The old town of Chania
Even though Chania, Crete is considered to be a perfect destination in summer, my last trip in December was more than exciting. The old town next to the sea is calm, beautiful and unique. There are numerous things to do and see, if you are looking for Greek tradition and fun. I went there this December on a school trip, and while every other student just decided to stay in the cafes and taverns, I took the opportunity to really explore the city. Here’s what stood out to me.
The centre of the old city of Chania is the old harbour. Walking along it, you can encounter many different shops that sell raki, the traditional Cretan alcohol drink, and various products like cheese, wine, and craft-made items by artists. You can continue on to the lighthouse, where you get a full view of the city (as shown in the picture above). The soft air breezes around you, and combined with the subtle winter sun it creates the perfect ambience for relaxation. You can sit by the lighthouse, gazing at the beautiful city as it spreads across the valley. If you’re lucky, you will see the old fishermen sail out to the open Aegean sea to catch today’s fresh fish, that you can later enjoy in the fish taverns across the town.
Through narrow streets
During daytime, you can walk around narrow little streets, with friendly old people greeting you from their windows. You can gaze at the beautiful traditional architecture, that is fairy-tale-like, and look up at the blue sky, breathe in the smell of flowers and listen to the sound of cold water running from the garden fountains.The buildings, that fall under the architectural design of the Venetian people who had taken over Crete for many years in the past. are a mix of orange, pink, white and other soft warm colors that blend in perfectly with the surroundings of brown stones. Their balconies have artsy crafts on them, and every door is specially carved. It’s really an architectural beauty.
But at nighttime, the scenery changes completely. The little shops play their own music, with gigs happening everywhere. You can choose from traditional greek music, to modern, to rock, and drink your raki in the streets full of laughter, or even get into the crowded bars and dance til the morning. If you are looking for something more quiet, without the need for alcohol, you can enjoy a hot tea by the old harbour, and watch the stars and the moon light up the the sky.
Archaeological museum of Chania
I was lucky to land upon the archaeological museum, which was a true piece of art. The great history of Crete is spread across archaeological findings in the ground, that show amazing aspects of Greek mythology, tradition, and art. Handcrafted silver and golden coins, everyday tools made of clay, and even parts of fighting armors! There are helpful workers in the museum who are more than happy to answer all of your questions about the museum and its expositions.
What I found most beautiful about the museum, was its own little backyard. It had a monument with carved letters on it, that was surrounded by the tall trees and beautiful flowers. You can sit on a bench, and draw your surroundings while enjoying a coffee or tea. It’s also a perfect place to read, or just relax after the long walks in the town.
In the middle of the harbour, lies an old mosque built in the 17th century, and is a true example of the islamic art during the Renaissance. As shown in the photo, it has a cubic shape, and it is coated by six small domes and one larger. Once inside it, you feel one with the sky. Often, there are art exhibitions happening in it, so it’s always worth a check. Also, right outside there is usually a musician basking, with traditional musical instruments that will definitely teleport you to that era.
The Venizelos family grave
I realize that a “family grave” doesn’t seem like a great place to visit, but the Venizelos family grave is a monument placed on the top of a hill in Chania, and it is a series of grave plaques and statues of the family members of one of the most important politician families in Greece, that originate in Chania. What is stunning about the family graves site, is the view. From the side, you can see the city of Chania spreading into the horizon, with the beautiful sun setting in the sea, or the rain curtains falling under the clouds.
But hey, good news! Right next to the monument there are not one, but TWO amazing cafe places, that also share the same view. They serve the most delicious sweets, for the cheapest price you have ever seen. The dishes are huge, and you can definitely share with more than one person. Or eat it all if you’re up to it! It definitely was my favorite part of the day to enjoy the juicy chocolate cake with this amazing view.
The place would not be completely great if it weren’t for the people. Everyone in Crete is friendly, loving, and happy to have you visiting them. They love seeing the place they grew up in, to be loved and praised by people all over the world. You can even start a conversation with an old lady, and you will hear her family stories. Even for the rest of the Greeks, the Cretan hospitality and giving personality is commonly known and appreciated. But what really defines the Cretans, are their strength. They have been through many, many difficulties in the past, with war, and disasters, and they have always been great warriors, defending their honor and their home. They really are worth a conversation with.
If you visit Crete, and especially Chania , I guarantee you will leave with a smile on your face, from the amazing people you have met, the perfect environment and a stomach full of the best traditional foods and drinks. Give it a shot!