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Crete, Greece: Days 1-2 in Chania

Chania, Crete, Greece

Max taking in the Venetian Harbor in Chania, Crete, Greece

My motivation for going to Crete, Greece

I was tired.  Hard to believe, I am sure, but moving all the time is exhausting and with the expenses of Scotland and England nearly killing me, I was looking for a place to relax on the cheap until my flight back to Los Angeles on October 21st.  In Scotland I began daydreaming about being at the seashore, being able to draw again after countless months of being artistically fallow, being able to wear dresses (a deep craving for femininity after so many grungy days on the road), and being able to stay put for two weeks with no sightseeing, no rushing, no tickets to purchase — nothing.

A flight was available from Bristol, England to Crete, Greece and the decision was made.  I booked a seaside room in Plakias, Crete and bought art supplies in Glastonbury, England.  I was ready to rumble.  And by rumble I mean crash.

And so of course my plans changed entirely.

Arriving at the Chania Airport after midnight I was buzzing with excitement.  The taxi ride from the airport assured me that driving is more art than skill here…lines on the road are merely guidelines.  And so much of Crete operates in this way, but I won’t get ahead of myself here.

The driver dropped me at the end of a long boulevard in the ancient harbor area of Chania.  The driver spoke little English but motioned a little this way and a little that.  Sure.  It was 1 AM, but the streets were full of people, all the shops were open, children and adults walked with ice cream in hand, music poured out of bars.  I love this place.  Instant visceral reaction.

I walked down an ancient cobblestone street and rosemary, garlic and salty sea air aromas wafted past my grinning face.  I found my hotel and a gentle young man greeted me, simultaneously offering me a glass of wine.  Don’t mind if I do!  I sat on the terrace of the 500-year old building with no need for a sweater and listened to the city go to bed.  It was 4 am before I fell asleep.

I awake at 2 PM the next day and within an hour destiny interferes with my “big plans”.

Raki

On my first day in Crete I was introduced to Raki – a potent liquor with an anise flavor made from grape seeds, stems and skins and served for seemingly any reason.   All day long.  Repeatedly.  God help me.

I sat on the terrace again, now with coffee and excited about the day ahead.  The next day I would travel to Plakias and my room would be there, just as I had imagined, and I would create and sleep.  Finally, time for rest.

As I sat there, a man arrived.  This man would later introduce himself as Max.  He sat on the terrace and our conversation began.  He has just arrived from his hometown of Cologne, Germany.  He was beginning a ten day vacation.  Now in vacation mode, he ordered several beers which would be a lot except for the fact that he was about 7 feet tall, a fact that I oddly only noticed later.  We talked for a good hour, exchanging travel stories (he’s traveled much more than me) and details about our lives.  Also, 43 years old, the conversation had no lulls.  Unabashed, I explained my distaste for Germany,  which soon ricochetted back in my face because the universe is the ultimate comedian.  And an asshole.  More on that later.

Within hours we are having dinner at Chania’s ancient Venetian harbor, which could possibly be one of the most romantic places I have ever been – clear, deep blue water that sparkles across the harbor to the ancient mosque built by the Turkish.  A 15th century lighthouse.  Lights dance.  Music carries.  Wine flows.

A bit about Chania, Crete

Chania’s history, like the whole of Crete, is unfathomable in it’s length and depth.  It is believed that Crete has been a site of human settlement since at least 9,000 BC.  Crete is sometimes referred to as the cradle of European civilization.  Later, Chania was a Minoan settlement.  The Minoan civilization arose on Crete and existed between the 27th century BC and the 15th century BC.  Incredible.  In more recent times, (and by recent I mean around 1000 BC and after), the area has been occupied by the Dorians (Greek), Romans, Arabs, Venetians, and Turks all leaving their mark on the fabric of the city.  In World War II, Germans invaded and occupied Chania and during the Battle of Crete a lot of bombing destroyed much of the city.  Fortunately, although heavily bombed, the old city and harbor retains an incredible charm, with ancient stone buildings,  remnants of ancient fortress walls, narrow streets and alleyways overhung with cascading bursts of bougainvillea.

Now back to the story at hand…

Both of us are beaming with excitement and appreciation for being where we are, for the good food, the good wine, and the unexpected company.  A sense of intrigue develops.  Game on, I think.  We talk about possibly going together to Plakias the next day.  I hesitate.  I have a plan and it doesn’t involve a man!  I know exactly what I need to do on Crete.  I need to D R A W.  I need to S L E E P.  I need to R E L A X.  Nobody can interfere. I NEED THIS TIME!  Damn this man called Max.

I tell him I will think on the idea and in the morning I will either be gone or I will ask him to come with me.  I don’t sleep much that night, torn about what to do. What to do?

Photos of the Day:

 

4 Comments

  1. I love your writing style! headed to crete soon but more than that, now I’m intrigued to find out what happens with the new twist in the plot! ( I realize you wrote this in 2013….still intrigued! ) keep writing 🙂

    • Thanks Angelie. Enjoy your time in fabulous Crete.

  2. 128,000 BC seems waaaaaaay too long ago. Sure you don’t mean 8,000 BC or something? No idea, but that seems before the time of human settlements. Anyway, look forward to part II. I felt this way when I got to SE Asia…finally felt alive. Like, holy shit! This is how I’m supposed to feel? Woo!

    • I got that date from two sources but I appreciate you calling me on it because I dug in further and that date is not widely accepted as accurate. Revised. Thanks Tyler!

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