Monasteries

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was my last day in Chania, and a Saturday.   I had promised myself I would visit Moni Agias Triadas and Moni Gouvernetou, which are in the Akrotiri Peninsula, to the northeast of Chania.

I had foolishly forgotten my drivers’ license, so I could not rent a car.  I thought it was easy enough to follow the rough instructions on my Lonely Planet tourist guide and just get there.  So I went and took a bus.  Firstly, I made enquiries at the bus station, and the girl in the information booth sent me to buy a ticket towards the airport, which is south of the peninsula, and told me to get off the bus at a particular point, then take a taxi.  I bought the ticket.  When I was about to board the bus, I looked closely at my map and the guide, and realised that she had sent me to the opposite end of the peninsula, which would make the taxi fare quite costly.  I had to quickly exchange my bus ticket, and boarded a bus to Stavros.

Without knowing the region, traveling by bus becomes a bit of an adventure, as stops are not necessarily called by the driver, and at bus stops, there are no signs to tell you the name of the place.  I was following my map carefully and looking for any signs we passed on the road, as I was not going all the way to Stavros, but getting off two villages before.  I did manage to get off at Horafakia, and called a taxi to take me from there to Moni Agias Triadas.

The monastery of the Holy Trinity is proudly active and still plays a part in the local economy. Monks own a vast amount of land, and they produce olive oil, wine and other products.  You can visit the gardens, a chapel, and an exhibition of Byzantine icons and religious paraphernalia.  The paintings were particularly beautiful.

From there, my book said you could walk about four kilometres to Moni Gouvernetou.  I am a keen walker, and thought of this as a short ‘pilgrimage’ of sorts, so I set off walking.   About one kilometre down the road, an Ucranian couple stopped their car and generously offered me a ride to the monastery, which I accepted.   I am glad I did, as little did I know, a few hundred metres down the road, it narrowed to the point that two lanes became one tightly winding road, which could have been dangerous to walk on, particularly if cars were coming from up the hill at some speed and would not necessarily see you!

We got to the monastery at about 4.20 PM, and the gate was open, but the actual monastery was closed. It would reopen at 5.00 PM.  We could go in and take a walk in the premises, though.  These, I have to say, are spectacular.  The monastery is the guardian of a vast amount of land that includes mountains and valleys rolling towards the sea.  They have some olive groves and vineyards, but the valley, importantly, is home to another monastery which is located closer to the coast, and is where St John the Hermit used to live in a cave at the bottom of a rock staircase.  You can walk down a beautiful rock path towards it, and visit a few caves where his disciples dwelled, which hold small chapels.  Again, the hills are covered in aromatic herbs, so you walk amidst the smell of thyme, sage, oregano, and olive trees.  The natural beauty of the place is breathtaking.  It inspires awe and gives you a feeling of tranquility.

I walked down, then up the path, and returned to the monastery, where you are welcome to visit a patio and a small church in the middle of it. By the time I walked in, it was time for vespers.  It was beautiful.  Chants and sweet incense wrapped around me and engulfed me.  I stayed there quite a while to meditate and pray.

When I got out, I figured I would just call the same taxi company that brought me to Moni Agias Triadas and ask them to pick me up at Moni Gouvernetou to take me to Chania.  By then, I already knew that I had missed the afternoon bus from Stavros to Chania; I was conscious of the need to find my way back.  However, I had not considered the possibility of being unable to call the taxi in the first place.  My mobile had no signal!

Luckily, a French couple walked out of the monastery and made their way towards a car.  I explained my problem, and they kindly agreed to take me down to the first village.  I was really very grateful.   From where they stopped, I called a taxi and finally got back to Chania.

The adventure was worth it.  The monasteries were beautiful and I enjoyed the journey.  However, if you are considering a visit to these wonderful places, I suggest you save yourself some trouble and plan your own transportation ahead.  Contact Karma Travel and get a great deal in car rental, transfers or a guided visit!

Advertisements

Chania

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

%d bloggers like this: