A Travellerspoint blog

Chania

Out of our comfort zone and on to the Cretan roads.

sunny 30 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

(Please note the BlogWriter is having a break today - the other Idiot has the reigns)
We decided today to hit the bitumen in our bog black Hyundi Accent. It was Annie's turn to drive! We set off about 10.00am. The days are long here so no need to set off too early. We decided on advice to head to south west Crete where there is some incredible coastline and some famous beaches, one with a walk-to island. This was to be about an 8OK journey each way. The weather was just great. Sometimes getting out of Greek towns by car is a bit of a task - the streets are set out like the canals of Venice - without the water! In Chania there are many one way streets and the dual carriage streets are not much wider. The GPS is not much help as it does not recognise the restricted streets of the 'Old Town'. Despite this we managed to clear the suburbs an head west, with some strikingly beautiful vistas to the mountains and green and blue Aegean. Western Crete has some wild ranges and Gorges on the western end of the island. We initially crossed the Rodopou Peninsula - a stark monolith of rock jutting into the Aegean. We stopped at Kissamou, had a coffee and interesting conversation with a lady from the cafe. As in the past we have found the Greek people to very friendly and always happy to have a talk. You can learn a lot in 30 minutes about the mood of the people and their personal struggles with sub standard public education and a frustrating and declining health system - sound familiar? Time to head south to Elafonisi on the far south western corner of Crete. The journey was only about 30K, but a good hour and a half drive. Annie was test pilot for the best high-drive we have ever done! Throw in narrow roads and heaps of hair-pin bends, goats, vehicles parked in the strangest places and some incredible mountainside dropoffs (1500 to 2000 M) and you have a great ride. I did the viewing and and Annie concentrated on the driving! The views on this sparcely populated coastal region were just truly incredible as our pictures will show. We arrived at Efalonisi around 1.00pm and had a quick look at the beach and walk-to island and decided to have lunch up on a hill in the local taverna. We had a nice lunch with a great vista of the whole area. It was time to explore. Elafonisi is a remote area in Crete but it does not deter people comimg here. We collected up our gear and set off to the beach for a walk to the island and a dip. The landscape is spectacular with rugged mountains closely hugging the beautiful water (light blue and deep green). Add some blue sky and white clouds - perfect. We traversed the sandbar over to the island and found a perfect spot. We had a sunbake and swim for an hour or so. The water was cool! But it was an experience to remember.
The only drawback is there is only one road out of this area. So it was my turn to concentrate on driving and Annie's turn to enjoy the vista. Even though we were back tracking, the views made it worthwhile.
Once we reached the outskirts of Kissamou again we veered of the track to have a look at some of the most popular beaches in Crete. The beach at Falasarna was extensive with better sands than Elafonisi. No doubt it would be crawling with holidaymakers in a few weeks. It was time to head home back to Chania. This was about an hours drive on the 'National Road' which traverses the full length of Crete. It makes travel across the regions so much easier than the winding narrow local roads. We arrived back in Chania about 7.00 pm, but it took another hour to get to our apartment! Normally 5 minutes walk. It is here that I must explain that planning any journey in Greece must allow for a very important factor - PARKING! Because our apartment is in the 'Old Town' where there are no vehicles allowed, we have to park outside the area. Well - we arrived back just when everybody was coming into town to eat! Hence parking bays are as scarce as rocking horse poo! Well - with some perseverence some kind folk decided to leave. So at 8.00pm we arrived back to home base.
Tonight we decided to go Greek style and go out for dinner at 9.30pm! We went to a restaurant called Tamam - a former Turkish Bath (some 500 years old). We were recommended this place by our Landlady Silvia. We had a really delicious meal and Raki's to finish. At a 11.00pm it was time to lay the head down for the day.
The rugged beauty of Crete.

The rugged beauty of Crete.

Falassarna Beach - Crete.

Falassarna Beach - Crete.

Rugged terrain - photo taken as we drove by - Crete.

