The beaches of Crete. There are thousands of books about them. A rainy winter day in Chania? I doubt there’s one. And yet you would have a hard time convincing me that the latter is any less beautiful than the former.
One of the lovely things about wintertime Chania is that you pretty much have the whole place to yourself. It’s your own little playground. Your own contemplation chamber. I’ve invoked the gods more than once in this space, and I’ll do it again frequently. It could be no other way. You feel them coming for you in billowing, churning black skies. You feel them in the whipping wind and the endless expanses of the Sea of Crete.
And as you wander through the alleyways of the Old Town, built by the Venetians during the years of their occupation of 1205 to 1669, you really imagine what it might have been like to be there. Oh, it’s not a perfect equivalence, of course. Much has changed. But it is precisely on these quiet, empty, wintry days that the oldest spirits come out to haunt the city anew.
One gets a similar sensation over in the Splantzia area which has many landmarks left by the Turks following their years of occupation, 1669 to 1897.
It’s a wonder that so much is left. The local people only recently, in recent decades, have begun to look upon the Venetian and Turkish legacies as positive influences on the city. For a large part of the 20th century they would just knock down old structures to use the stones for new construction. In this way large sections of the Byzantine and Venetian walls around the city have been lost (some of which are now being restored). An old outdoor theater was completely lost in this way.
But whatever has been lost, much has been retained. And it is all there for you alone on a wet, wintry day.
Text and photos © John Freedman, 2020.