Published: April 6th 2011April 6th 2011
Sat 26....Having arrived at Paleochora yesterday, we’d hoped to spend the day on the beach....however it was a bit cool, so having shopped, Internetted at a lovely bar on the harbour, whilst we did lie on the beach, we needed are cardis on! Whilst minding our own business, a herd of sheep suddenly appeared, crossed the beach and disappeared...only in Greece?
Sun 27....A blue-sky day. We had a leisurely morning doing various chores, then for the first time got the bikes into action. We had a great cycle around and selected a beachside taverna full of Greeks for our Sunday lunch. Baz had lamb chops, yes, LAMB chops (not lamp chops that are so often on the menu) and J had stifado. There was no pig spit or chicken spit on offer, however these are a few of the items on the menu we passed on:
Fried Smoond Hound??!! (we have seen a few stray dogs); See-Urehin Salad; Sefs (Chef’s) Salad; Caddage Salad; Fried Audergines; Fried Crumded Cheece and Smelt (small?) fish!!!
After lunch we headed slightly inland and back east again on a mostly good road, passing though a number of tiny, charming little hamlets and arrived in
Sougia, a remote fishing village with 50 inhabitants. It reminds us of Finikunda (on one of the southern tips of the Peloponnese).............a good though shingly beach, a number of guest houses with rooms, a small friendly supermarket and a number of tavernas. All but two are still closed and one of the open ones, the one with a wi-fi signal was temporarily closed as the owner was getting married that day.
Mon 28.....From our beachside parking spot we cycled first to the harbour at one end of the village, then to the far end of the beach the other way. We stopped at the supermarket for bread and a chat, then settled on the beach for the rest of the day. In the evening we called back to the supermarket where the friendly owner got our new ‘emergency’ calor gas lantern working, then spent a couple of hours at the taverna next door.....charging up the lap-top and chatting with a German woman, whom we’d actually met back in Paleochora. We’ll be back there tomorrow for dinner.
Tues 29.....Buying bread and sunbathing on the beach took up our morning. After lunch we set off, wearing ‘sensible’ walking shoes to
Lissos. A crude and rugged footpath took us through a gorge then up the cliff-side to a rocky, heathland plateau with masses of goats. Being spring, there are lots of little kids.....very cute. Also there are masses of lovely spring flowers. We walked for about an hour and a half to the rim of cliffs overlooking the classical Greek and Roman ruins of the ancient city of Lissos, in a valley on the edge of a small bay. If we were more au fait with Greek ruins and could decipher the remains we were looking down on, we would have made the trek down AND back up again. However, we chose to admire the site from above only and eventually made our way back..........a very enjoyable walk. Any minute now, (7pm) we’ll meander into the village in search of supper.
Wed 30.... Enjoyed a good meal out last night, stopping at the now open bar with Internet (wedding bliss over?) to have a drink and deal with emails, before indulging in great Greek cuisine. Today we drove back from Sougia, taking a shortcut on the route we’d taken to get there.......not necessarily a mistake, as we discovered lovely scenery
Restaurant for sale
and villages but the road was in turn pot-holed and strewn with rocks, as well as being extremely narrow in places with alarmingly steep precipices one side or the other..... a bit hairy! We finally arrived back in Paleochora......J Internetted/B shopped. Had lunch, chilled out, moved the van to our previous overlooking the sandy beach side and settled in for a quiet evening, only disturbed by the feint noises of ‘do’ going on at the football stadium across the water which ended in a firework display.
Thu 31.... Moving on from Paleochora, we headed for the remote and isolated west coast of Crete. Taking a last photo over the roof tops of the town we’d left behind, needs a mention of Greek roof tops in general. Sure, in the olden days they were tiled but nowadays the view of roof tops is likely to be less harmonious! They are mainly flat and accommodate solar panels, water tanks and aerials or satellite dishes! Also, we were told some time ago that the Greeks only have to pay property tax on their homes once they are complete and finished. Therefore, if your roof sports a number of ugly metal posts sticking
up skywards, it indicates you have yet to put the roof on....therefore not finished......therefore no tax!!! Nevertheless, despite not having the charm of a Tuscan rooftop view, it’s still charming and very Greek.
