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March 27, 2006

Our first 'home' in Hania

20060327cWe reached Pension Orio, and found the door was open. There were instructions to phone reception, so Claire did, to be told that someone would see us. There was some shuffling from upstairs and gradually we heard someone making their way down the very narrow spiral staircase.

Although it looked to have some rustic charm, the room we were waiting in felt very cold and damp, and I said to Claire "I've got a bad feeling about this". The building was very narrow, and I didn't really see how you could fit one sizeable apartment in it, let alone the two or three it boasted.

The woman who emerged from the staircase seemed nice enough, and explained that she was cleaning our room, and that we could leave our stuff there and come back later. We made our way up the stairs with some difficulty, as laden with backpacks we barely squeezed through and had little room to manoeuvre. When I reached the top of the stairs and turned to go into the room, the look on Claire's face said all I needed to know. The place was awful.

We didn't see it at its best advantage, with a cot tucked into the corner and dirty washing up all over the place, but it was tiny and cramped, with the bed filling most of the available floor space. The cooking facilities looked minimal, Claire hated the bathroom, and the bed had a hideous lace-curtain canopy around it, which shrunk the size of the room even further. We picked up our day-bags, and left the building absolutely shell-shocked at what was to be our first home in Hania - and the longest stay in any one place since leaving Claire's parents in Doha.

We went down to the western side of the harbour, and sat on the sea wall. Claire was quite mortified that she had chosen and booked the place. With the emotions of the day, and the fact that we had both had so little sleep and so much travelling over the previous 48 hours weighing on us, it was a very low moment on our trip.

Still, you have to pick yourself up and look on the bright side, and since there was a man scrubbing an octopus on the rocks at the sea's edge, a little boat a few metres out from the shore fishing, the sun was shining, and we could see the white mountains risings behind Hania to the south, we couldn't stay feeling sorry for ourselves for long, and decided to go exploring.

After an hour wandering around our new home, we got back to the apartment just as the woman had finished cleaning. The effect didn't do much to undo our first impressions. There were some really odd things in the room. Hanging above the sink and cooker unit was a display of a small picture of cherries with broken glass in the frame, and a corkscrew, and a pan with a burnt bottom. The TV was on a bracket on the wall, and looked like it hadn't been dusted since the introduction of colour television. We had some cubby-holes in the wall which acted as shelves, with some reading material supplied. This included such exciting things as a copy of Woman's Weekly New Zealand from 2005, and the Crete telephone directory in Greek.

On the plus side it wasn't quite as bad as the Do Step Inn in Vienna, by which all accommodation on our trip has subsequently been judged. For a start there was actually a window, with a view of the mountains. The tiny bathroom was en suite, and there was at least the promise of hot water. We also had access to a balcony at the front of the building, which, apart from the fact that the wooden flooring felt in danger of imminent collapse at any given moment, had a lovely view of the sea and the old Venetian harbour.

Being tired and a bit over-emotional we both decided we needed a bit of a nap, and as we lay in bed I tried to make it less claustrophobic by pulling back the curtains around the bed, revealing to Claire for the first time the little make-up table and mirror on my side of the bed. "Oh great", she said, referring to the table 'decoration': "We've got some dead twigs in a jug."

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