Greece Part 4: Crete

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The boat ride to Heraklion Crete was not nearly as long as the ride to Santorini.  We found our luggage and made our way off of the Flying Catamaran to find our ride.  We were a bit confused when a travel agency we never heard of was holding a sign with our name.  It was a short ride to the Galaxy hotel where we would spend one night, before getting our rental car and heading out of town to the Palace of Knossos. 
The Galaxy hotel was very modern and kind of futuristic.  Nothing like any other place we had stayed the night in before.  {purple lights, glass doors, etc}  We easily checked in and made our way to the room to freshen up before figuring out what to go for dinner.  
I got a chance to skype with Wade for a few minutes on the free wifi, which was nice.  We walked outside of the hotel in hopes of finding a restaurant near by to eat at.  After walking around and realizing two women wondering on the sidewalks in a foreign city after dark was not the best idea; we decided to just eat at the hotel.  
Here, my Mom and I both agree, we had the worst food on our entire trip.  We ordered a small margherita pizza to share and each a salad. The pizza tasted like cardboard and the salad did not consist of the freshest veggies and was overloaded with bitter dressing.  
We were exhausted and after waiting for an extremely long time for our check, made it back to the room to hit the hay.
The next morning we were able to sleep in a bit, since we had to wait for the rental car company to drop off our car for the week.  So, my Mom and took advantage of the free breakfast and enjoyed a nice meal around the pool.  The breakfast was the typical greek breakfast of greek yogurt and honey, sausages, cheese, spinach pies, etc.  Not as good as the other places we stayed at but still tasty.
After breakfast we packed up our things and waited in the lobby for the Herz car rep.  After about an hour of waiting, the rep showed up.  She went over some paperwork and we were ready to sign the contract.  I noticed the rep had a mercedes key and I asked her what type of car we would be getting.  She answered, “A Mercedes.” I had told the rental car company originally that we wanted a simple automatic, non fancy car because the foreign travel car insurance we purchases does not cover “luxury” rentals, and I politely asked.  The woman got very irritated with me and didn’t understand why I wanted a different car.  In Greece, a Mercedes is not considered fancy and is equivalent to a Honda in the U.S.
We had to wait for another hour for a simpler car to be dropped off to us.  When the man arrived, he simply gave me the keys and scurried off.  We were given a very small car; smaller than the rental in Santorini.  We could barely fit all of our luggage in the car! My Mom jumped in the drivers seat and we were off.  Almost immediately we knew something was wrong in the car.  The car kept jolting and stalling etc.  We managed to pull over and I walked into a florist shop and prayed someone spoke english.  A man could speak some english and came out to take a look at our car.  He explained that the car was semi automatic.  Great! We still had no idea how to drive this sucker.  He didn’t either.  The man told us he had a friend that worked at the local Hertz office and gave him a call.  The man told the man how to work the car in Greek and he tried to translate for us.  {For the record D does not mean drive and R did not mean reverse} 
We thanked the man repeatedly and we were on our way.  Unfortunately, since we wondered off the main road a bit to stop and ask for help we got lost and drove around for about an hour trying to find the highway we were supposed to be on.  We stopped at a gas station and waited to find anyone who spoke english, a few men pulled together and tried to point to us on our map where we were.  We hopped back in the car and found our way to the Palace of Knossos!
The Palace of Knossos was relatively easy to find.  The story is that King Minos had a labyrinth underneath his castle with a man eating bull headed minotaur the chased the King’s victims.  It was only a few Euros to enter and was self guided.  Around the palace were beautiful fields and mountains.
Although many sections of the palace were re-constructed, it was very neat and we felt like we could truly see what it looked like 4,000 years ago.
{Walkway into the Palace of Knossos grounds}
{Pretty flowers}
{a Koulouras- used as waste pits or cisterns for water}
{So cool}
{Love the views}
{Hanging out in a shady part of the grounds}
{My Mom and I thought these were the coolest!}
We had about a 2 1/2 hour drive to our hotel in Chania.  The drive had the most amazing views.  We drove almost the whole time right along the coast.  To our right was crystal blue waters and to our left were huge snow capped mountains.  It was amazing.  Also for miles sand miles there were these gorgeous bushes with huge hot pink flowers.  Crete is so beautiful!
{Pretty pink flower bushes along the highways}
{Pulled over to take in the views}
{Beautiful}
 {Amazing!}