Rugged terrain - photo taken as we drove by - Crete.

A herd of goats on the road - Crete.

A herd of goats on the road - Crete.

Crete and the Aegean Sea in the late afternoon.

Crete and the Aegean Sea in the late afternoon.

The beach at Elifonisi - south western Crete.

The beach at Elifonisi - south western Crete.

Our little piece of Elifonisi Beach.

Our little piece of Elifonisi Beach.

The Cacti Family - outside the Tarverna at Elifonisi.

The Cacti Family - outside the Tarverna at Elifonisi.

Elifonisi Island - Crete.

Elifonisi Island - Crete.

Elifonisi Beach - south western Crete.

Elifonisi Beach - south western Crete.

Dangerous road!

Dangerous road!

Yes! We have to drive up there!

Yes! We have to drive up there!

Magnificent view of the western coastline of Crete.

Magnificent view of the western coastline of Crete.

Seaside town of Kissamou - to the west of Chania.

Seaside town of Kissamou - to the west of Chania.

Rugged coastline - on the north western side of Crete.

Rugged coastline - on the north western side of Crete.

Posted by Gibbo54 08:44 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Chania

The heart and soul of Crete.

semi-overcast 30 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

One of the drawbacks of living right in the middle of an old town is that there are bars, restaurants and cafes everywhere - and very close. So there was a bit of noise last night - but the good old ear plugs did their work and dulled things down to a point where I could sleep okay. Red told me that the noise quietened down at around midnight - so that wasn't too bad.
The sounds of the morning started probably at around 7.30pm. There was a bit of cloud around, but still lots of sun - and it was a calm and warm. Today is our day for absorbing ourselves in Chania. We left our apartment at around 9.30am and took off to have a look at this historic old town. Not too many people were around which was nice. We walked down to the sea port - that took all of 20 seconds and then walked right around the water to the other side - past the Venetian Dockyards, along the Harbour Wall to the lighthouse. This area is a photographer's dream. Beautiful! Tomorrow morning I plan to get up early and go down to the water to take some early morning shots.
We have walked all over Chania Old Town this morning and still haven't seen it all. The little streets and alleyways are like something out of a travel magazine - absolutely gorgeous!
We had some lunch at a restaurant in the middle of town and were given a complimentary Raki (similar to Ouzo) by the staff as a gesture of welcome. Thankfully it was watered down a bit otherwise I think the rest of today would have been a write-off! We've come back to our apartment for a couple of hours and are now about to hit the streets again :-).
It was around 7pm when we left our apartment - still broad daylight - all very confusing. We walked through the little streets of Chania and did some shopping for our loved ones back home. Because we'd had such a late lunch today, our dinner tonight was an icecream. I know, I know - very bad eating habits - but hey, we're on holidays! It will all stop when we get back to Perth.
It was still light when we got back home at 9 o'clock. Once it was dark I went back down to the harbour and took some photos of the port of Chania at night. It was a warm and still night and the place was still buzzing. I think that Chania is a very safe place, I don't feel intimidated walking through these alleyways at night. The atmosphere is very animated and cheerful - people are just out having a good time.
Back home again - ear plugs in (more noise tonight). I've changed my rating for our bed. Was so-so, now hard!
Quaint doorway - Chania.

Quaint doorway - Chania.

This little street is about a 20 second walk from our apartment in Chania.

This little street is about a 20 second walk from our apartment in Chania.

Our little Supermarket - Chania.

Our little Supermarket - Chania.

This is Chania!

This is Chania!

Charming Chania.

Charming Chania.

A photographer's heaven - Chania.

A photographer's heaven - Chania.

The back view of the old Venitian Dockyards - Chania.

The back view of the old Venitian Dockyards - Chania.

Chania's Lighthouse.

Chania's Lighthouse.

The old Venitian Dockyards in Chania.

The old Venitian Dockyards in Chania.

Pleasurecraft docked in Chania's port.

