Sunday, 22 May 2022

Our Greek Odyssey - Halepa & Rethmyno

 On Friday, still stuffed from all the food we'd consumed over the previous three nights, we bought a punnet of locally grown strawberries and ate them on the rooftop with Greek yogurt so thick that I had to scrape it off the spoon with a knife.

First on the agenda was a visit to an artisan leatherworker we'd passed on our travels the previous day, after all, we're from Walsall, a town famed for its leather goods since the Industrial Revolution. 

In addition to the most divine handmade slouchy bags made in a rainbow of jewel toned suede & leather, there were also earrings, plaited wristbands and leather wrapped wooden bangles he'd made from the offcuts and, of course, I had to buy a few of them.

After an iced coffee at the harbour, we popped into a travel agent to book ourselves a cultural day trip then walked along the coast road for three and a half miles to reach the area of the city known as Halepa, where the affluent citizens of the 19th Century built their grand mansions, away from the hustle and bustle of the old town. 

Halepa is also the brand new site for Chania's Archaeological Museum, which opened in April 2022.

Tony's reaction to the artifacts on display was the same as most people who visit Greece for the first time....I can't get my head around how old everything is. 

This stone sarcophagus is almost four thousand years old! Whilst we Brits were living in caves and daubing our bodies with woad, the Greeks were burying their dead in caskets like this, drinking from glasses and adorning themselves in exquisitely crafted gold jewellery.

The sack of coins was labelled The Price of Avarice as the wealthy family who lived in the house from which it was retrieved had felt the tremors of an impending earthquake but , rather than flee from their home to safety, made for the cellar to rescue their wealth first, being crushed to death moments later. 

The two thousand year old mosaics are still as breathtakingly lovely as they must have appeared when they were first laid and I could hardly tear my eyes away from the gold jewellery, adorned with cherubs.

We took a slow walk back, stopping midway for lunch - at almost 3pm we were finally starting to feel hungry. We ordered Greek salads for Jon & Tony and a Cretan salad for me, accompanied by complimentary freshly-baked bread, tap water, beetroot & mint butter, a carafe of raki and a bowl of sheep's milk ice cream.

Back in Chania's old town we stopped at Platinas 1821 for a restorative beer. 

After showers, a siesta and a can of beer on the roof, we headed into town for the night.

We ended up in a restaurant set in a garden beneath the Byzantine city walls, run for over twenty years by an Albanian man, his family and four cats, one of which sat on my lap for most of the night, only moving when she smelt Tony's slow roasted lamb chops.

Despite the late night we were up bright and early the next day. Although she'd been renting out her rooms for 38 years Sophia had only been listing them on for a year and, due to some mix-up, she'd overbooked our rooms so it was all change - we moved into Tony's room and he moved into a room on the ground floor - as we'd only got a small bag each, it was no trouble to pack and, of course, she presented us with a massive tray of freshly baked pastries to sweeten the task.

Leaving Sophia to clean the rooms, we walked across to the new town to catch the 9.30am bus to Rethymno, Crete's third largest city where you may remember, we spent three days back in 2020 (see HERE).

An hour and a quarter later and we were outside a cafe in the twisting city streets, enjoying an iced coffee and doing a spot of people watching.

Due to its proximity to the port, Rethymno is a lot more touristy than Chania, and at weekends huge swathes of cruise ship parties engulf you at every corner. There's loads of street hawkers peddling roses, packets of tissues and fake Rolexes but it's still a beautiful and atmospheric city.

Whilst posing by the Venetian fountain it occurred to me that I stood in exactly the same spot in the same dress, eighteen months earlier.

Although we'd visited before, we couldn't resist another peek at the Rethymno Archaeological Museum, beautifully curated, well-signed and again, full of mind-blowingly beautiful artifacts thousands and thousands of years old.

The museum shop is pretty incredible, selling replicas of some of the exhibits, including a life-size bronze statue of Apollo, sadly, well beyond our budget.

We hiked up the hill to the Venetian Fort. When we'd visited in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, we'd had it to ourselves. This time we had to share.

Back in the old town, it was time for lunch; three beers, a Greek salad for me, chicken for the boys plus complimentary baklava, bread and tap water.

We walked off our lunch with a wander around the harbour before catching the 4pm bus back to Chania.

After showers and the customary beer on the roof, we found a cool bar within the bombed-out ruins of an ancient Venetian house followed by a superb dinner at The Well of the Turk, a restaurant we'd loved on our last visit.

Tony was particularly excited to find Patatas Bravas on the menu, a dish we'd devoured almost daily on our trip to Alicante back in March. For the full menu click the link HERE.

It was a fairly early night for us, we'd a coach to catch at 7.30am the following day. Our Greek Odyssey continues....