Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crete!

So far Crete has been a mixed bag. We were warned by our cab driver when he drove us to our hotel--he said there were LOTS of Scandinavians here. Could be worse, right? He didn't specify that the place was packed tight wall to wall with our brothers and sisters from the great frozen north looking for some sun and, of course, discount shopping (for them, that is).

We got in late on a Ryanair flight. It was an interesting experience. Steve immediately crushed on the red-haired, freckled Irish flight attendant speaking in her lovely Irish lilt. It was a 45 minute flight, so the narrow, non-reclining seats were not an issue. Our baggage met their restrictions, so with the full flight they checked it for free at the gate. In the 45 minutes some people managed to order full meals and the stews were pushing the merch hard. That's obviously how they make a lot of their money.

We got to our pension and although we had reserved months in advance and given them our full flight details they were annoyed to have to meet us and gave us a room that looked like they had been using for storage with 2 rock hard misshapen twin beds. Ugh. Steve was super irritated and tried to get a different room (there or elsewhere) but to no avail--the town was fully booked. And didn't we know it.

Our first day we went on a 4x4 tour of a winery and the White Mountains, which are quite high. We had wine first, which was a winery importing the modern winemaking styles of France and CA to Greece. This was interesting, but not so different from a winery in California. Then we went to a hillside village for a delicious lunch where we learned that the locals are kind of scary! Really, all small town people can be a little scary whether you are in Greece, Mexico, Australia, Oregon, or wherever. But these folks love their guns more than a Texan. And whatever you do, don't turn down any raki they might offer! Cretan cheese is delicious--even better than feta, halloumi, and the other Greek cheeses we are used to. Next we went up to a Shepherd's camp high in the mountains. This was really quite interesting. We didn't see any kri kri, but I didn't realize how rare they were. The mountains were gorgeous. Then we returned to our pension and tourist central.

Chania had come highly recommended by many people. It was cute, and I understand the enthusiasm on some level. It looks like the model for Pirates of the Caribbean. The old town is a maze full of small little pedestrian alleyways lined with boutiques and cafes curving around a ruin of a 16th century Venetian fortress. Sounds wonderful, right? Now cram 50,000 Swedes, Norwegians, Estonians, Fins, and Danes into that same 1 sq km area. Besides the Old Town, Chania also boasts lots of beaches in the surrounding area. Most seemed to be little patches of sand where pale white flesh comes to roast.

I am not a beach person, but I do love the coast and the ocean. I have had some fantastic beach experiences, but for me those are the exception rather than the rule. Good beaches are never ever visible from a major road. Toilet facilities are usually limited and gross. You have to bring lots of stuff with you and then constantly worry someone will steal it while you are swimming or looking the other way (because good beaches are also usually full of petty thieves). And I hate sand. It always gets everywhere. But a truly gorgeous beach, like the one we followed our German friends to in Phuket, or the national seashore in Pensacola (trust me on that one), is worth all the discomfort. The other people I see enjoying the popular beaches don't seem to be nearly as picky or neurotic as me. I just don't get the appeal.

So what I'm trying to say is that Chania is old town tourist hell surrounded by shitty beaches. And the outskirts are a typical 2nd world depressing concrete jungle, which is pretty common for Greece. It is cute and picturesque in parts, but without even welcoming accommodation, we couldn't wait to get the hell out. We did manage a good dinner last night. I had a local specialty which was like a lasagna made with zucchini and potato. It felt good to get some more veggies to balance all that cheese and olive oil. But today we caught the first bus we could out of town to Heraklion.

Heraklion is not as charming, but it has similar labyrinthine streets with hidden cafes and it's not as ham packed with people. We got an excellent lunch with smoked pork and tomato croquettes and then Steve managed to find a place to buy some underwear (minor packing mishap). Then he found a bar where he could get a Negroni, which is apparently his new thing.

And our hotel is much more comfortable. Not surprisingly it is also more expensive. But I prepaid for this one and got a deal on hotels.com, so it's free, right? 😀

Observations:

- We are so lucky that English has become the default language of travel! I feel like such an asshole for not speaking any other language well.

- We are over a week in and we haven't run in to any Australians! This is a first for us in or travels.

- We are adjusting to Greek style living. It's after 8 and we're not even ready for dinner yet!

- Although we are having a great time, we get on each other's nerves a lot when we are together 24-7 and in unfamiliar environs. So it's not all happy times. But when that happens we have to remember we are on vacation so nothing can be so important to stress and get upset about. I'm constantly working on that!

Miss you all! Hope I have entertained you a little.

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