It is only a matter of hours, and I am already deeply loving Crete. These first views of Crete are wrapping me in their wonder and taking me by surprise, and already, I don’t want to leave. Maybe, it’s because I came with no expectations. I had no time to “research” this place. But, Greece has a way of capturing my heart. And, this has just brought back all of those feelings.
It started with the plane ride in. Snow-covered mountains which I had not expected to see glistened in the sun and beckoned me to this island of olive groves, vineyards, and rolling hills. The bus ride from the airport captured my heart even more, as I saw a Greece I had not before seen on the more touristy islands of Mykonos and Santorini.
Only forty minutes away from the main touristy town of Chania, I watched as sheep grazed in people’s front yards. The dreamer in me thought about staying right here forever, making my own thick sheep’s milk yogurt, following in the paths of my father and keeping a few bees for honey, and making my own wine. The bus driver adopted me, as many people do, and made sure to point out all the things I shouldn’t miss. He didn’t really need to. My eyes, all of my senses, they missed nothing. He invited me on the bus tour to a village south (I’m not sure where), across the snow-covered mountains tomorrow, and, of course, I say yes. Crete is an island of yes, of throwing away the plans you did have, for the ones that show up in front of you, and that is why I can’t escape it.
Everything was green and lush, and after being in the desert of Mexico, the green seemed like a whole new color to me. I breathed deeply of the crisp, clean air, and the world felt new again.
I sank deeply into sleep once I reached my hotel and woke up to find that the streets of Chania had come alive. I left for an early (at 9pm) Greek dinner to see the nursery next to my hotel open and doing full business under the night sky in the coolness of the night (only fueling my gardening, sheep herding, bee keeping fantasy even more). The further I walked, the more trendy Chania became with late-night designer doughnut shops (doughnuts are the new cupcake, as well as they should be), Vespa’s, and street art guiding my steps.
Then, I stumbled into Old Town. The crumbling brick walls of the fortress were highlighted by the rising almost full moon. I gaped in awe at my view. Narrow carless alleys took place of the regular streets as Vespas and bicycles whizzed by me.
Cats ruled the night and looked at me with untrustworthy stares. I had entered another world. The streets were deserted as it is still slow season. The Greek walls weren’t much taller than me; intricate doorways made me wish for a daylight session with them and my camera.
And then I found it. The place I would dine. Portes-which means doors of course. I sat down to the hand-written menu with the specials on it, and was transported back to the world of my dreams. Dreams of silky olive oil, crisp white wine, piercingly flavorful black olives, an amazing wild fennel pie (a specialty of Chania), and tender octopus served with a version of wild asparagus called avronies became my reality.
The meal was incredible, but what made it even better was the family that owned it and the atmosphere. When I was curious about the wild asparagus, the owner went and got the freshly picked bunch from the back so I could taste it raw. A local who had been dining in the restaurant came and sat at my table and gave me his advice on Crete. This, was the perfect welcome to an amazing island.
In my delirious, lack of sleep induced state, everything seemed like paradise. I just hope I awaken tomorrow, and don’t find it was all just a dream.