Crete Part II: Chania's Charm
The historical city is known for it’s old, Venetian quarter with an incredibly picturesque harbor.
In the evenings, the center illuminates with an undeniable energy.
Venetian and Turkish architecture line the narrow lanes in the old town.
And the Firkas fortress, built in the mid-16th century, really encapsulates the city.
The Venetians centralized the harbor, and constructed a wall to protect against inevitable ocean storms.
The lower part of the lighthouse at the end of the harbor was built over 400 years ago, and has been enhanced since.
In addition to the romantic old city, there’s also the lesser talked about new city. We opted to stay in the new city, which felt more livable and less touristic.
Upon arriving, we were already impressed with the soft light and charming lanes, compared to the more seemingly rigid, business-centric Heraklion.
There’s no shortage of traditional tavernas in Chania, but our first night we tried L'angolo Ristorante.
We shared a cretan salad and a Mediterranean pizza. The pizza aside, Crete has a distinct cuisine that differs from the rest of the Greek islands, with their own specialties and delicacies. Rather than a traditional Greek salad, the Cretan salad is preferred. It’s typically served in a crisp barley rusk, that softens as it holds the salad. Rather than feta, it’s topped with myzithra, a creamy sheep or goat’s milk cheese and served with potatoes.
Given that Chania is on the sea, the city is also widely renowned for its fresh seafood.
Interestingly, the ancient technique of sun dried octopus is still very much in practice.
Since we stayed in Chania for nearly a week, we were really able to make a home.
We moved fairly quickly in Spain, so once we got to Chania, we accepted settling.
We had our own apartment, which at that point, felt like a true luxury after a series of shared homes.
We created a resemblance of a routine. Whereas Will would go for a run, I’d listen to podcasts (very much into Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations at the moment) and explore the local markets. The main market opened in 1913, which is the same year Chania united with Greece.
Furthermore, I made dinner some nights with local ingredients. The fresh produce was incredible, as was the daily baked village bread.
We’d open a bottle of wine, and I’d cook, which felt like the ultimate comfort.
One night I made a pasta puttanesca of sorts, with extra olives of course.
As in so many other places, it wasn’t the food or the scenery that was most memorable. Although Greek olive oil, is literally liquid gold. It was our fantastic hosts, who rented out their apartment for airbnb. They embodied the ultimate Greek hospitality.
When the couple picked us up from the bus station when we initially arrived, they insisted that we meet up again for coffee. A couple days later, they suggested 9 p.m., which seemed late for coffee, but we went with it.
They picked us up, and we drove for what felt like eternity, up winding roads. It was one of those moments where I felt that it could have gone one of two ways, as I squeezed Will and hoped for the best. They barely spoke english, but we were able to communicate with a heavy assist from Google Translate. Fortunately, we finally reached the parking lot of our undisclosed destination. Turns out, it was Koukouvaya, a swanky dessert bar with an incredible view of the city.
They treated us to a couple slices of, very decadent, cake and coffees. It was such a kind gesture. It was one of those examples where I feel I’m innately suspicious, but people are inherently good.
We enjoyed the desserts so much, a few days later, she dropped off her famous Greek banoffee pudding parfaits. It was unclear what was in it, but I can assure you, it was heaven in a cup.
If I’m going to honest here, most of our days in Chania were spent at the beach.
South of Chania is known for some of the most stunning beaches in Greece. However, we were quite content with Neo Chora beach, walkable from the old town.
There was a short boardwalk, lined with cafes and tavernas.
Majority of the time, we’d pack sandwiches, and paid the five euros for an umbrella and two chairs. Since it was nearing the off season.
It was unclear if prices were lower since it was nearing the off season, but regardless, it was a deal.
Some days were windier and cloudier than others.
But I made a point to dip in everyday.
And the impeccably clear water always felt refreshing.
One of my favorite parts of the day was our walks home.
We’d stay until the sun set, and walk along the harbor, which transitioned from pastels to deep oranges.
For me, our time in Chania was defined by slowing down.
Many, many Greek salads. I literally could not get enough feta.
And stunning sunsets. It wasn’t our honeymoon, but our cancelled flight in 2016 meant we’d have the luxury of spending an extended period of time in Chania. It was hard for me not to think, it was simply all meant to be.