Chania

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What a lovely place is Chania (which can easily become Xania, Hania or Kania, depending on who you talk to)!  I spent a couple of days here, and when the time came to say goodbye, I was pondering whether I should phone home and ask someone to have my stuff forwarded so I could just relocate.

Wishful thinking aside, Chania is a jewel of a small city in the north western part of Crete.  Its strategic location (and presumably the resources around the area and the sheer beauty of the region) made it a coveted possession.  For a long stretch of time, it was Chania, not Heraklion, that was the capital of Crete. Having been the seat of power, the many invasions, conquests, sieges, stalemates, and waves of migrants left their mark on the city.  The seafront and the old town bear the mark of the Venetians, who built palazzos, fortresses and a pretty lighthouse, which are still standing in defiance of Time and the many successive overtakings of the island.  There are also a mosque and a couple of minarets to bear witness of Ottoman and Turkish rule.  Archaeological excavations in the middle of the old town remind us that the city was the seat of ancient Kydonia (Greek for quince) far back in Minoan times.  In the Archaeological Museum, you will also learn that the area has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, and you will see artifacts that tell the colourful story of a city that has metamorphosed constantly throughout its history, counterpoints and staccattos marked every time that cultures clashed violently in a struggle to seize or guard it.

You stroll along the cobblestone narrow streets of the old town, with bouganvilleas and vines overhanging wrought iron balconies and palm trees shading the far edges along the ruins of an ancient Venetian fortress.  You sip an orange granita whilst sitting on a bench by the seafront, overlooking the lighthouse and the mosque, or you browse trendy or crafty shops set in reconstructed Venetian palazzos in lively Splantzia, which is peppered with nice cafés where you can stop the world spinning by ordering an iced coffee and sitting down to peoplewatch.

The Agora central market is a pleasure to navigate, with the feel and bustle of a bazaar and plenty of delicacies to tempt you.  In the old town, even touristy shops are a pleasure to browse.

I had a couple of wonderful dinners at To Adespoto, a cozy al fresco restaurant set in what once was a Venetian palazzo on Sifaka Str.  Live music and fabulous food and wine made the evenings a pleasure. Whilst on holiday, I don’t often return to the same place for a meal, as I like to try different things. However, the food and the ambiance of this Taverna made me return, and quite happily!

After dinner, I once wandered into a music shop in the old town, and the friendly owner gave me a comprehensive briefing on Cretan music.  I was looking for a song they had played at the Taverna, which I quite liked.  Not speaking Greek proved a bit of a complication, however. All I could make of the song I was after was a woman’s name: ‘Αικατερίνη’.  I had even made up a story about the lyrics in my mind -surely, this Ekaterini was a heartbreaker…   My appreciation must have been fairly off, as the music expert could not quite place the song as per my description.  After a long and pleasant chat, I left with a CD in my hands.  I cannot stop listening to it!  The holiday glow returns whenever I play it. Give it a go and ‘see’ for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKBDCiuZczk.  The artists are Stelios Petrakis and Bijan Chemirani.  The album is ‘Kismet’.

If you want advise on transfers or accommodation in lovely Xania, ask Karma Travel!

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