Of course we got a tad lost when entering the city of Chania.  We would be staying right along the old harbor.  We finally found our hotel, Hotel Veneziano, and checked in.  The hotel was very 1950’s but very cool.  Our key had a HUGE magnet on it, which you had to use to turn on the lights in your room.  Also the elevators were super old school and had the doors that you had to pull shut and push open.

Our room wasn’t the best but we had the most amazing view it totally made up for it.  We freshened up, parked our car in a lot a few blocks away and explored Old Chania.
I looked at my list of restaurant recommendations and we decided to go to one of them right outside our hotel called Antigoni.  The food was very good and the service was wonderful.
We shared a wonderful greek salad.  The feta in Crete tasted different than the other places we had visited, very very good and creamy! We also decided on some big Mythos beers of course.  I remember us being so happy during this meal and excited to explore Crete.
I ordered the swordfish and it was delicious! The waiter also brought us out free Raki {a type of Greek liquor} and dessert pastries with preserves.
{Amazing Greek Salad}
{Mommy with her Mythos}
{Amazingly Fresh Swordfish}
{purrtyy wild flowers on the tables}
{Free Raki!}
{Cheers!}
{Free Dessert Pastries}
After dinner we walked around the harbor a bit and watched the beautiful sunset.  I love these pictures!
{Our hotel- Hotel Porto Veneziano}
{Old Harbor Sunset}
{Cute Couple watching the sunset}
{The lighthouse}
{looking out into the ocean}
{Bye Bye Sun!}
When we woke up, we hit the breakfast buffet which was fairly good.  We asked the receptionist at the front desk about how to get to the Samaria Gorge which is the biggest gorge in Europe.  The Samaria Gorge cuts through the White Mountains and leads all the way out to the Libyan Sea.  It would have taken over 6 hours to hike the whole gorge and then we would have had to wait for a boat to take us back to the beginning to get our car. {which was also a bit pricey} Mom and I decided to just hike for about an hour and a half then hike back to the car so we wouldn’t take up the whole day.
It was a decent car ride up the mountains to get to this place.  The drive was once again exciting and we saw a lot of neat wildlife and sights on the way. At one point we saw bill goats walking up the side of the mountain! 

The views at the gorge were amazing! Check it out!
{Can you believe this view!?}
{Samaria Gorge!}
{Me posing next to the sign}
We were pretty exhausted when we got back to our car. But as we were leaving, a Shepard let out about 150 sheep! they were just walking down the street! My mom and I were amazed!
{So many Sheep!}
After the long drive back {I am still amazed how we I was able to find my way around} We showered and took a little nap before heading out to explore Old Town Chania.
I was on a mission to find a resturant recommended to us by our cousins from Bethesda, Taverna Ela. We finally found it {the best resturants are supposedly those that are not right along the harbor} and I was amazed! It was bare boned with half fallen stoned walls and beams but NO ROOF! It was so cool!
{I could stay here forever}
{Taverna Ela}
My Mother and I were obsessed with this place.  They had an awesome lunch special for 2 at the time that included wine, bread, Greek salad and moussaka for 10 euros! how amazing is that! This was my first time actually trying moussaka and I must say I fell in love.  Since my first time trying moussaka was in Greece; I am sure it will prove difficult to find another that compares! Overall the atmosphere, food and service at Taverna Ela was impeccable and I highly recommend it to anyone who visits Chania!
{So cute}
{Toasting to a wonderful trip with Mommy!}
{Greek Moussaka!}
Here is a little history of the building from the restaurant website: “..built in 1650 by Jews, who were brought from Spain by the Venetians during their occupation of Crete in the middle ages.
The building was initially used for the manufacture of soap and this explains its split levels, called tabakades. The windows were set low in order to allow the soap to dry in the draft.
Later, when the building was taken over by the Greeks, it functioned in turn as a school, wine store and spirits distillery for ouzo, liqueurs and tsikoudia.
More recently it served as a cheese factory and confectionerโ€™s kitchen.
From 1976 to 1988 the renovated building operated as a coffee shop, bar and restaurant on three floors.
In 1988 the building was completely destroyed by fire.
Since 1991, after comprehensive safety checks, the building has housed the Ela taverna with live music and fresh traditional dishes.”
After our lunch/dinner we wonderered into this little linen shop full of hand embroidered table clothes and runners.  My Mom must have been in there for over an hour and still decided she would think about buying something.  I entertained myself by staring at the silk worms that were in baskets all over the store.  The store owner gave me a silk cacoon to sneak back home in my bag.
{Basket of Silk Worms!}
{Close up!}

