Published: September 4th 2006September 2nd 2006
Took the fast ferry - Flying Cat 4, a 1 1/2 hour ride from Santorini to Heraklion. The waters were very choppy and the catarman that cruised at some 25 knots provided for some serious excitement, as Isabel witnessed when she walked into the washroom to see some small boy vomit his dinner onto some poor girls legs and arms - need we say more. The ride was exciting although an 1 1/2 late! Upon arriving at the port, we were meet by our rental car company. After an exchange of some hard cash we were off, no credit card imprint, no photocopy of a passport, nothing - all we were told was to return it to a parking lot located in the airport and give some receptionist the key. If only it was this easy everywhere else - one thing is for sure, if you want a new car, this rental car company might just be your cheapest bet - just to damn honest. The drive from Heraklion to Hania took (2) hrs and was a bit nerve racking as it was late, dark, very whindy & mountainous and the fact we had not driven a vehicle for (3) months
did not help.
We stayed (4) nights at Lefka Apts (located just outside of downtown Hania and minutes away from the old harbour, very cheap, great pool and nice management). This part of our journey provided some excitement and relaxation, unfortunately we did not leave enough time to truly enjoy all that this wonderful island has to offer.
What can we say about Hania, we were supposed to stay (2) nights before heading back to Heraklion for (2) nights, but Hania made such an impression on us that we decided to spend all our time here. Hania is a nice city with the main attraction being its harbour and the old town that is full of narrow alleyways stuffed with restaurants and souvenir shops. One could wander around the old town for a couple of hours stopping along the way for a few cold ones and checking out the action in the harbour. We continued our ways of eating greek salad and kalamari, although Cretan food is very different from the rest of Greece, but we did not venture out of our comfort zone. Besides the old town, the other attraction(s) are the beaches that line the coastline
Strangely enough we lot we were going to have our first rainfall in Greece -never did happen.
just minutes from the city centre. There are plenty of small communities that are beach resort towns catering to the tourist. The beaches in town still have small pebbles but much better than what we had seen elsewhere.
Having a car makes all the difference in the world here, and it really is a necessity. With that in mind we put some 300 plus kms on in (3) days. The best surprise was driving out to Falassarna, voted Europe's #1 beach in 2002. Aw, it was just awesome, nice sandy beaches that were a few kilometres long, and the best part was there were very few people there. You do have to make an effort to get here, but man is it worth it - only a (1) hour drive from Hania. If you decide to drive like the insanely stupid Greek, you can make it in 25mins - not recommended. To give you an example of what we mean by Greek driving, there is a common term used in scooter land as "Riding the Line", however by no means did one think that this would apply to cars - especially on blind corners doing 120, 130, 140km/hr.
Having found a "BEACH" by the definition already discussed in previous blogs we were over the moon. The water was warmer and less salty than the beaches we have experienced in the Mediterranean Sea elsewhere, which was also a nice surprise. This part of the island, is very lush and mountainous, far different than the barren Mykonos and fertile Santorini. The topography provides for some great views and had we had more time we would have spent a few days hiking in the Samaria Gorge and the White Mountains.
Having seen Lagoon of Balos on all the postcard stands and the 2006/2007 calendars in local souvenir shops, we were determined to find out where it was and experience this beautiful place for ourselves. As it turned out, it was only a boat ride away......... We drove to Kissamos, a 40min drive and then hopped on a 75 ft boat for a (1)hr ride. Wow, what a ride it was, the boat was full and with a strong westerly wind blowing 27 knots we spent 1 1/2hrs pounding the waves. Several times the entire bow was submerged in the 16 ft swells. Having survived some heart wrenching moments, we turned
the corner and there it was, the Lagoon of Balos. It is absolutely beautiful, and the color of the water was just awesome. After spending a few hours at the Lagoon of Balos we headed across the way to Gramvousa Island where we hiked up the Venetian castle. The ride home wasn't nearly as bad as we were running with the wind, but needless to say the entrance into the strait wasn't so smooth as we got side swiped by a good 18-20ft wave sending everyone to one side - Aw Gotta Love Travelling...........
On our drive back to Heraklion we stopped of at Rethymno, a nice wee town with a quaint harbour full of seafood restaurants. By chance we ran into Giada, the host of the Food Networks - Everyday Italian, filming a show, sort of weird. Having taken a few snaps and a walk about we headed to Knossos, 5km from Heraklion, to see The Minoan Palace at Knossos. The site is still under intensive reconstruction, but it did allow us to see some beautiful frescos. It certaintly does not require the 2-3 hrs that the over enthusiastic LP writer has suggested.
Well now that we
are nearing the completion of our European leg, with the exception of a brief stay in Rhodes & the UK, we thought it may be prudent to look back and comment on the laughs and fustrations. First and foremost, no matter what country we were in we experienced the incredibly small hotel bathrooms - some of which came with an "Attacking Shower Curtain" and all with the "Telephone Booth" size shower. Albeit we haven't stayed in a Hilton yet, but you can rest assured that Europeans don't enjoy the pleasures of roomy showers and bathrooms that North Americans do. As mentioned before, the overall smallness of the bathrooms also makes for a very unenjoyable time on the "Throne" - one has found themselves having to do his/her duty while lifting a leg to one side, sitting sideways and even having to open the door to stretch the legs. Greece definitely took the cake, as they believe in the "Entire bathroom is the Shower" concept, whereby the shower curtain is a good foot short resulting in the entire bathroom getting absolutely soaked - yes there is a drain in the middle of the bathroom but that does no one any good
if don't want to get your feet soaked for the next couple of hours while the water dries............. Well we've already raved about the European service (not), so we will stop short of there before we offend anyone!!!!
Onto Rhodes and Turkey.........
There are more photos below