So, we headed onwards along a glorious scenic and mountainous route, with prolific wild flowers on either side, which would have been even more dramatic if the weather had been better...............it was overcast, very windy and slightly drizzly. We passed through many tiny villages on a mainly tarmac road (a few challenging exceptions), dodging the rockfalls and herds of sheep and goats, and admiring the wonderful views, both to the north and south, of this deserted craggy coastline and eventually wound our way down......lower and lower.....to Sfinari. This is a small village which we drove through, following the signs to the beach. And here we are, parked in a delightful spot on a nearly sandy beach.....with three closed fish tavernas! Good job we have a hearty beef and onion stew simmering. It’s fairly warm but still quite windy....................what will tomorrow bring?
Fri 1....We didn’t have to wait until morning to find out what the weather was going to be like..............a vicious storm raged about us
most of the night...........thunder, lightning and torrential rain! So we were in no hurry to get going this morning and when we did, needed to stack pebbles against the wheels to get out of the muddy sand!
However, the day brightened up and we continued along the rugged western coast, occasionally squeezing our way through little villages/hamlets and even more occasionally encountering other traffic............usually a mad Greek farmer hurtling around a hairpin bend on the wrong side of the road. In one village, Kefali we came across a wonderful little restaurant, which was actually for sale....with a bit of TLC it would be a wonderful project.
As we descended to Falassarna with its long stretch of sandy beach, sadly the mass of greenhouses on the flat coastal plain spoils a magnificent view. This is probably a great place early in the season when things are open and the weather is better. We drove as far as the tarmac road went, then parked and walked a mile or so, in the pouring rain to the remains of an ancient city. As we set out, electricians were working on the powerlines, shinning up the telegraph poles with curved claws strapped
onto their boots....quite a sight. We stared at them; they stared at us with our shorts, walking boots and floral umbrella!
Having nearly made the mistake of exploring the remains of tumbledown farmhouse, we finally saw a sign announcing the ruins and through the rain could make out a little booth. Sure enough, there in this wilderness was a little chap whom we thought was going to ask for an entrance fee but in fact was happy with a sign-language chat and a roll-up ciggy!
The rain stopped and we enjoyed clambering over the remnants, just about able to make out an old harbour with towers, water cisterns and quarries and a stone throne! Despite scouring the site in the hope that the rain may have washed away earth to reveal gold coins etc, we found nothing.
Driving onwards we stopped at a little harbour taverna just short of Kissomos (also known as Kastelli) for a late lunch of Calamares, Gavros and Greek salad. Then a few miles along the main road to Kolimbari at the foot of the Rodopou peninsula. Fast becoming a full-on resort, it still retains some charm and we parked up on the
harbour making use of the electricity. We were befriended by Paris, a 50 year old Californian of Greek stock. At first we thought he was the local tramp as his appearance was somewhat dishevelled, however he turned out to be most interesting/entertaining and accepted our invitation to join us for a drink in Hymie for an hour or so.
Sat 2....Not great weather...dull overcast and the odd bit of drizzle. Before leaving Kolimbari, we wandered into the village. It’s actually quite a nice and reasonably unspoilt place but the sign of MEGA building probably heralds its demise. Workmen and machines were labouring hard at a huge hotel/holiday village site....on a bigger scale than anywhere in Crete....along the lines of gigantic Egyptian complexes.....shame.
We finally headed onward along the north coast again, through the end to end resorts.....some better than others but all alongside the sandy beaches.....to reach Chania/Hania (pronoucced Han-yar). TomTom cleverly took us to a great parking spot by the beach, with the old town being a short walk around the corner of the ancient Venetian bastions. Nobody seemed to mind us camping here, although passers-by were all intrigued by our chocks on the gutter side keeping
The weather wasn’t too great, very blowy with spitting rain now and again. However, we set off to explore this delightful town. All the quaintness, charm and character of all the other places we’ve seen are all here in Chania. A semi-circle of lovely old hotch-potch buildings, each with a taverna at ground level are built around the outer harbour. Around the corner is the inner harbour with the huge Venetian arsenals, more tavernas, fishing boats and the long curve of the harbour wall with the lighthouse at the end. Behind all this is the old town with its maze of narrow streets and alleyways. Being a dull afternoon in early April the streets were almost empty and the only people about were Greek. Apparently Chania is bursting at the seams in summer which is evident by the number of shops selling tourist tat. We walked and walked coming to rest at a harbour front bar for refreshments before returning to the van for a night in.