Walking around Old Town Chania was so nice.  Even though we explored it everyday we always managed to find new and beautiful aspects of the town!

{View of the old harbor from walkway to the lighthouse}
{Cool old building}
{Old fortress walls}
{View of the old harbor on the path to the lighthouse- we didn’t make it all the way}
{View of the lighthouse from our room at night}
{View of the lighthouse from our room at night}

 {Little church outside of Old Town Chania}
{Little church outside of Old Town Chania}
{Such a pretty walk to our car}
{Crystal green water}
{Dogs basking in the sunshine!}
{Love them!}
{View from our room}
{Different view from our room}
{Pretty view of the Old Harbor}
{Fresh catch of octopus hanging on a docked ship}
{Old Venetian fortress}
{Old Venetian fortress}
{Cutest house + cafe along the harbor}
{Zooming in on the pretty flower pots}
{A confusing building with window, doors and bricks drawn on}
{View from a cafe!}
{Horse eating a little snack along the water}
{Pretty cool building! turned out to be a football museum}
{Inside the football museum}
{The “football” museum!}
{First attempt at visiting the central market- everything closing down}

The next day we did the usual breakfast at the hotel then went on our journey to the Monastery of Agia Triada!  We chose this monestary because it was failry close to us and on our way to the airport that we would need to go to the next day.
Of course we got lost! There were many monasteries down the road that Agia Triada was on and since everything was written in Greek we played the game of driving down each one and comparing it to the pictures I had seen online.  Some were very very small and rarely saw visitors so needless so say we got some interesting looks.
The monastery was built in the early 17th century  and was built by two brothers on the site of a pre-existing church.  There are only a handful of monks living there today but manage to maintain a massive wine vineyard, olive tree grove and acres of citrus trees! They raise money from the sale of wine and olive oil.
As always, we found it and parked our car and paid our few euros at the entrance. As soon as we came in a bus full of people lined up at the entrance which was a little heart breaking, since we were the only other solo tourists there.  But it actually turned out okay since all of them were in the same place at the same time and we could easily avoid them and wonder around.
After saying goodbye to the monastery we headed to our first beach of the day! On the way we passed this amazing secluded beach and we vowed to make a pit stop on the way back. We brought our swimsuits and towels with us and found a little changing hut once we got to the beach. After we changed we walked over to a little beach coffee stand and ordered our iced Greek coffee with whipped cream on top. DELISH! We sprawled  out our things on a secluded area of the beach and relaxed for a few hours.  The water was extremely calm.  I took a quick dip (so I could say I have been in the Mediterranean ocean) The water was not as warm as I thought but definitely warmer than any ocean I had ever been in!  Mom and I walked up and down the beach looking for seashells and found some pretty cool ones! We also found some neat drift wood that we managed to sneak in our luggage. Reading on the beach, the ocean air, crystal green water and the beautiful mountains are something  I will remember for a long time. Before leaving we walked out to another part of the beach that had flat rocks instead of sand… it was pretty dangerous (I feel a few times) but it was cool to see the different types of  “ground” on a beach so close together!

