Athens Airport to Chania Airport – Chania – Harbor – Old City – Market – Leather Street – Seafood & Music Experience
After a long day of Athens exploration Shana and I were looking forward to a little island living as it were and taking things at a slower pace. We took the 45 min train ride out to the airport where we checked our bags and wandered down stairs to security. The Greek security team at the airport was very concerned about my iPod, iPhone, Mac Book Air, iPad, 2 digital cameras, and one video camera. They ran each one through the scanner separately. Shana and I played cards at the gate and Agean air announced a short delay due to the very limited number of gates at the Chania airport. More than 4 planes were attempting to land at the same time we were. Our delay, while only being 45 min or so was actually longer than the flight.
We grabbed our bags and headed out in to the heat of the Cretan day. An enormous line had formed in front of the terminal and we were a little worried that was the line to get on public transit to Chania. Strolling to where are all the busses were parked we picked up a flyer that had Airport to Chania City Center. Turns out the line was for, oh I stopped caring because I wasn’t in it. In 5 min we were on the ridiculously windy road from the airport in a massive charter bus.
Crete’s public transportation, while limited to busses, actually runs twenty four hours a day and is very inexpensive. When we were dropped off at the central bus station in Chania it was packed like a Grand Central or Gare du Nord. Announcements in Greek were flying out of the speakers at an automatic weapon pace, I had to take a deep breath to keep form being overwhelmed. All of the busses that run back and forth between the towns on the island are actually charter buses with full luggage compartments underneath and air conditioning that actually works. Despite all of this traffic in Chania around 1pm was absolutely insane.
First of all the streets are about as wide as a king size bed. Cars are parked on both sides with traffic, against traffic, nose sticking out in to traffic, double parked, all the way on the sidewalk and so on. Apparently the strategy to parking is find any available space and put your hazard lights on as if that somehow magically absolves your car from the traditional laws of physics and allows other vehicles to pass through your car as if it was not parked in the street. Every person on the island who hasn’t parked a car is driving one or riding a moped and very large charter buses are trying to navigate the same streets. Several times I felt the bus hit a bump in the road and I wondered aloud if you could identify a scooter by the crunching sound it made under a large bus. The Cretans riding mopeds pass the time in the bumper to bumper traffic by having casual conversations with each other instead of watching the car in front of them. The side view mirror business must be ludicrous in Chania.
After some excellent gyros on the main street where we watched every drama of traffic unfold before us we walked the 10 min to the east side of the Old City and promptly took a nap. Jet lag had officially caught up with us. In the late afternoon we spent the time wandering the Harbor and the Old City. To beat the heat we walked down the pedestrian only rows of shops (one called Leather Street because they sell a lot of leather). The Chania Market was winding down as all the locals had bought the catch of the day and the fisherman were boarding up their stalls. We wandered through a free art show that was being held in an abandoned mosque (I will never be able to write that sentence again).
We waited till the sunset and wandered in behind the old Venetian docks for an excellent seafood dinner at a restaurant called Faka. We ordered a white wine from the AVA of Akrotiri on Crete, listened to two young musicians play traditional Greek music on a lute and lyre. After dinner our waiter brought us a carafe of Tsikoudia (Raki). It is basically a brandy/digestif of Turkish origin made from grapes like grappa. I think it can be better described as a joke that the locals like to play on tourists. I read that Tsikoudia is a grand tradition in Crete and a finished batch is a huge family event. Most of it is produced at home and is sold in used plastic or glass water bottles. There are honey, lemon and a couple other flavors available but the flavor is not really all that important since the only thing that you’ll notice is the enamel melting off of your teeth. Since almost all Tsikoudia is distilled at home the alcohol content can very wildly from liqueur to 130 proof Everclear. Shana and I gave it the college try because we didnt want to offend the waiter but I definitely noticed it the next morning.
Finally we made a stop off at an Irish bar ran by a wonderful Irish woman named Naesa and her friend a former Royal Navy officer Bill from Portsmouth. I had a cold Guiness or two and some US Navy officers bought shots of Jameson for Shana and I to congratulate us for getting married. Shortly after I bought them a round for their service to our country. The next morning we would check out and head to Heraklion.