Unique destination, Paradise, Favorite, Beloved, Amazing and Enchanting are only a few of the adjectives that you wrote, below our photographs, about Chania. We can only agree and add that, for us, it is one of the three most beautiful cities in Greece. It was not the first time that we were visiting Chania. Nikos studied in Heraklion, so he visited often, while I spent an afternoon there, during a five-day school trip. As you can see, many years had passed since then, so we needed to freshen up our memories. About one month before departure, we started looking up information about our summer destination, asking friends and reading a few of the innumerable articles that have been written about this city. We were wondering if it is truly as beautiful as people describe it, if there is a dose of exaggeration and if seven days will be enough for us to go around and get to know the area.
“…Held a lot of surprises”
But all of our questions were answered from the very first moment that we touched the ground of Chania. After a calm flight, a beautiful sunset awaited us, with warm pink-purple-orange colors, which embraced the city before immersing it in darkness. What could be a nicer welcome than this? Maybe two-three glasses of raki for a good sleep, before our summer adventure begins, which, by the way, held a lot of surprises. We decided to visit first the areas of the region of Chania, so we would have plenty of time to enjoy the city towards the end of our trip. Early in the morning, so we would avoid traffic, we started our red car and ran to the mountains, lakes, beaches, villages and gorges.
Our first destination was the area of Apokoronas, where we experienced some of the most thrilling moments of the trip. Nikos fought the waves in the rocky beach of Obros Gialos, he also stepped on two or three urchins until he reached the shore, I was trying to get away from some eels in the Lake Kournas and from a swarm of mosquitoes in Douliana, while we barely saved ourselves from a crazy Cretan in Paleloni. (At this point, we should apologize to our mommies for the coronaries that we caused them.) And after we sang “We are still alive…” in relief, toasting with another two glasses of raki (we had already lost count), we wandered around the picturesque villages and tried our first delicacies in Chania (see below).
“We could not go trouble-free”
After we got a small taste of the villages of Chania, it was time for a few dives in popular and not, accessible and inaccessible, warm and cold, sandy as well as rocky beaches of the region. In the majestic Elafonisi with the pink sand, the exotic Balos, the shipwreck of Gramvousa, the coves of Paleochora and the Seitan Limania, we enjoyed the crystal-clear turquoise waters, to which similar we had never seen. We know, there is no place like Halkidiki, but believe us, one dive is enough to convince you. Of course, we could not go trouble-free, as we fought Beaufort force 6 winds in the western Cretan Sea, we ate lots of sand, we knocked ourselves against one or two rocks, while a jellyfish fell so head over hills with Nikos that it wouldn’t let him go. And what did we do to forget about our troubles? We drank raki…How did you know?!
Of course, the experience we lived in Menies, where we met the sea floor for the first time, cannot be forgotten even after ten carboys. The 12-meter dive (quite the depth if you consider that I can barely get a foothold at 1,50m) offered us unique moments and memories. Equally special was our tour in the Topolia Gorge, where I ran to hide from the wild goats, while Nikos burst out in laughter. (I got my revenge with the jellyfish, ha!) And when we thought that we had seen everything, Falassarna bade us farewell with one of the most impressive sunsets in Greece. In a few words, the entire district of Chania makes for an enjoyable escape for every taste and the only certainty is that you will not want to leave. We could definitely use a few more days.
But even if you don’t go farther than the city of Chania, don’t think that two days will be enough. It may be small and everything might be at short distances, but its history has a lot to offer you. The Venetian harbor with the prominent Egyptian Lighthouse, the ottoman Yali Tzami, the Splantzia Square, the Municipal market, the gardens and aristocratic neighborhoods are only a few of the attractions, which you are going to meet on your walk. But what will capture your heart and keep you there forever, is the atmospheric route in the alleys of the old town. No matter how many hours we spent wandering around them, no matter what time it was and whether they were filled with people or not, we could not get enough of them. Narrow streets, blind alleys, with staircases, full of blossomed bougainvilleas and all kinds of flowers, led us to neighborhoods and houses taken out of another era. More quiet, innocent, wonderful and mysterious…It goes without saying that I took the respective photograph on every corner…not for me…for the sake of instagram.
“Whoever dances and has fun and has a drink of raki, does not require no doctoring, does not require no aspirin..”
And what did we need after all this walking? Raki! (I see that you get the point.) Even though raki can stand on its own, the Cretan cuisine has plenty of delicacies so you don’t have to drink it with anything on the side. Of course, if you can’t handle it, prefer one of the many tasty Cretan wines to accompany your meal. In Chania you will find lots of taverns, rakadika, and even gourmet restaurants, where you can taste some local dishes. But where you will taste the most high-quality and delicious dishes is in the surrounding villages, as they use fresh vegetables and fruits from gardens, local meats and oil from Cretan olive trees. In Topolia, we ate tsigariasto, pork steak in Armenoi, home-made staka in Falassarna, hohlious mpourmpouristous in Paleochora and stuffed courgette flowers in Gavalohori. And as we are talking about the Cretan table, we always had some dakos with pihtogalo of Chania, sfakian pie, marathopita, gamopilafo or apaki. Finally, we could not leave the city without learning how to make home-made hortokalitsouna, vegetable stew and the Chania salad. And how could this happen? Only through a Cretan cuisine cooking course…by the hands of a local chef.
The people of Chania, apart from tasty recipes, also taught us what hospitality means. For starters, we did not visit a single restaurant where they did not treat us with some raki, sometimes with fruit and others with dessert. And, as if we weren’t already about to burst from all the food, they always gave us something for the road. Many of them did not hesitate to invite us in their homes, tell us stories of their land and share their experiences. Every day, we managed to get invited to various fairs and festivals, for crazy, all-night-long partying. You know the kind; the ones that you cannot leave unless you have drunk half an ocean, danced with a vrakoforos, sang a Cretan mandinada and fired a balothia (gunshot)…at a sign! Simple, plain and daily things.
We wish we could enrich our life with some more Cretan moments, but all good things come to an end. And for us, the good ended after seven full days. It was time for us to return to our base and leave magnificent Chania behind. Although the love that grew for the city was a summer one, we are certain that it will last forever…Of course, the story could not end in any other way than with a Mandinada: