We couldn’t have picked a better place. Out of what I am guessing are hundreds of small hotels and pensions in Old Town Chania, it was a shot in the dark. But the cute blue, yellow and terracotta building in the equally charming alley captured my attention.
Turns out it captures the attention of just about everyone who passes by.
Rare is the camera toting tourist, myself included, who doesn’t stop to take a snap. The hotel has been commemorated on a post card and at least ten times a day someone will stop in seeking a room.
Like one of the Greek Sirens, it has a mysterious way of luring you in.
It beckons you to return home.
Called Nostos, for the next few weeks we are calling it home.
Situated in the Topanas neighborhood of Chania, this Venetian era (1204 – 1669) structure dates to the mid 15th century. Stepping into the hotel’s lobby, you pass through a double arch into nearly 600 years of history. The walls a scrapbook recalling the people, places and events that have shaped Chania.
- Above the small arch that dates to the Turkish (1669 – 1898) occupation of the city and forms the entry to the hotel, a much larger arch is reminds us of the original Venetian construction.
Not that of a hotel or an elegant Venetian Palazzo or townhouse, but a church that was built by the a noble Venetian family, the Renieri family whom also left behind a small family chapel around the corner.
Four stories on the waterside, three on the alley side, the hotel extends between the Venetian Harbor and Zambeliou Street one block behind. From singles to large studios, each of its 12 rooms is different, each has a different view. Some look out over the quaint alleys around the hotel and a lucky few have a panorama of the harbor.
But whatever your view, you will want to spend some time on the rooftop terrace to take in the views of the White Mountains to the south and the Venetian harbor and lighthouse to north.
You couldn’t ask for anything more really and within a few days we were settled in. So much so that by the end of the first week we had scrapped our plans to continue our Greek Island hopping vacation, opting instead to spend our entire time here.
But it wasn’t just the cute blue, yellow and terracotta building, the charming alleys or the rooftop terrace that kept us here. It was the feeling of being home, and much of that is due to the owner and host Yiannis Orfanoudakis.
A native Cretan, Yiannis was not only born here, but he was born here. Right here in this very hotel in room number 4. Of course it wasn’t a hotel then, it was the family home. One of the survivors of the massive 1941 WWII air raids of Chania, Yiannis’ mother purchased it in 1946.
In 1980 Yiannis converted it into a small pension called Zorbas. One of the first pensions in Old Town, Yiannis opened Zorbas before Chania had become a popular travel destination. With the purchase of the properties on either side, he expanded it into a 12 room hotel in 1986, renaming it Nostos.
From Homer’s Greek, Nostos means to return home. Add the Greek algos, meaning “pain or longing,” and you have our nostalgia. The state of being homesick, longing for home.
And at home is exactly how Yiannis and his staff makes you feel. Handing you a key to the front door, Yiannis is there long before you get up and often, long after you go to bed. Breakfast is served just like at home, “whenever you want it” and in the afternoon, sit outside around one of Yiannis’ special blends of Cretan herbal tea. Quick with a smile and a dry wit, Yiannis is happy to share the history of his Island, his city, his home.
When you stay at Nostos, you are not just a guest at a hotel but a guest at someone’s home, Yiannis’ home.
When we finally do have to leave, I’m sure we’ll soon be longing to return home.
Zambeliou 42-46, Old Harbour, Chania, Crete
30 28210 94740
If you are looking for a quieter place to stay, check out Yiannis’ Kastellos Village, a lovely complex of 8 villas set the tiny village of Kastellos.
Note on arriving at the hotel: Nostos is located on a pedestrianized alley so you will have to make your way on foot either from the main square, Venizelou Square, or from the parking area on the west side of Old Town.
More about Chania in our Summer in Chania series.