What do you do on your last day on Crete? Absolutely nothing. Or, in more optimistic terms, more of the usual. I would post a minute (video) of Andrew reading Lonely Planet’s rundown of Sofia to me in the bus station, but I’ll spare you- mostly because he said “Are you really going to post that?” and I thought maybe he was onto something with me leaving it offline. I will however share our last photos stopping off to say hello to another friend of Susan and Jerry’s before we left. Above, she’s laughing about a pair of kangaroo balls falling on her head. They have been fashioned into a bottle opener and are kept on a shelf behind the bar. Below, Andrew and I are getting served our last obligatory shot of raki. Jerry assured me that I could just say “no.” But it was our last day, one last time to do as the Cretans do…
We drove up to Kounali for lunch at Susan and Jerry’s friends’ restaurant. Best. Moussaka. in all of Greece. You know the food is going to be good when another patron walks up to the waitress at our table to ask for the menu, and she responds “I am the menu!” Friends with Susan and Jerry, the chef came out to greet us, the waitress sat down with us after we were done eating, it was my favorite dining experience in all of Greece. Even if it did include the obligatory shot of raki before Andrew and I walked through an abandoned village, and then down the mountain to Milatos Cave and back to Susan and Jerry’s house.
Waking up in friends’ (new friends at that) home after two nights spent in a hostel was a delight. We lounged. We drank drip coffee. We went for a walk around town. We ate a late lunch outside. We went for another walk. We sat by the sea. We went to a cafe and sipped on Mithos and downed an obligatory shot of raki before we went back ‘home’ to watch a movie. It was everything I envisioned a day in a little Greek village to be.
Knossos, also known as the oldest city in Europe was the center of Minoan civilization during the Bronze Age. In other words, it’s super old and it’s the thing to see when you visit Crete. I’m not super familiar with the Minoan civilization other than it being responsible for the two early writing systems, Linear A and Linear B. Arthur Evans was the archeologist responsible for the discovery, the excavation, and the partial restoration of the palace. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t really expecting what we saw. I shouldn’t have been surprised there was so little… but in a way, I was. It was a bit like going to see The Temple of Artemus in Turkey. We saw, we took a picture, we left. That’s probably not fair to Knossos as there is a lot more to see than just one remaining column (as there is at The Temple of Artemus). We walked around for about an hour, perhaps more than that. I found the restored artwork the most impressive part of the entire palace.
The Fortezza of Rethymno is basically an old Venetian fortress. Its construction dates back to 1573, and then the Ottomans took over, and it was inhabited. A lot of the houses were destroyed during the war, and very little, aside from a small church and a much larger mosque with a couple of other buildings remain. It’s a short walk through the Venetian quarter, through the pretty streets (and sometimes past cute windows like the one below) up to the fortress on the hill above.
Because half of the shops were closed on Sunday, I wanted to hit the market in Chania in the morning before we left for Rethymno in the afternoon. I shouldn’t have been, but still was surprised by how touristy the market was. After living in Korea for so long, and photographing the many (many, many) markets in Seoul, I’ve realized my preferred ‘local market’ experience is far from the typical tourists’ preferred experience. If I’m not jumping over puddles of murky fish water, walking past pigs’ heads, and getting elbowed around every turn by older patrons annoyed that anyone -let alone one with a camera should interfere with their daily errands it feels a bit disingenuous. A few shops weren’t as touristy as others, but only a few. Nearly all of the others sold boxed olive oil or raki gift sets for tourists to take home to their loved ones. Unfortunately, glass and alcohol aren’t so easy to travel with and my loved ones will be spared of any and all raki shots in the future. (This is a good thing, I promise.)
Chania on a Sunday is quiet. Tourists are certainly milling about the second largest town on Crete, but many shops and cafes are closed and not as many people are working or are out running errands. It’s peaceful and calm, perfect for a stroll- especially after crowded Fira on Santorini. We walked along the water’s edge. We sat on a bench hoping we weren’t getting sunburned too badly. We ducked in expensive boutiques. We ducked back out when we saw the prices. We stopped for tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt dip). We wandered. We enjoyed the quiet town and appreciated the lack of hustle before the sun got the best of us (got the best of me) and we made our way back to our hotel just outside of town.
Again, we put off leaving when we should have and opted to lounge by the pool instead. Taxis on Santorini are overpriced. But so are the buses, at least if we paid more than we should for a taxi we’d be able to swim and lounge for two extra hours. So we did, and then we made the long slog from Santorini to Crete, Chania to be specific. What was included in this long slog? One taxi, one ferry, one walk to the bus station, one three hour bus ride and then another taxi to our hotel just outside of Chania. We were greeted with a shot of raki. It’s like taking a shot of soju before crawling into bed. When in Crete…
We were supposed to go to Crete today. We’ve been having more and more of these days lately. Days we’re supposed to do something, but then we… don’t. I think it’s a side effect of traveling for so long. Andrew thinks it’s a side effect of Africa, even though we’ve been out of Africa for a month now. We go through phases. Right now, the phase has been to slow. it. down. We were going to do three islands at least, but then knocked it down to two (Santorini and Crete). Crete is a bit bigger than Santorini, and neither of us are looking forward to moving more quickly around the island (sleeping in a different town every couple of days) so I was pretty grateful when Andrew agreed we could stay an extra day in Santorini. And I finally had my first moussaka IN Greece. It was pretty awesome, but to be completely honest, it might not get first place over the gigantic salads and fries with feta that we’ve had on the mainland.