Monday, September 3: After lunch in Rethymno, I drive west 60km (about 50 minutes) to Hania (also spelled Chania). Panos at Barbara Studios was raving about it this morning and suggested I should go see the town while in Crete. Of course, since I only have 2 days here, I figure I may as well go today, so I can explore other parts of the island tomorrow.
I love driving my zippy little rental car, and I cruise along with the windows open. More rolling hills and the happy blue Mediterranean lie to my right as I drive westward. I find what I think is the old Venetian quarter and nab a parking spot right on the coastal road along the Sea of Crete. I don’t have any particular sights to see here; I figure I will just wander and see whatever there is to see.
I walk along the harbor, passing by some colorful waterfront cafes. I have already decided that when I return to Rethymno, I will go to a particular cafe for a Mythos beer, after which I will shower, relax and go out for a late dinner. So I don’t stop at these cute cafes.
I wander into the harbor with its marina. I adore marinas, and I especially love old fishing boats with character.
I come across the Church of Agios Nikolaos, which was built as part of the Dominican Monastery of St. Nicholas in 1320. During the Turkish occupation (1665-1898) it was used as barracks for Turkish troops before it was turned into a mosque. The unusual two-floor minaret, with two balconies, was added to the northwest corner. The mosque, known as the Hioughar Tzamissi or the Sovereign’s Mosque, was the most important in the city. Hania was the first area to be taken by the Ottomans and the sword of Turk Darvish, who was first to enter the city, was kept there. A 1944 earthquake threatened the minaret.
I wander through narrow little lanes with Venetian and Turkish architecture and fairly nice open air cafes. I walk through quiet residential lanes with beautiful doors and potted plants and old-fashioned bicycles in front.
I walk a circuit around the town and make a stop at a little cafe in front of the Church of Agios Nikolaos, where I have a cool fresh-squeezed orange juice.
I’m thinking as I’m walking about that the town really looks a little shabby, not nearly as nice as Rethymno. I start to think I should have just stayed in my little town. It is only later, after I’ve left Hania and returned to Rethymno, that I realize it’s no wonder I found the town shabby. I was in the wrong area of the old town.
I said in an earlier post that I have a Type A personality. Obviously that is failing me miserably here in Crete. The problem is that I didn’t do my homework. If I had simply looked at the map of Hania in my Lonely Planet Greece, I would have easily figured out that the right place to be is on the west side of the Venetian port and the marina, not directly south, as I am.
I still enjoy myself, despite the heat and being a little disappointed. I’m not overly impressed with the commercial area. The nicest part is strolling through the residential streets in quiet and solitude. Once I escape the commercial area, I find the neighborhoods charming and peaceful. There is no point in dwelling on how I missed Firkas Fortress or the truly atmospheric part of town. I missed it and that is that.
My philosophy of travel is changing all the time. I used to create a checklist and would beat myself up trying to see everything on that list. I have loosened up a lot as the years have gone by. Now, I figure I see what I see, and then forget the rest. What else can I do with limited time and resources?
Here, in a slideshow, is what I DO see.