On our way home we stopped by the pretty secluded beach and sat down on a towel.  It was the cutest beach with little trees on the sand. Also when looking out there were little mini islands very close to shore.  It was amazing how much rougher the water was and how hard the wind was blowing at this beach compared to the previous one!
{One of my favorite pictures of the trip!}
After our wonderful day exploring outside of Chania, we went back to our room, napped and freshened up before having dinner at a restaurant very close to our hotel. The restaurant, Karnagio, was secluded from the boardwalk of the harbor, but it still had a wonderful view of the water.  We were starving since we had not eaten since earlier that morning and ordered a huge meal.  We shared a Greek Salad (typical) and a Spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie) and ate some of the fresh bread.  We ordered also a big mug full of Mythos beer.  We each ordered a spinach and goat cheese gnocchi dish that proved to be too big for us.  There was the cutest kitty begging for food next to our table, and of course I had to throw him a few crumbs.

Like all the other resturants we got free dessert and raki! This time we got free baklava! YUM!

{Greek Salad}
{Spanakopita}
{Goat Cheese + Spinach Gnocchi}
{Momma and her pasta}
{Free baklava and raki!}
{Cheers}

We walked around after dinner and I bought this neat handmade clay lantern that was painted light blue from a little shop.  After walking around a big we called it a day and went back to the room to relax and read on the porch.

The next day we had our usual free breakfast at the hotel and checkout out.  Luckily we were allowed to keep our car in the same spot and walked around Old Town Chania until we had to leave around 3pm for the airport.

We headed to the central market which was closed when we visited earlier this week. It was filled with vendors, interesting foods and cool things to buy!

The butcher area was kind of scary- I saw skinned goose and lamb that made my skin cringe.

The fresh fish and produce section was enough to make me want to move to Chania; everything looked so yummy!

I ended up buying soaps, spices, etc for gifts for family back home.  I bought a Greek Briki (a little ladle coffee pot) and some fresh ground greek coffee to remember the trip.

{Fresh Breads}
{Fresh cheese and olives!}
{Fresh produce}
{Fresh Fish}
{Ewwww!}
After the market we wondered around yet again.  Mom wanted to stop by the linen shop we visited a few days ago to buy a table runner. On the way, we found another linen shop and she looked for a comparable table runner. At this shop I saw an amazing home woven blue and white thrown rug and embroidered pillow cover.
My Mom decided she still wanted to go back to the other linen shop, so off to the silk work basket store we went.  We spent a very very long agonizing time at the shop while my mother tried to talk the people down.  They did not budge at all, which was odd for Greek people!
After, we walked around some more and took in the views.  We walked along the water to the end of the lighthouse, which was a pretty long and uneven journey. (very uneven rock/brick path)
{One of my favorite pictures!}
{Old Harbor}

{Pretty Lighthouse}
 {Momma on the wall near the lighthouse}

Before heading to the car, we picked a random restaurant along the harbor and ordered a greek pizza.  We ended up paying with american money since we were running extremely low on Euros. Thank goodness the owner let us; he said he was traveling to the U.S. in the next few months and this would save him money in the long run in conversion fees.
The pizza was okay, nothing to brag about and no reason to try and dig for the name of the restaurant.

{Greek Pizza}
After lunch we walked to the car and headed to the airport.  We had no troubles finding the airport and dropping off the car.  The baggage situation was a major dilemma;  our bags were way over the weight limit.  We ended up spreading our belongings on the floor and throwing away what we could to lighten the load.  We ended up having to spend 50 euros on the plane ride back to Athens; which sucked.

We stayed at a Holiday Inn near the Athens airport.  The hotel was pretty awesome and seemed very futuristic.  We ate dinner at the hotel, which was not anything special.  (I had the moussaka which was no where close to as good as in crete) Our shuttle van left the hotel at 5am for a 7am flight back home.  Once again, luggage weight was an issue, and we ended up having to pay 100 Euros this time.

We had the same layover in Switzerland on the way home.

Dad and Cha Cha came to pick us up from the airport and after the long journey we could not wait to tell him all about it.

We had such a wonderful time together and had an experience of a lifetime.  

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