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July 25, 2006

A day trip to Paleohora

Paleohoraus On Saturday Claire and I got the 10:30 bus from Hania for a day out to Paleohora on the south coast. In some ways this wasn't the best bus to catch - the 10:30 goes via Kissamos-Kastelli, which takes it quite a way out of the usual route to Paleohora. It did mean though that Claire got a glimpse of Kissamos-Kastelli which I had visited earlier in the week.

The upside of taking this bus was that the route goes alongside one of Crete's spectacular gorges for several km, and at one point the road disappears into a single-file tunnel through the mountainside that is barely big enough to take the bus. The downside was that the journey took over two hours, and we both ended up feeling a bit motion sick and claustrophobic in the bus. And started getting annoyed with everyone around us - particularly a German guy in front who seemed to spend the entire journey - well at least half an hour - trying to orientate himself on this giant fold-out map of Crete. I ended up with a burning urge to scream at him "Just put the map down and actually look at the countryside!"

However, we managed to get off the bus without killing anybody, and had a little stroll, immediately finding ourselves on a wonderful beach and promenade. Paleohora already seemed lovely, and we had a gentle walk by the sea. We stopped at a place called "The Water's Edge Cafe" for a frappe with Baileys, and took in the views of the mountains and out across the ocean.

Paleohorabeach Paleohora is on a peninsula, with Pahia Halikia (Pebble Beach) facing east, and Pahia Ammos (Sandy beach) facing west. We decided to walk around the peninsula, which took us the furthest south we have been on the island. Once you get around to the other side of the sandier beach looked absolutely gorgeous. There was a well organised game of handball going on, with a little wooden stand for the crowd and everything. It wasn't a day for lazing on the beach though - the wind was really whipping the sand up and stinging our faces, so we dipped our toes in the sea and then retreated.

Paleohora is a maze of small streets, and it all seems very attuned to tourism. We got chased around by the same old man touting his €15 room to us, and the majority of the shops and tavernas looked geared up for guests. Despite it being quite high season now, it didn't feel that crowded however.

Paleohorafortress One of the attractions in Paleohora is a new museum, dedicated to the history of living on the edge of Europe's borders with Africa and the Middle East, and with the promise of objects from the Byzantine period. Sadly for us it closed for a siesta between one o'clock (pretty much when we arrived) and six thirty (after our bus back to Hania departed), so I shall just have to go back another time. Although we weren't able to get into the museum we were still able to ascend the hill in the centre of town to walk amongst the ruins of the old Venetian fortress - which gave some spectacular views of the town, the mountains and the sea.

Paleohorapizza We'd been hoping to have our lunch at a recommended pizzeria called Portofino, but it was shut. However, we really had pizza on our minds, so opted for another pizzeria a few doors down called 'Odyssey'. I'd have to give it a slightly mixed review - you could see the wood-fired pizza ovens, and the chef was out in front of them spinning the pizza base dough by hand which was very impressive. However, the service was on the slow side. Still the food itself was fantastic. We had a really nice Greek salad, and then our pizzas arrived and they were huge. I was delighted, because it has been really hard to get spicy food in Greece, but my 'Diavoli' came with huge mouth-burningly hot peppers on it.

We took a walk down pebble beach to work of some of the calories, and then instantly put them back on by settling down in another taverna for a drink. This was a bar called "Oriental" on the beach front, and we stopped there for an hour chatting and doing a giant crossword together. It was really windy though, and the bar was quite open to the elements, so we cut back through town to find a more sheltered place to wait for our bus.

Our last stop was a bar called Atoli. This was really lovely. It had a pool table, a couple of internet terminals, and was really chilled out and a bit hippy-dippy, with a great view of the sea.

The bus home was only marginally quicker - it took a more direct route, but once it was on the stretch from Maleme to Hania it stopped at nearly every possible stop to pick up or set down passengers, and it became really over-crowded. Maplord was on it again, but we carefully chose our seats so we didn't have to watch his orienteering efforts a second time. Fortunately we were able to get the driver to drop us off in Germaniko Pouli at the foot of our road, so we at least didn't have to get the bus back home from town.

We really liked Paleohora - and it is now definitely on our list of possible places to move to within Crete if we decide to leave Hania.

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Thoroughly enjoyed your cretan blog - it has a sense of ...well, sanity.
I had a slight panic about the map reading as I travellled about four times from hania bus station to Paleochora (last year), and eventually the fold out map put me into something of a trace ... so take pity on an old English tourist.
Love Paleochora and it's laidback atmosphere even in the holiday season - pity about the wind unless you are into windsurfing.

(Tucked up savely in an English suburb for the time being)

Perhaps the map the guy was examining bore no relation to the signposts he was meeting. Maybe he was on the wrong island. Like you, I find the best way to lift the lid and taste Greek culture is by melting into their customs and traditions and almost abandoning my tourist self altogether. Almost! Eating and drinking as they do, listening to their music, sitting and nodding even when you don't understand what they say, in fact, trying to understand all the fascinating differences, makes the adventure real. That is not to say boat trips, excursions, eavesdropping and all the usual delights should not be overlooked. What think ye?

Actually we stick out more like a sore thumb in winter than we do summer!

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