Wandering in Chania, Crete

The day after Santorini, we arrived in Crete.

I never thought I’d visit Crete in my lifetime, and wasn’t sure what to expect, but Chania turned out to be my favorite port we visited. I certainly felt and saw the mix of influences here in Crete’s second largest city, from its old Venetian and Turkish buildings, and doors and shutters and narrow alleyways that reminded me of both Florence and Valletta. We visited on a day where most shops and restaurants were closed because of a strike, while people were also in mourning over the passing of a former Greek prime minister.

As we wandered, I kept thinking about my AP art history studies in high school — our unit on the Minoans in particular. It was so long ago, but that class remains the most challenging, stimulating, and enjoyable academic experience of my life, and I was delighted that this trip to Europe as a whole reminded me of that year. It’s obvious to say, but I love when parts of my life come full circle while traveling: when I realize how much time has passed, how much I’ve grown and changed, but also how much I’ve forgotten.

It’s strange but nice to visit a place I’ve never been that conjures memories and thoughts that could only resurface right then and there — as if a new city unlocks something within you, and that inner experience is now part of your relationship to it.

And that’s enough half-formed musings for now . . .

Along the waterfront in Chania, near the Maritime Museum.
View of Chania’s waterfront, with the Venetian lighthouse in the distance.
Wandering one of the shaded, quiet alleyways in the beautiful Topanas district.
An old facade and door with crackling paint in the Topanas district.
A notice on May 31, 2017, on the door of one of the shops in town. Nearly all businesses and restaurants were closed due to a strike.
Because of the strike, most restaurants were closed, like this one next to Trimartiri cathedral.
It was relatively quiet on the streets of the Topanas district, which made the neighborhood even lovelier to stroll.
We found an open restaurant in an old, roofless building called Mesostrato, which was set in a cute, shaded courtyard.
Another shot of the waterfront, taken near the Nautical Museum.
Just one of many beautiful doors spotted in town.

Most of these photos were taken with my iPhone 7 (two waterfront photos were taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC‑LX100). A few were originally posted on Instagram — follow me there @cherilucasrowlands.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

I am an editor at Longreads. For over a decade, I've worked on curation, editing, and storytelling projects across Automattic, including WordPress.com.

18 thoughts on “Wandering in Chania, Crete

  1. Gorgeous pics as always. I enjoy your comment about linking your AP class to the reality of a place. Being a French native and knowing Europe pretty well I never thought much about history when I lived there. History was everywhere, in front of my eyes, under my feet, within reach. Then I moved to the US, such a new land in comparison. History felt less palpable. I had to explore to find it. But when I did everything I had learned at school rushed to my memory and everything made much more sense. So I’m happy for you that you felt the same way in Crete. Even with the strike going on. Such a familiar European signature 🙂

  2. They’re beautiful!
    I loved reading what you had to say as well. It goes to show, like you mentioned, how things come back full circle. I’m a mythology fanatic and these photographs made me love the place even more. I do hope to go there someday, and hopefully, it unlocks something within me too. 🙂

  3. What stunning images you’ve captured, Cheri — and what wonderful writing to accompany them. Pity about the strike, though. It goes to show that survival can be difficult even in some of the most beautiful places on earth.

  4. Beautiful photos. And as usual, beautiful words.

    I spent 5 happy days in Chania in 2006. I wandered out to the lighthouse and peered back at the town through pieces of broken bottle, marvelling at what the light was doing to my eyes. (There’s something about the clarity of light in the Greek islands – I think Byron said something about it at some point.) I was also transfixed by the wider view – my hotel room was on the third floor, and I had a balcony view of the mountains in the south. Knocked the breath right out of me. And the restaurant next to the cathedral? I had dinner there one night.

    I like that our tracks have crossed like this. The world is not so big.

    1. Mike! So nice to see you here and read your words. Yes, I like how our tracks cross like this, although it’d be nice for our paths to really intersect again sometime — when was that day in the pub near St. Pancras . . . 2011?

      I’d love to spend more time in Crete and the rest of the Greek islands. But while the world in some ways is not so big, as you said, it is big enough in that there are too many places to see. So, I’m not sure when I’d find myself back there, but I’m glad to have had the chance to explore, especially with my parents, even if for a short time.

      1. Amen to that. Yes, 2011. Six years since you blew in out of the rain and cold in that pub. And was it the following year we explored the riot of colour called Neal’s Yard? To both of you I say: too long. Way, way too long.

        Alas, the world is big enough, as you say, and even Greece is too big and fascinating to linger anywhere for long. That said, I’m hoping to live in Athens for a wee while, maybe a month or two next year. I’ve always had a dream of writing the draft of a book while in Athens. The dream feels increasingly urgent. So if that happens and you’re both hitting vacation time – that might be fun. 🙂

        Also, I was so thrilled to see your name and Candace’s name on the same page on something really fantastic. Internet: conquered.

  5. Est-ce que c’est que l’île de Santorin est le plus beau lieu de la Grèce ? Dans tous les cas, les photos respirent la sérénité de la Mer et la beauté de l’architecture.

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