Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hi from an internet cafe in Chania, funky music within and bright sun outside. Here's some notes from the wayside:
We arrived in Chania in Lent and find the town uncurling like a feral cat, readying for the season ahead. In fact the stray cat image feels a good one - it fits the tawny tones of the buildings in the sun and also certain abjectness despite its charm. In our 8 days here we've met some really great people - friendly & informative (everyone here can respond in near-immaculate English to our halting Greek phrases) and had a fascinating time wandering the old town and harbour but there seems an undercurrent of cultural pain half-hidden under the daytime picturesque glamour and the nighttime glitz. You don't have to examine the museums to realise these peoples' identity is bound up with their long history of invasions. Arabs, Byzantines, Venetians, Turks, they came in turn to brutalise Chania, and then the Germans bombed it. Ruined buildings rubble spills from every alley, romanticised by crown daisies and chamomile but the aura of dereliction persists.
And the next wave of incursion is us, the tourists. It's shaming to see huge hoardings in English urging cheap holiday homes for sale, built haphazardly on these lovely headlands, and fly-posters in Greek protesting "Trees not cement." Garbage homes, our landlord Alex calls them; he's despairing of the adminstrative lack of foresight that's allowing the ruination of this beautiful land.

But that's only one side of it. There's a lot more to do here than sombre pondering. I'm writing an article on travelling on a budget and Peter has made contact with the Agrokiepiou, a research garden for Crete's endangered plants. We're doing loads of walking - the wild flowers are fantastic, persian-rugging wasteland right to the rockiest coastal rim. We've been beachcombing for ceramic debris along the old Minoan ramparts. We've tasted stewed wild greens with an organic campainer and watched Greece beat Malta with the souvlaki bar regulars. We've watched dawn behind the minaret and sunset over the sea.
We've searched out places which are comfortably untouristy (not ethno-snobbery: just that we're not dressed to promenade & don't have the funds for the 4-language-menu restaurants) and we pad around our favourite patches as well as exploring.
And our apartment is brilliant: cheap, clean, and spacy, with a sunny balcony and surprising number of mod.cons - like hot & cold air conditioning,50 channel TV, and - bliss - a hairdryer. We've got the use of a little gaz stove and the local shop is cheap'n'cheerful, as is the souvlaki bar next door. And of course we've splashed out a bit too... The weather's been variably warm but blue skies predominate; fingers crossed cerulean rules for lap 2. We're heading next for the south coast, to spend Easter week in Plakias.

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