Monday, September 3: The sleeping at Barbara Studios is lovely, with a breeze billowing the curtains into the room and the chirping of birds in the courtyard. I want to sleep in, but since I only have two days in Crete, I make myself get up and take a shower. There is a little kitchenette in the hotel, a coffee-maker and toaster, bread and jam and orange juice in the refrigerator. I shower, prepare the little breakfast, and think about what I will do with the day ahead.
I head out into the streets of the old Venetian-Turkish quarter of Rethymno. The town, which used to be inhabited by the Minoans as early as the 4th century BC, began a period of growth when the Venetian conquerors of the island (who ruled from 1210-1645) decided to put a commercial stop between Heraklion and Hania (also spelled Chania). Today’s old town, one of the best preserved in Crete, is almost entirely built by the Venetians.
The town has an aristocratic demeanor, with its narrow streets of wood-balconied houses dating from the 16th century, arched doorways, stone staircases, and Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains. The Ottomans, who ruled from the end of Venetian rule until 1897, put their own flourishes on the town by adding such architectural elements as minarets.
Today the city’s main income is from tourism. Agriculture also plays a strong role in the local economy, especially olive oil and other Mediterranean products. The town is also the base of the Philosophical School and the University Library of the University of Crete as well as the School of Social and Political Sciences.
I simply stroll through the streets this sunny morning, popping in and out of shops to check out the beautiful things for sale. I’ve decided to ramble the streets of the town, taking pictures and enjoying the sights and sounds as I make my way slowly to the 16th-century Rethymno Fortress. I stop in to buy some colorful earrings in a shop where I chat awhile with the young Greek shopkeeper, who wants to add me to Facebook after I take a photo of her and her shop.
Later I also buy a couple of necklaces, which are lightweight craft pieces and not expensive at all. Artists on the street sell beautiful watercolors and pen & ink drawings of the Greek islands, which I would love to buy but I don’t want to deal with carrying them around Greece for the next couple of weeks. I love these kinds of wandering moments while traveling, where I pop in and out of places with no time constraints, chatting with the local shopkeepers.
I come upon an outdoor movie theater with an outdoor cafe. It looks so inviting, but it also looks possibly like the season is over. The movie posters stuck on the walls look torn and faded, a little worse for wear.
After enjoying my stroll, I head toward the Rethymno Fortress, a remnant from Venetian days…. I pass the blue Mediterranean along the way.
See the slideshow below for more photos of the streets of Rethymno.