We visited a couple places in Crete, namely Chania, Gavalochori, and Georgoupoli (hyoor-hyoo-po-lee).
Just outside Chania, high on top of a hill, lies the ruins of ancient Aptera. I now know that Aptera was a very important Minoan city. Since we were with a tour group, we didn’t get to see much of the ruins, mostly just the huge old Turkish fortress. It’s a shame, really…. My phone wasn’t working outside of Italy so doing my own research wasn’t an option. We didn’t even realize we were surrounded by such a large site of much, much older architecture. So if you go, do a little research beforehand so you can actually enjoy what Aptera has to offer.
However, I can say that the view from the Turkish fort overlooking the coast was incredible. Beach and olive groves as far as the eye could see. We were only there for about 15 minutes, and then it was on to Gavalochori.
Gavalochori was a hole in the wall. Really. It was teeny-weeny, in the middle of nowhere, and had almost nothing. I’m not entirely sure why we even stopped there. Supposedly there was a little shop where a lacemaker can be seen making her lace, but she wasn’t there when we went.
Luckily while meandering down a side street we managed to find what was probably the only restaurant in the town. I’d tell you the name of it if I knew how to spell it in English (or in Greek, for that matter). Here’s a picture of the sign though, if you wanna try to find it. —>
The owners (definitely a family) must have known we were coming, because there were hot hand-sized spinach pies and meatballs ready for us. For a few euro, a little lady who spoke no English gave us a plate of food, a couple drinks, and a big smile. And there was this sweet black lab there! Any restaurant with a resident dog is A-ok in my book.
Then we headed for Georgioupoli. So, did you guys know that Crete has HUGE mountains?! Like, mountains tall enough that they wouldn’t look out of place in the Dolomites. Mt. Ida in Crete is 2,456 meters. The highest peak in the Dolomites only tops it by 1,000 meters. WHAT? Dude, I didn’t even know Crete really had mountains at all, let alone these snow-capped monsters. The drive was absolutely beautiful.
Georgioupoli is a beach destination in the summer, but when were there in November it was very quiet and pleasant. Sitting at the end of a breaker in the water, you’ll see a squat white building. This is a tiny chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas. Isn’t that just wonderful? I love it so much.
Again, it was a quick visit. So after searching for my obligatory magnet, we didn’t have too much time before getting back on the bus and returning to Chania.
The entrance to Chania’s Old Town district is through an indoor market. The Old Town is super cute, like most old town districts are. Narrow streets, tons of junk vendors (found a magnet in 2.2), and overpriced restaurants with waiters pressuring you to eat their food. You know, that kinda makes it sound awful. I swear it wasn’t though – it was really pretty.
The harbor is more than pretty. It’s gorgeous. There’s a lighthouse and everything. Since we only had a couple of hours, we mostly just wandered around and took in the sights. Oh, and shared some moussaka. Yum.
I wish we’d been able to see Knossus. Alas, we had a single day on the wrong side of the island. Knossus was the bronze age cultural center of the Minoans. Bronze age, folks. That’s like 12oo b.c. It was also the city of mythical King Minos and his infamous labyrinth. Don’t remember the story? That’s ok, just know that he had a minotaur in a labyrinth under the palace, and that he sacrificed people to keep it fed. If I ever visit, I’ll catch a minotaur and tame it and let you guys pet it.
Fun fact: Our tour guide told us that the average Cretan citizen consumes about 40 liters (that’s over 10 gallons, fellow Americans) of olive oil per year. Can you imagine using 10 gallons of olive oil in a year? All by yourself? That’s incredible.
I’ll leave you with a picture of sunset over Chania.
Up next: The island of Kefalonia – Argostoli, Sami, and Agia Effimia.