Rocky Road to Rethymnon
Posted by Exile on June 10, 2008
Rethymnon lies about 90 kilometers to the east from Chania. One drives out of Chania toward Souda and then picks up the new National Road. Built with EU funding, this new road replaces the old winding mountain trail of a road that otherwise connected the two cities. The old road may be more interesting to drive, but it certainly presents a challenge for the inexperienced driver on Crete. The new road was carved out of the mountains and millions of tons of rock had to be moved to build it. It follows the coast line at varying distances and is a pretty drive. Flowering bushes line the hard shoulders all along the route.
We stopped halfway to Rethymnon for lunch. Turning off the main road we climbed into the mountains and found a taverna run by an English woman and her Greek husband. Lunch was good but the place was under reconstruction so the general peace and quiet that should be found in such places was a bit lacking. The view however, was spectacular. The Cretan mountains are a sight to be seen and one could see a lot of them from where we sat.
Finding our hotel in Rethymnon was surprisingly easy. I had expected to have to drive round a bit to find it but it was signposted on the main drag into the town. A four star hotel yes, but, unfortunately, only one star food. We were destined to stay here for 3 days, dinner included. I couldn’t face the tasteless food and the equally tasteless restaurant on the third night there, so we sprang dinner over and ate in the town. Rethymnon is also a city that grew up around its Venetian harbour. A natural deep water harbour, it is now ringed by restaurants and bars and the fish in the harbour are used to being fed by the patrons of these restaurants who sit precariously close to the edge of the harbour wall. Put so that everyone can understand it, if I had gotten up from my chair and stepped in the wrong direction, I would have been in the drink! A six foot drop into thirty feet of water.
The “old town” is as old as Chania and equally as intimate. Small alleys and streets, lots of tourist traps, bars, tavernas and busy people. The seafront is dominated by the Fortezza, the fort which defended the townsfolk from all comers until the Turkish invasion. The Turks built another mosque here within the confinements of the fort but I have no idea what it is used as now. The building still exists but we didn’t visit it.
We contented ourselves with more shopping, sightseeing, wandering through small streets and enjoying the bohemian atmosphere of the town. Long lunches in Greek taverns, quick stops for cool drinks and more of those long evenings in the cool after sunset.
After three days in Rethymnon, we packed our bags again and loaded up the jeep. We set off for the last seven days of our holiday, to Agio Pelagios, a place we found six years ago, near the city of Heraklion. We had friends there once, and I was determined to find them again if it was at all possible.