Pleasurecraft docked in Chania's port.

Selfie - Red and Anne on the Promenade at Chania.

Selfie - Red and Anne on the Promenade at Chania.

The beautiful port of Chania.

The beautiful port of Chania.

Cafes and restaurants line the promenade at Chania.

Cafes and restaurants line the promenade at Chania.

Chania - basking in the sun.

Chania - basking in the sun.

Once a mosque - now a community building - Chania.

Once a mosque - now a community building - Chania.

A simple life - Chania's Venetian Harbour.

A simple life - Chania's Venetian Harbour.

Another view from our balcony - Chania.

Another view from our balcony - Chania.

An evening view of Chania.

An evening view of Chania.

Locals and tourists out for a meal in Chania.

Locals and tourists out for a meal in Chania.

Standing at the front door of our apartment in Chania - looking up.

Standing at the front door of our apartment in Chania - looking up.

If you expand this photo - you'll see a panaorama shot of Chania.

If you expand this photo - you'll see a panaorama shot of Chania.

Posted by Gibbo54 06:51 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Chania

Stepping back in time.

sunny 28 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

Just before 5am this morning - for just a couple of seconds we heard quite a loud noise and felt a jolt. I thought it was Red bumping in to the furniture in the dark - but no. It was an earth tremor - yes, it's all happening here! It seems that wherever we go, trouble follows!
There was an earth tremor recorded in the Athens area - about 24 kms out of the city - measuring 4.7 on the Richter Scale, and occurred 5 kms below the earth's surface. Only a small one, but all the same it was weird and a bit scary - because at the time we weren't sure what it was or if there was more to follow. Quite a vulnerable feeling.
There was no going back to sleep after that so we got up and sorted ourselves out - leaving the hotel at about 6.15am - and walking across the road to the Departures section of Athens Airport. It was great staying here - a good hotel (Sofitel) and really convenient for an early getaway.
Up until now we've not had any problems with baggage and weights etc. Until today! The lady on the desk was training someone and she went by the book! Red's case was a couple of kilos over and she asked if we could make the bag lighter by taking out 2 kilos worth of "stuff". All this at the Check-In counter. Then she asked us to place our cabin baggage on the scales. This is a small suitcase with wheels suitable to put in the overhead locker in the plane. The allowance is 7 kilos. I started to panic, thinking - it's more than 7 kilos. I've been wheeling it around for weeks - ever since we bought it in Istanbul to put all our gifts and bits and pieces for home. On the scales it went -15 kilos!! Bloody hell! We had to check it in as normal baggage - 20 Euros. Not too bad I suppose. We had been thinking of sending things home - which would have cost a whole lot more. We've got one more flight to worry about - from Heraklion to Milan, and after that we'll be home and hosed because Qatar allow us 30 kilos each - but only 7 kilos in the cabin. Something tells me we'll be spreading the load a bit.
We flew the short distance to the island of Crete - and Chania (pronounced Harnia) - it took about 45 minutes. We arrived here just after 9am to a gorgeous day - Crete is quite a barren but beautiful island. We were met at the airport by a guy from a car rental company who whisked Red away to carry out the paperwork for our car hire. Yes, for the first time in our lives we're going to drive a left hand drive car on the right hand side of the road!
The distance from the airport to Chania Old Town is 16 kilometres - 16 long kilometres - with traffic increasing the closer we got to the town. Red was driving and I was trying to navigate from our tablet looking at a screen shot of a map - with blurred street names that were in Greek anyway. We were sticking to the speed limit (didn't dare do anything else!). Cars were passing us on double lines, scooters were everywhere, people on push bikes. One way streets, crowded two way streets - Oh! Get us out of here!!!
Finally! We made it to the parking area right on the water that is close to our apartment. "Stressful" is not a word that I would use for this experience. "Heart attack material" is getting closer. I've been fairly careful not to swear in this blog, for fear of offending any readers, but if I was going to swear or blaspheme at any point in this journal - then this would be it!! However - I will leave it all unsaid :-) !
Red stayed with the car and I took off on foot (tablet in hand) looking for our apartment - hopefully just a short distance away. I found it without too much trouble and was met by our lovely landlady Silvia (she is Italian and married to a Greek). What a gorgeous place this is - Chania is charm itself.
I went back to the car and Red and I then towed all our luggage from the car park to the ground floor of our apartment. It wasn't going to be ready until 1pm so we were able to leave everything with Silvia and we then went off exploring this beautiful little town.
The weather was just stunning - sunny and about 28 degrees. We were in jeans and joggers, so were quite uncomfortable and felt slightly out of place. We went to the old Market and had some lunch there, bought a gift for each of our little girls and found a supermarket to do some food shopping. Now that we have a car (oh no - I don't want to think about it) we can spread ourselves out and won't have to contain everything in our suitcases.
After a couple of hours we eventually found our way back to our apartment - it's easy to get lost in the maze of alleyways - but good fun because the shops are just AWESOME! We are on the second floor of this little building. There is only one apartment on each of floors 1, 2 and 3. It's pretty comfortable - bed is so so. We have two little balconies - each one is barely big enough to house the two of us.
So, we've just had a quiet afternoon. This is our chill out time. Almost 6 weeks away now and we are feeling our age! Red had a snooze for a while and I've been madly tapping away at this journal - getting things up to date.
We had an easy tea tonight - just baked beans on toast. This was really nice - to have something basic, after all our meals out.
We didn't take the camera out today and I've just now taken a photo tonight from our balcony. So just the one photo below. However!
Tomorrow will be different!
Night view from our balcony in Chania's Old Town.