Sun 3....A lovely warm sunny day. We started by walking away from the old town around to a long beach with many fish tavernas and ear-marked one for lunch,
joking about how many tables the chap was beginning to lay up on the 45 degree angled pavement the other side of the road from the taverna. Strolling around, we enjoyed the views, especially watching a woman hanging the octopus out to dry! Then we explored the old town some more, climbing old walls, castles and so on...........rewarding ourselves with refreshments at another harbour-side bar. Whilst the tourist restaurants in the crescent around the outer harbour remained virtually empty, the bars and cafes were packed with Greeks..............Sunday and particularly a sunny Sunday is a very Greek time.
Baz is worried he hasn’t got any worry beads....he feels left out as many men, young and old click/swing their beads constantly. Sadly the Chinese street seller who befriended us as we sat drinking, had no worry beads. However, we were interested in the variety of trinkets he had for sale in his home-made cardboard box with a string around the neck and particularly taken with a golden coloured plastic eagle, mounted on a plastic paperweight containing a box of toothpicks! As if that wasn’t stunning enough.......if you depressed a button, the eagle leant forward to open the box, then with another
press of the button he selected a toothpick in his beak....magic (we didn’t buy one!).
We finally retraced our steps back around to our ear-marked restaurant on the pavement.............we could see from several yards off, there was NO chance of a table! It was packed with Greeks of all ages from babies through to grandmas! So we wandered further and found another such restaurant, equally as popular with the locals and secured a table outside, overlooking the beach. A shared starter of stuffed peppers followed by a swordfish steak and prawn Saganiki was much enjoyed, although the local wine here isn’t too quaffable, tasting more like sherry! After lunch, having taken the beach bag with us, we snoozed and read in the sun ‘til end of day.
Mon 4....On another sunny day we set off to the large covered market to buy some meat/veg (avoiding the sheep’s heads, tripe and other dubious offerings), followed by an interesting half an hour in a Greek post office to buy a stamp for a Canadian letter, trying to work out what the system (if any) was. Within seconds of posting our letter we watched a rather scruffily dressed woman (no uniform
or badge) emptying the letter box......her positioning of the sack underneath was a bit casual allowing letters and postcards to spill out onto the pavement. She seemsed to gather up most of them from the dirty pavement.......let’s hope our letter gets through!
Before returning to Hymie we stopped for drinkies in the old town where our Chinese friend with his box of wares appeared again. It was a mistake to ask him where the tooth-picking eagle was....had he sold it? No, with much delving in his rucksack he found another.......all this accompanied by his severely lacking linguistic skills, which amounted to no more than a series of grunts. After saying the word NO, in as many languages as we could, he got the message.
After lunch in Hymie we left Chania and headed for Souda, cutting in to the Akrotiri Peninsula where we took a cuppa down onto the lovely beach at Kalathas and enjoyed several games of boule. A few miles further to Stravros on the edge of the bulgy bit to park up in this virtually deserted little place, right on the beach. An evening stroll found a surprisingly open beach bar, where we passed a
pleasant hour or so.
Tue 5....What a place to wake up in! Being another lovely day, it was too good to move on, so we’ve spent a lazy day walking, sunbathing and reading.
Our Route (overnight stops in capital letters)
Kountoura, back to PALEOCHORA
Azogires; Platanes; Maza; SOUGIA
Walk to Lissos; SOUGIA
Moni; Rodovani; Asfendies; PALEOCHORA
Voutas; Strovles; Elos; Kefali; Keramoki; Kampos; SFINARI
Platanos; Falassarna; Kissamos (also known as Kastelli); KOLIMBARI
Rapaniana; Agia Marina; CHANIA
Souda; Akrotiri Peninsula Kalathas; STAVROS
There are more photos below