Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chania Old Town, Crete

Chania is the most populous town in western Crete. It's been home to a significant population since neolithic times. When Knossos was destroyed in the Bronze Age, Chania became the main city on the island. The city started to decline under Arab occupation, but then rebounded when the Venetians took over in 1290. It became so prosperous that they called it "the Venice of the East." The Turks occupied the land from 1646 to 1898. With Cretan independence, Chania became the capital of Crete and remained so until 1971. The result of this historical mishmash is a city full of many influences. We had fun exploring the city one morning. We parked just outside the old city walls and soon found a fountain to J's liking.

Fountain in Chania

The old Venetian Wall

The star attraction of Chania is the harbor area, featuring Arab and Venetian influences. The harbor was fortified by the Venetians. Part of the fortification is a lighthouse by the harbor mouth.
The harbor has since been rebuilt with modern buildings

Harbor entrance with the lighthouse

The harbor has the remains of the Mosque of Janissaries, which looked like it was being rebuilt. It was built in 1645 when the Turks took over. This mosque's minaret was destroyed during the World War II bombing. Later, on one of the side streets we found a different minaret that L assumed was Rapunzel's tower.

Mosque of the Janissaries

Mid-town Minaret

Near the mosque is another building that was bombed out by the Germans during World War II. Why they haven't repaired it wasn't clear from the sign. The building was built into the original Venetian wall surrounding the harbor area.

World War II damage

A maze of streets fans out from the central harbor with plenty of cafes, bars, shops, and history to satisfy any wandering curious person. We stopped in one place that specialized in baked goods. We had three varieties of cookies: chocolate, rosemary, and nut. We also had a fabulous pastry with pralines which was the parents' favorite. After we were done eating, the proprietors offered us some small tastes of fresh baklava. Both the generosity and the baklava were outstanding.

Picking a seat on the street

Yummiest snack ever?

Yikes, an American TV bar!

Colorful side street

Nice buildings with some old brown walls showing through

Buildings with a lot of character

Another popular spot in town is the Agora, which is the covered market in the middle of town. The market has little restaurants, fish merchants, butchers, bakers, fruit sellers, and even some touristy knickknack shops. We had lunch here at one little restaurant that seemed quite full (the one next to it was virtually empty). The restaurant is called Tavern Agapinis. The young man who was waiter and assistant chef invited us in and said all the food was locally grown or raised and the olive oil was from trees in their village. His mom was the cook. We sat down to a delightful lunch. I had a chicken leg with roasted potatoes baked in an olive oil/lemon sauce. My wife had the beef and pasta. The kids had spaghetti. It was wonderful.

Inside the Agora

Outside the Agora

As we were leaving, one of the older ladies at a shop said hello to L. L was too shy to respond. She offered L some shelled almonds. L politely demurred. I accepted the snack on the family's behalf. The lady said she had two children, both boys. "No girl!" she cried in mock sorrow. She said we had beautiful children. We thanked her and were on our way.

Chania also has a nice playground, which we will see in the next post.

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