Sep 11 2007

Our arrival in Hania

Published by at 3:38 am under Crete,Greece

Thought I’d take a step back and tell you a little about our arrival in Hania/Chania/Xania/Khania. Despite the fact that we’d determined we were going to stay in Hania for a month, we had not secured any sort of housing prior to our arrival. This was not for lack of effort — any place we were able to contact was just confused as to why we were calling them. Apparently “reservations” aren’t really done here, and we were told time and again to just show up when we arrived in Crete.

The ferry-from-hell dropped us off at Soudha Bay, about 10km east of Hania, so we hopped a bus we hoped would take us into the city. When we stepped off the bus into Hania at 6am Sunday morning we were literally homeless. Also, we had no idea where to go. So, as we’ve done for most of this trip so far, we just started walking. Finally we came across a street name that resembled the spelling of a street name on our map — a street that luckily led us into Hania’s old town. Hania is situated on the coast of Crete around a harbour. (Neat factoid: Hania is one of the longest-inhabited cities in all of Europe, according to our handy guidebook!) What is referred to as the “old town” encircles the harbour’s edge and is made of up a web of cobblestoned alleys and squares. Vines of wild grapes hang off ornate balconies above the narrow streets, small houses and shops cluster side by side along water that is crystal clear, the crumbling ruins of ancient Venetian fortresses pop up here and there. Yes, it’s pretty much paradise.

HaniaObviously, despite our lack of sleep and short tempers, Ben and I were instantly charmed upon arriving in old town and within minutes were trying to drop cities from our list of places to go to extend our stay in Hania. It became clear that finding a place to stay wasn’t going to be difficult — every other house in Hania advertises “Rooms for Rent!” Unfortunately, at this time of morning, absolutely no place was open. We wandered around the old town for what felt like hours, getting sufficiently lost, but trying to locate a few places we wanted to check out. “Wandering” is the wrong word for what we were doing as it implies leisurely meandering. A better word is “dragging.” We carried giant backpacks on our backs and lugged huge rolling suitcases behind us, no small feat on streets that are centuries old. I thought the wheels of my suitcase were going to fall off as I forced its mass over the uneven rocks. I also thought Ben was going to throw his suitcase into the harbour he got so fed up with it. The noise the suitcases made was horrific: a loud and echoing grinding (imagine putting rocks in a blender) that interrupted the morning silence and I’m sure woke up the entire city.

Just as we’d decided to squat in the middle of the street for a couple hours until the shops opened, I heard something. “Ben, do you hear… techno music?”

We followed the music until we turned a corner and discovered… an internet cafe! That was open! And playing techno!

We have determined that we are addicted to the internet. We can’t go a day without it. Basically, if I don’t know what’s going on RIGHT NOW then I am TICKED OFF. I felt a visceral relief as I sat down in front of the computer screen. Fortunately, we were able to park here and while away the hours surfing the web to our heart’s content.

When the city began to wake up, we pried ourselves from the keyboards and began to visit the few places we’d identified as desirable places to live. The first thing we discovered is that Cretan vendors, like those in Athens, are pushy. Some, when they saw us coming lugging our bags, approached us and said “room?” We’d shrug and nod and they would show us a room, assume we’d agreed to rent it, force the key into Ben’s hand and demand our passports. Quick side story: one particularly old and pushy Greek woman still heckles us every time we walk down her street. She’ll yell “ROOM!” and motion insistently that we come over. Despite the fact that we respond, “Óhi! Efharistó! Óhi!” (No! Thank you! No!) repeatedly, she has not yet stopped. Ben’s trying to figure out the Greek for, “we will rent from you… NEVER!!”

Unlike most Athenians, many Cretans do not speak English outside of a few key words, which is helpful enough for day-to-day interaction, but difficult during apartment negotiations. This made explaining that we wanted a room for one month difficult. Most balked when they finally understood, as renting a room for a month in the high season (September is the tail end of the high season) is uncommon (what? people don’t take month-long holidays? eight-month long holidays?). The language gap made bargaining even more difficult (obviously, I was getting a bulk discount!).

Our new apartmentWe had a surprising amount of success, and at the end of our hours-long search, worn out and exhausted, we had many offers to choose from that ran about 15 to 20 euros per night, thanks to our ridiculous low-balling. We were satisfied as this price is cheaper than, or equivalent to, that of the crummiest hostels. We finally chose a small apartment on the west side of the harbour, with a couple beds, a bathroom that actually had a defined shower area (in most, the “shower” is just a showerhead hooked to one wall of the bathroom), a small kitchenette, and a porch — and, thankfully, English-speaking landlords.

We’re trying to get to know our way around the city, which is hard since Hania is a maze of alleys that all look identical. So far in our explorations we’ve discovered great shops and street-long markets, and cute outdoor cafes and tavernas. We’ve yet to explore the majority of the city; this afternoon we hope to get to the local beach. The only route I’m absolutely sure of is that from the apartment to the internet cafe, so you can be sure to expect many more updates to come.

Note: Just in case you haven’t noticed, we set up a Flickr account for our photos. Visit Euros Ate My Dollars on Flickr!

NEXT: Crete’s Wild Kingdom »



2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Our arrival in Hania”

  1. Nancyon 11 Sep 2007 at 7:28 pm

    You two are terrific writers and I’m enjoying my vicarious trip to Greece. If I ever get there, I already know to avoid the cheap ferry and the meat market. Love and miss you!


  2. Allisonon 13 Sep 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Your apartment is so cute! I love the pictures. I also love having something to do at work other than, keep it coming!

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