#8 Greek Islands, Oct. 22, 2012

Dear Everybody,

On the way to Hania, I stopped at Argyroupolis, a town built over the remains of a Roman city called Lappa. The square had a pretty Venetian church, next to which were a few old Roman stones. A walk around produced an old Roman mosaic floor and a couple of Roman arches. There were Roman tombs downhill on a 1½ km footpath, but what goes down (in the hot sun) must come up so I skipped this.

Arriving in Hania, I drove as close as I thought I could to the Old Town (all pedestrian) and then ducked into a parking lot. The attendant showed me where it was on my map, only a few blocks from the room I had reserved. Hania Old Town is very pretty, and, like the others, pretty touristy. For dinner I relied on the Lonely Planet recommendation and this time, unlike a few times earlier on this trip, it was REALLY good! Good wine, fine bread, extra good olive oil and a ton of different kinds of olives were great! Then the smoked pork, feta and pepper pie I had ordered was exquisite. The waitress brought me a little tasty tart for dessert and we had a nice visit, too, as I was the last guest just then. She was the proprietess and is from Ireland—I told her that I would definitely be back!

That evening I walked around the Old Harbor at dusk, returning the next day to sight-see. The Archeological Museum was terrific. It was in an old restored 16th C. church (good use for them), which had also been a mosque, a movie theatre and a munitions depot for the Germans. I enjoyed seeing a bunch of pottery bulls that were ‘sacrificed’ in very old days, instead of real bulls.

 

 

 

 

In the garden of the museum, I could see my hotel window.  It’s the small one on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An old Cretan House was the Folklore Museum. There was lots of embroidery, which was still being done there, and sold to the tourists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other sights in Hania included old Venetian dry docks, an Arsenal, and the old city stones of Kydonia, the same name as my hotel, which was actually only ‘Rooms to Let.’ The arched entrance to my ‘Rooms’ was pretty exotic, too. Another dinner at Portes of mussels and salad left me most satisfied.

The Naval Museum was gigantic with many models of boats/ships that were used during the last four millennia. One very large ship, powered by rowers was from the 2nd C. BCE. I watched an interesting film about the Greeks from 1897 to 1947. What a lot they had to endure, as did many people in that era. Greeks have a well-earned pride in their history, it seems to me.

Next was the Byzantium Museum with their easy-to-spot images. This one was in the interior of the Church of San Salvatore, similar to the Archeological Museum. This was also located in the Fortezza, built in Venetian times.

 

 

 

An icon of St. George slaying the dragon is a recurring image.

 

 

 

 

A long walk brought me to the very old and nicely restored Etz Hayyim Synagogue. The Jews here in Crete suffered badly during World War II, but many Cretes befriended them, hiding them at risk of their own lives. This was brought out in the film that I watched in the Naval Museum.

Agios Nikolaos made me smile. When, at one point, it was converted to a mosque, the Turks added a minaret. Later when converted back to a Christian church, both the bell tower and the minaret were left intact—why not? You never know when you’ll need to convert it again!

 

 

 

 

Around the corner stood the HUGE agora—covered market. It’s open every day and I was considering eating there. Well, it was closed!! I could see/hear some ‘goings on’ on the other end of the building and when I went around to investigate, I saw a poster, which I believe says that the Agora will be closed on Oct. 18th, which this was! Yes, it turned out to be a political rally with signs, bullhorns and LOTS of people. I wonder what they were proposing to get Greece out of its troubles. The people seemed easy-going about the rally—I didn’t feel threatened, at all.

 

 

 

 

I moved on to Agia Galini on the south coast the next day, driving through beautiful scenery. I snagged a hotel room in the Hotel Akteon that nicely overlooked the Mediterranean, although climbing up all the steps with my pack was a killer, but with the beautiful view from my balcony, it was worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

I had lunch at Madame Hortense’s Restaurant, just below my room. Below that is Zorba’s Taverna. (I’m reading ‘Zorba’—Madame H is Bouboulina—remember?)

 

 

 

The next day on a walk-around, I saw the fishermen mending nets and the beaches across from the port; all was beautiful sunshine and perfect temperature. The locals say this is unusual for late October. I stopped in a supermarket and bought some Ouzo and some grapes. My room has a tiny freezer in the refrig—just the thing for the Ouzo.

I spent an exhausting, but satisfying day visiting two archeological sites, first Phaestos, whose roots go back to Neolithic times in 4000 BCE. The first palace was built in 2000 BCE, destroyed by an earthquake; a new palace was built about 1700 BCE and destroyed about 1450 BCE. The site was extraordinary, although there are many beautiful spots in Crete. One could see nice remnants of the past glories—like the entrance to the Queen’s Megaron with columns at the doorway and niches for the guards.

 

 

 

Once again, beautiful pithoi remained on site, which were storage containers, lined up in storage magazines.

Gortyna was a city that developed much later than Phaestos, but by the 5th C. BCE it had become very powerful, mainly through piracy. When Rome invaded, Gortyna made a pact with them and became the capital of all of Crete. There is a 7th C. BCE Temple to Apollo, and a 7th C. AD Church of Agios Titos, in which a couple was lighting a candle; otherwise everything else is pretty much from the Roman era—1st to 4th C. AD. However, in the Odion, a theatre, there were tablets from the 6th C. BCE in Dorian dialect (earliest law code in the Greek world!) laying out laws on issues of marriage, divorce, property transfers, inheritance, adoption and criminal offences. The Saracens destroyed Gortyna in 824 AD.

After all of that, I returned to Agia Galini and had lunch/dinner—a goat meat casserole! The reason that I appear to be eating alone, is that I was—due to it being late in the season so there were not many tourists, and due to the hour, which was about 2:30 PM.

 

 

Today I drove to Matala, a ‘60s home for hippies, who lived in caves that were originally Roman tombs. The hippies hollowed them out further, carving tables and chairs in the soft tufa, and could jump into the waiting surf in just few steps. Apparently Joni Mitchell was one-such.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home, I visited the 16th C. monastery church of Agios Georgios.

A word about the cats here—there are dozens of them everywhere you look that don’t seem to belong to anyone. They look healthy and are well mannered, for the most part. One suddenly jumped up in my lap at breakfast yesterday, which made me jump! Speaking of breakfast, the provided one this morning was so good. We ate small cheese pies and spanokopita pies with the very flakeyist of crusts. The bread at this hotel is good, also, but alas, not the coffee.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to drive to the Iraklion airport, turn in my car, and fly to the island of Rhodes. I have calculated that a gallon of gas in Crete (that compares with ours) costs about $7.20. Luckily the distances are not far, and my little car does not take very much gas.

To Rhodes!

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