We’re a bit tired after a long day of travelling yesterday, so Issy glues herself to a lounge under an umbrella next to the hotel pool. Every effort to prise her loose fails, so I take the opportunity to read up a bit about Crete on the ever reliable Wikipedia.
Crete is a serious island. It‘s the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. Its major historical significance is as the centre of Europe‘s first advanced civilisation, the Minoans, who apparently thrived here from 2,700 to 1,420 BC. They then declined or disappeared, and one theory is that they were wiped out by the Thera eruption which created the famous Santorini caldera. That must have been some eruption; Santorini is more than 150 kms away. The Mycenaeans from mainland Greece were the next to rule Crete, followed by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Venetians and the Ottomans. The Cretans however apparently always wanted to be part of Greece. They managed to free themselves from the Ottomans to become an independent state in 1898, before finally joining Greece in 1913.
Famous Cretans include El Greco (which apparently just means “The Greek” in Spain where
he lived - presumably there weren’t too many other Greeks in Spain at the time), Nana Mouskouri, and Jennifer Aniston’s Father John Aniston, whose birth name was Giannis Anastasakis.
I’m not quite sure what it is with large Mediterranean islands, but it seems that Crete, like Sicily and Corsica, is renowned for its family and clan vendettas. It‘s said that every rural household on the island owns at least one gun, which is apparently largely a hangover from the resistance to Ottoman rule. Greece has very strict gun control laws, and the Greek police have tried very hard to reduce the numbers of illegal firearms on the island, but apparently with only very limited success. I make a mental note to try to be especially nice to everyone while we’re here, particularly if we head out into the rural areas. I’m not aware that we know any Cretans back in Melbourne, but I’m keen for us to avoid becoming part of some sort of family vendetta if at all possible. Whatever the Cretan equivalents of horses’ heads in the bed or pairs of concrete shoes are I’m sure they can’t be pleasant.
The glue holding Issy to her
lounge next to the pool melts in the heat, so I am able to extract her for a late afternoon bus ride into Chania. While we wait for the bus I take a quick wander down onto Chrissi Akti beach which is just across the road from the hotel. It‘s sandy, long, and clearly very popular, and looks very pleasant.
We wander through Old Chania Town which is a maze of impossibly cute alleyways. I go into the Presentation of the Virgin Mary Holy Metropolitan Orthodox Church in the main square. I’m not sure that’s the punchiest name I’ve ever heard, but maybe it sounds better in Greek. Its exterior looks more Spanish than Greek, with its single square tower, but its interior is distinctly Greek - sombre and beautiful. I try to convince Issy that the roof won’t fall in if she comes in too, but she’s taking no chances and stays outside.
We reach the stunning waterfront. The two dominant buildings around the Venetian-era harbour are The lighthouse, and the Ottoman-era Mosque of the Janissaries which now houses art collections. The harbour is almost entirely surrounded by outdoor restaurants fronting ancient looking earthy coloured buildings.
Choosing a restaurant from the hundreds on offer is proving challenging. Our decision ends up being based on a large picture in one of the menus of a cocktail that Issy decides looks particularly enticing. I wonder about the marketing strategies that are in play here. Every restaurant has a spruiker out the front trying to drag you in. Some of the restaurants have signs outside them telling you that they won’t try to attract you by talking to you to pressure you into coming in, but then they do anyway. I’m sure that virtually none of the thousands of tourists here have bothered to read Google reviews of any of these establishments, so it all then surely becomes a raffle.
We have a theory that when it comes to choosing restaurants in situations like these, people are like sheep. If one restaurant looks to have lots of people in it, then the sheep decide that it must therefore be good so they follow the other sheep into it. If this theory is right, then the best ploy for the restaurants would seem to be to offer free or very cheap food early in the evening so that your
restaurant fills up early, and the more expensive food can then be offered to the sheep that follow. We are sheep. We choose a restaurant that looks busy. Issy says she now feels very sorry for the poor man trying to get people to go into his nearly empty restaurant next door. We’ve got no reason to believe that his food isn’t good, it’s just that the sheep have gone elsewhere tonight. If the sheep theory is right, then hopefully it all evens out in the long run. Either that or putting very large pictures of enticing looking cocktails in the fronts of menus really is a winning strategy. I’m starting to feel tired just thinking about this, so we decide that running a restaurant here is probably a job best left to the experts.
We finish dinner and wander around the harbour where we get great views of the stunning sunset over the distant mountains.
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