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Published: July 11th 2019
We sleep late after yesterday’s hiking exertions.
I’m keen to visit Ancient Aptera, which is an archaeological site about 15km east of Chania. Issy appears not to share my enthusiasm. She says she’s been to a few too many ruins expecting to see Pompeii, only to end up trying to imagine a glorious ancient city based on the remains of a few columns lying in the grass. I think that this is slightly harsh, but I would have to concede that we have indeed been to a few sites over the years that would fit that description.
I set off following signposts towards the “New National Road” which is the major highway that looks to run the full length of the northern side of the island. I wonder how new it is, and whether it will still be called this when it’s not quite so new any more. I suppose then they could just white out the first word on all the signs. Even “National Road” would seem a bit odd. Crete’s not a nation; it’s part of Greece. Issy is always telling me that I’m too pedantic and I think I might be starting to understand why.
I turn off the highway and climb a steep hill up to the site. It seems that there is evidence of a community here from as far back as 1400 BC. It was apparently a powerful city state in the Minoan and Greek times, and although it declined after that, the Romans clearly had a presence here too when they occupied Crete. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the seventh century, but a monastery was then built here in the twelfth century and this operated until 1964.
The site is in an imposing position high on a hill overlooking Souda Bay. The monastery complex and its small church are still largely in tact. The site is massive and features a small Roman theatre, and a large and very impressive Roman cistern with three arch roofed chambers.
I drive a short distance to the massive Ottoman era Aptera Fortress. It’s supposed to be open but the door is locked. If the number of people milling around the door is anything to go by, they’re expecting it to be open as well. I knock on the door. I’m not sure why; I’m sure no one’s going to open it.
We spend the afternoon relaxing before taking our final bus ride into Old Chania Town.
We haven’t seen too many beggars here, and the only ones that we have seen seem to all come from the same racial grouping. We suspect they are Roma (Gypsies). The desperate looking young women usually sit on the ground in back alleyways holding babies or very young children, and they thrust plastic cups at us hopefully as we walk past. If they sit in busy streets or along the waterfront the police quickly move them on. We then see apparently happy looking young Romani girls walking from restaurant to restaurant playing bongo drums or other rudimentary instruments in the hope of a few tips. We’re not at all sure what to make of any of this. The women with the young children are a real tug on the heartstrings, but we wonder why the only impoverished people we‘ve seen here all seem to come from the same racial group. Are they just heavily discriminated against, or is this really a far more complex issue.
We return to the same restaurant in the old Jewish soap factory building that we ate at
a few nights ago. The food was excellent when we ate here before, but Issy thinks it’s more likely we’ve returned here because the beer was served in ice cold glasses and appeared within milliseconds of being ordered. We finish eating and are given what now seems to be the obligatory carafe of raki. Fortunately we now seem to have become accustomed to being able to find the bus stop through a raki induced haze.
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