well, really have to finish up what we did on Crete. The day before we left we rented a car (VW Polo) and decided to drive west from HERAKLION. First, we just took our time and stopped frequently to see the many different views of slopping hills, islands in the distance, terraced plantings. Then, looking at the time, stepped on the gas! Mostly just two lane roads with enough room on the side for slower cars to stay out of the way for the many speedy drivers. We read that Greece has the highest driving fatality rate of any European country!! we understand why.
Came to Rythemnon. Very old city – well sort of since the whole island and civilization was wiped out by a tsunami. When the volcano in Santorini erupted it created a 100 meter high wave that distroyed Crete. The old town is many, many very narrow lanes with shops and restaurants side by side. It was like a labyrinth. Saw a very old gate from 2000 bc, beautiful fountain with water still running. The lanes were mostly cobblestone.
Then on to Hania (Chania), very similar with many very narrow lanes and old buildings. The port was spectacular, with an round inlet with restaurants all along the sides, very Venetian. Well, that too isn’t too much of a surprise, the Venetians conquered Greece too along with the Menoans, Ottomans. In fact, Greece was not independent until 20th century – surpised us to learn this.
Took high speed ferry to Thira, the new port city on Saturday. Had made hotel reservation (using Lonely Planet Guidebook) in Firostefani (next to Fira, the largest city on island). They picked us up from the port!! Had to walk up another narrow lane (no car access) to get to the hotel. Very nice room (Hotel Sofia) with swimming pool, real double bed and soft pillows! And, a balcony!!
Right next door is an Italian Restaurant (ate there this evening), a Sushi restaurant last night (called Ginger, #1 rated on Island), the night before a Greek place called Mama Thera – all within 100 meters.
so the day we go here were going to walk into town, but uphill looked more interesting so headed up the hill on pedestrian route and ended up winding through residential area intermingled with hotels and restaurants and very few shops. Everywhere though we see chapels and churches, very typical with brilliant blue rounded domes. (in fact, there is one right next to our hotel and on Sunday morning the bells rang at 7:15 am waking us up and sounding like in our room). So up the hill we go and finally see a copper red outcropping of rock that we have to first climb down 10’s of steps and then back up to get close to it.
On Sunday we had signed up for a sailing trip to start at 10 am. they picked us up from our hotel and were joined by 8 other people. We sailed toward one of the uninhabited islands created by the eruption (which is still going on, with daily seismic activiy), stopping to jump in the Aegean Sea – chilly at first but then very nice, extremely salty making it easy to float. In fact, we stopped several times to swim including in some "hot" springs where the water was very rust red; actually didn’t feel too hot until we swam back to the boat and then the sea felt very cold. This was followed by an onboard barbeque of shrimp, calimari, chicken, pork, vegis – and they freely poured wine and beer. Slept on the way back.
In the late afternoon we took a local bus (they are so fancy, like regular tour buses with air conditioning, covered seats, etc) to OIA (pronounced E – AH). It’s at furthest northern part of the island and "the" place to watch the sun set. it was also the place where every tourist from every cruise ship goes, not our cup of tea. It was beautiful to see the views though.
Today we took a bus to Pyrgos to walk roundtrip 6 miles to the monastery, the highest spot on the island. we could clearly see the caldera created by the volcano.