Night view from our balcony in Chania's Old Town.

Posted by Gibbo54 07:00 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Athens

Making the most of limited time!

sunny 26 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

One thing that I discovered this morning is that it's daylight at 4.25am! Not enough sleep! We raced around our apartment and were downstairs at 5am with our bags. The taxi was waiting for us - thank goodness. About a half hour journey out to Budapest Airport - we took off on time for Munich - with Lufthansa, a pretty good airline. After an orange juice and a giant choc chip cookie (oh my stomach!), we arrived at Munich and had a short 40 minute stopover before taking another flight to Athens. Redmond and I - feeling like dead dogs right now!
The weather in Munich when we arrived this morning was raining and 7 degrees, the forecast for Athens is sunny and 26 degrees. Maybe we can finally pull out the shorts and T-shirts.
Little shivers of excitement - we are back in Greece. Love this country!
Getting off the plane we felt the warm air - ahhhhhh! It is a beautiful day! When we originally booked just a night in Athens on our way to Chania it was for a reason. We were last here in 2010 and on the day that we were going up to the Acropolis - there was a general strike in Athens, and the Acropolis was closed to everyone. We couldn't believe our bad luck as this was the only day that we were here and we missed out on seeing Athens main attraction. We had actually been up there 10 years ago - but really wanted to see it again. Today we did.
We arrived at Athens Airport at 12pm and checked in to the Sofitel Hotel at the airport - about a 1 minute walk from the Arrivals section. At 1.15pm we walked to the Airport Metro train station and caught the train in to the centre of Athens. This is our third time in Athens, so we are getting to know our way around fairly well.
It's about a 50 minute train ride, but we weren't deterred! We arrived at Syntagma Square, changed trains and travelled the 1 station to Akropoli. We walked up the hill and all the stairs and spent the next 2 hours walking around this amazing site - which looks out over Athens.
What a sight! We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day - and the city of Athens, with it's white, cream and tan coloured houses, apartments and buildings - lay before us, basking in the sun under a stunning blue sky.
After we had taken scores and scores of photos and had walked all around the Acropolis site, we came back down on to ground level and had a trundle through the little streets, ending up in Monasteraki about an hour later. We had an early dinner there - Souvlaki and a Heineken each. We marvelled at how much can change in a day - at that same time yesterday we were on top of a bus travelling through the city of Budapest - and here we were tonight, having dinner and mixing with people in a different country. Mind boggling - and exhausting!
We made the trip back to our hotel on the train - the sun and beer has taken it's effect on us. Glad to get home to our hotel room. An early night tonight - the bed is comfy (YES!). We are shattered - but happy - a brilliant day!
Monastiraki in the late afternoon in Athens.

