterfront Argo Hotel (30 Euro). They have a great Taverna and the teacher/server taught us some handy, Greek restaurant phrases (very good food and we want to pay). The town has a superb museum with wonderful, local artifacts and impressive Roman floor mosaics. Unfortunately, they did not allow photos!
We did a day trip to ancient Polyrinia, up in the mountains south of Kissamos, where we hiked up to the acropolis for a glorious view of the area. Not much of the acropolis was still visible, but the spectacular, blue sky, 360 degree view made the hike worthwhile. Look at this to see the view from the acropolis
From Kissamos, we went to ancient Phalasarna on the west coast. Here, we saw examples of ancient Roman baths, but most of the ruins were still being excavated. This is an area where tomatoes and zucchini are grown on the flats in hundreds of greenhouses. No wonder the tomatoes taste so fresh in Crete!
After that, we drove down the west coast of Crete, along some harrowing roads that dropped off the edge of the mountain. The roads WERE dropping off, as there were several areas sloughing off into the gorges below! The roads all follow the mountain contours, so you drive up, then down, then up, then more switchbacks down (repeat constantly).
We stopped in Elafonisi, which has wide, sandy beaches and shallow, warm water. Of course, we went for a swim in the Lybian Sea where the water was warmer than lakes in Canada in the summer, but still chilly for Crete!
PS Yes, Joy and Deanna, we are loving every meal as we eat our way through the Greek menus! Yum!
PPS David, Gail and Judy each had one of their photos chosen by TravelPod to be posted as "Feature Photos" on their website. We will be notified about the upcoming date. To see the photos, check out the previous TravelPod entry and look for: "Plakias"-David, "Pottery Shop in Margerites"-Judy, "Almyrida Beach"-Gail
5. Chania now sits on the ancient city of Kydonia and was fought over and controlled by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Turks, Egyptians, and Germans. In what year did Crete unify with Greece?