Still in Chania for one more week, I hope to get a few more posts out about our time here. I have been moved in ways I didn’t think possible by what I thought was merely a summer destination beach town. The few posts I’ve written so far have barely scratched the surface of all we’ve seen, done and experienced here. And even as I sat down to write about our second tour of Chania, I quickly realized that our one day “taxi tour” could fill volumes.
Our second tour of Chania took us out of Old Town, out of the city of Chania and into the prefecture. Out and around the Akrotiri Peninsula, a rocky promontory that juts out into the Cretan Sea on the east side of the city. Beyond Akrotiri and further east to Souda Bay, the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean. Southeast to the ancient village of Aptera. Further south still through tiny villages as we wound our way back to Chania.
There is so much I’d like to say about each of the sites we visited during our seven hour tour. One or two lines seems insufficient to describe one of the oldest monasteries on Crete. How this 16th century Greek Orthodox citadel like structure sits in isolation at the top of the Akrotiri Peninsula. Far from civilization in an area of unspoiled terrain that is reached only by the most adventurous tourist.
Or how from here, you can take a steep and windy footpath to the Avlaki Gorge that will take you all the way down to the sea. Along the way finding Αrkoudospilios – the Bear Cave and the Katholiko Monastery and the church of St John the Hermit.
I would love to say I made this journey, but less than halfway down in the sweltering heat I realized I would have to walk back up. I turned around and made the already arduous trip back, leaving this journey for a cooler day.
I could fill an entire post about the Venizelos Graves, the final resting place of one of Crete’s most important statesman, Eleftherios Venizelos and his son Sphoklis. I could devote an entire photo gallery to the breathtaking views from this park like setting overlooking Chania and the bay.
And a few lines certainly don’t begin to describe how I felt, the chill that went up my spine when I visited the Souda Bay War Cemetery. The final resting place of the foreign soldiers that gave their life in defense of the Cretans during WWII. Families making the pilgrimage in search of relatives they never had the chance to know. The 1500 servicemen enshrined here, 776 of which never were identified.
Or the archaeologists we came across in the ancient town of Aptera, painstakingly working a Minoan Ruin Site in the relentless August heat.
But for me, the highlights of the day weren’t necessarily these important sites we visited, and there were certainly several more I didn’t mention. It was the scenery. Rugged, unspoiled terrain that was absolutely foreign to this city dweller. Olive, fig, lemon, and carob trees, green farmlands, and the mountains beyond.
Cretan herbs growing wild on the rocky landscape. Oregano, sage, and the all important thyme that lends its distinctive flavor to many Cretan honeys. Goats nibbling at the herbs or seeking shade beneath trees that grow out of the ground and back down again. Tiny arches providing these hardy creatures a bit of respite from the midday sun.
And then there were the experiences that will not soon be forgotten. Sitting down to lunch at taverna Michalis in the tiny village of Armeni and sampling dishes that were both familiar and foreign. My favorite Dakos – hard rusks softened by minced tomato in a light Cretan olive oil and topped with a bit of feta cheese. Lamb’s liver in a rich and savory tomato sauce that I tried but can only say I loved the sauce. And of course, the home-made wine. I’d have been happy to set up shop there for the rest of the day.
Just about to close and lock up for the day, the staff patiently awaited our late arrival. Our highly knowledgeable guide Pavlos gave us a personal tour of the factory, schooling us on the finer points of olive oil production, describing each machine, each process in complete detail.
It was a perfect day that was made only richer by seeing the area through the eyes of our guide Lefteris Nikiforakis, who was the perfect host and so much more than a “taxi tour” driver.
From start to end Lefteris was the perfect guide. He always took the time to orient us to where we were and tell us about the area’s history, myths and legends. He patiently answered all of our questions and stopped to show us things I’m sure we would have missed along the way. And, he seemed to know every variety of flora and fauna on Crete. By the time we returned I had a collection growing in the back seat of his spotless sedan.
Fluent in Greek, English and German, Lefteris offers a variety of “taxi tours” from Chania that can be personalized to suit your needs as well as airport and ferry transfers. If you are interested in booking a “taxi tour” with Lefteris, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to send your request on to him.
More about our Summer in Chania