Monastiraki in the late afternoon in Athens.

At the end of our visit to the Acropolis. Brilliant afternoon.

At the end of our visit to the Acropolis. Brilliant afternoon.

The restoration continues. The lighter stone in the wall fits perfectly with the orginal.

The restoration continues. The lighter stone in the wall fits perfectly with the orginal.

The Porch of the Caryatids. These ladies are replicas - the originals are in the Acropolis Museum at the foot of the Acropolis itself.

The Porch of the Caryatids. These ladies are replicas - the originals are in the Acropolis Museum at the foot of the Acropolis itself.

Red in front of the Parthenon.

Red in front of the Parthenon.

Selfie - Athens in the background.

Selfie - Athens in the background.

Red and Anne at the Acropolis - Athens.

Red and Anne at the Acropolis - Athens.

Lykavittos Hill - Athens. There is a tiny church at the very top.

Lykavittos Hill - Athens. There is a tiny church at the very top.

The Acropolis Museum in the foreground - Athens in the background. The Museum is innovative and absolutely absorbing - it cost 130 million euros to build.

The Acropolis Museum in the foreground - Athens in the background. The Museum is innovative and absolutely absorbing - it cost 130 million euros to build.

The Parthenon - Athens.

The Parthenon - Athens.

Renovations on the Parthenon are constant.

Renovations on the Parthenon are constant.

Looking back at the entrance to the Acropolis - Athens.

Looking back at the entrance to the Acropolis - Athens.

The mighty columns of the Acropolis - Athens. Work started on the Acropolis roughly 2,500 years ago.

The mighty columns of the Acropolis - Athens. Work started on the Acropolis roughly 2,500 years ago.

The Acropolis - against a beautiful blue sky.

The Acropolis - against a beautiful blue sky.

Part of the Theatre of Herodes Atticus - in the grounds of the Acropolis.

Part of the Theatre of Herodes Atticus - in the grounds of the Acropolis.

Our first glympse of the Acropolis.

Our first glympse of the Acropolis.

Posted by Gibbo54 11:32 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Budapest

What a difference the sun makes.

all seasons in one day 20 °C
View Red and Annie's European Journey on Gibbo54's travel map.

Our final day in this fantastic city - it is obvious that quite a few attractions are going to remain unseen by the Gibbos on this trip. We'll stay longer next time.
Mid morning we caught the Metro down to Deak Ter (means Square) and hopped on our bus to go to the Royal Palace. Budapest was once 2 towns and is still referred to as both Buda and Pest when talking about different areas in the city. The Danube River (called Duna by the Hungarians) basically cuts Budapest in half. Buda is on one side - hilly, green and home to the Royal Palace, Fisherman's Bastion, Matthias Church, the Citadel - to name a few. Pest is on the other side - flat and as well as housing the magnificent Parliament Building and St. Peter's Basilica - is known as the business and shopping district.
We had to take the same route as yesterday to get to the Royal Palace which was a bit frustrating - as it took forever and then started raining, so we had to go downstairs in the bus to get undercover. We finally got there and had some lunch straight away. We then walked all over the place - outside the Royal Palace and then down to the Fisherman's Bastion (so called because the Bastion was originally built in what was a fishing town), and the gorgeous Matthias Church which has a multicoloured ceramic tiled roof - like the one in Zagreb. The views of Budapest here on the side of the hill were spectacular - the "wow" factor definitely present here. It was a shame that the weather was really overcast - we could hear thunder in the distance. We were lucky though that it didn't rain.
We walked down the hill and struck it lucky again - got straight on to our bus. Off again at the Margaret Bridge. This bridge takes a turn in the middle - right coming from the Buda side, left coming from the Pest side. Right smack in the middle of the bridge offers a great view of straight up the Danube River with numerous bridges and famous landmarks on either side of the river.
The "Sun God" was smiling on us - and we were treated to beautiful sunshine - which allowed us to take some great photos. We must have 40 photos of the Parliament Building! The Margaret Bridge actually has a road running off it which takes people to Margaret Island - a little oasis in the middle of the Danube River. This is a really popular spot for the locals - a venue for kids playing soccer etc. and as our landlady Andrea later told us - is popular for nude sunbaking in the summer.
Onward we walked - back on the Pest side of the city, right alongside the Parliament Building, passed a Protest Rally in the streets. We couldn't work out what it was about - it was in the Hungarian language, but there seemed to be an equal amount of applause and "booing".
We visited the absolutely beautiful St. Peter's Basilica. It was late at this point - around 5pm so we weren't able to walk the steps up to the Dome. Not to worry, just going inside was wonderful. Despite hundreds of people inside - half of them tourists - it was calming and peaceful. Then outside in the beautiful Square in front of the Basilica were people displaying as much skin as possible - sun baking on the steps. Not impressed! Respect guys - respect!
We walked our way back to Deak Ter and after about 5 minutes - got on our bus to take us back up Andrassy Avenue and to home. We missed our stop (Oktogon) and had to keep going right up to the top of the Avenue to Heroes Square. I think it was meant to happen though because we were able to take some stunning photos up there - better than yesterday. Even though there were clouds around - the sun was shining - spectacular!
We had a coffee at an Eco Cafe not far from our apartment - and finally made our way home to start packing for our early departure tomorrow morning. Andrea visited us at about 8.30pm to return our deposit. She ordered a taxi to pick us up at 5am - OMG!
Heroes Square - in the sun!

Heroes Square - in the sun!

Some of the statues at Heroes Square - Budapest.

Some of the statues at Heroes Square - Budapest.

The sun amidst storm clouds - Budapest.

The sun amidst storm clouds - Budapest.

Selfie - driving up Andrassy Avenue on top of a bus!

Selfie - driving up Andrassy Avenue on top of a bus!

St. Peter's Basilica - Budapest.

St. Peter's Basilica - Budapest.

The exquisite altar in St. Peter's Basilica - Budapest.

The exquisite altar in St. Peter's Basilica - Budapest.

St. Peter's Basilica - taken from a nearby park.

St. Peter's Basilica - taken from a nearby park.

Budapest's Parliament Building - basking in the afternoon sun.

Budapest's Parliament Building - basking in the afternoon sun.

The bend in the Margaret Bridge - Budapest.

The bend in the Margaret Bridge - Budapest.

St. Peter's Basilica - Budapest.

St. Peter's Basilica - Budapest.

Statue of an eagle outside the Royal Palace - Budapest.

Statue of an eagle outside the Royal Palace - Budapest.

The colours of Matthias Church - Budapest.

The colours of Matthias Church - Budapest.

Budapest's dramatic weather.

Budapest's dramatic weather.

Selfie - taken from the Fishermans Bastion. In between our heads - the Parliament Building.

Selfie - taken from the Fishermans Bastion. In between our heads - the Parliament Building.

Fishermans Bastion - Budapest.

Fishermans Bastion - Budapest.

The beautiful Matthias Church - Budapest.

The beautiful Matthias Church - Budapest.

Changing of the Guard - Royal Palace Budapest.

Changing of the Guard - Royal Palace Budapest.

The Chain Bridge, the Danube River, St. Peter's Basilica - Budapest.

The Chain Bridge, the Danube River, St. Peter's Basilica - Budapest.

Posted by Gibbo54 11:22 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

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