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July 21, 2006

A day-trip to Kissamos-Kastelli

On Wednesday I went down to town with Claire to the main bus station, and when she got the 8:30am bus to work, I got the 8:30am bus in the opposite direction to Kissamos-Kastelli (Κισσαμος-Καστελλι), the furthest west we've yet been on the island.

Kissamoscastle Kissamos-Kastelli gets the curious double-barrelled name to prevent confusion with another Kastelli on the island. Although Kissamos is the town's official name, the vernacular Kastelli has somehow stuck.

The Kastelli part of the name comes from the fortress that used to stand in the town. It played a significant role in the Cretan uprisings of the 1820s, when Kissamos was the landing place for Emmanuel Tombazis, who immediately inflicted a defeat on the occupying Turkish forces. Victory was short-lived however, and ultimately the uprising failed.

There isn't much left of the Kastelli now, just a bit of wall here and there in the town. You can see, though, a lot of buildings that have obviously re-used the castle's original stone material when they were built.

When I first got there I had a wander down to the sea-front. There isn't much of a beach as such, just a built-up promenade with some cafes and tavernas. I popped into one, Babel, for a coffee before setting off to explore further.

Every single place we visit in Crete always seems to have some fantastic randomness about it - and Kissamos-Kastelli was no exception. Walking down the road out of town I suddenly came across a place called Vema. It was a free-standing gazebo outside a beautiful 1920s building - and it housed a bonsai art showroom! How on earth do you end up opening your dream bonsai art showroom in a tiny place on the western end of Crete?

Kissamosrocksandsea I walked for a good half-hour to the west of Kissamos-Kastelli, and then I spent some time clambouring over the rocks in the little harbour. Curiosity is a strange compulsion isn't it? I really wanted to get over the rocks to see if there was anything interesting on the other side, and whether I could get some photos of it. The answers were no there wasn't, and so I couldn't. I perched up there for a while letting the spray of the sea wash over me. Then remembered my laptop and camera probably were not enjoying that as much as I was.

I have to say it is nowhere near as much fun having a day out by myself as it is having a day out with Claire. I found it to be a curious mix of rushing around too much trying to see everything, and wandering around aimlessly talking to myself. I probably made quite a sight for the locals.

Kissamostoucan I then stopped at a taverna called Plakas on the shore to have a drink. There was nothing special about the taverna itself, but it did have a collection of exotic birds. My quiet drink was a constant stream of squawking interruptions from parrots, cockatiel, and even a toucan.

I walked back into town, and decided to get the 13:15 bus back to Hania. I went to buy my ticket - "Ενα προς Χανια παρακαλο" - and the guy replied with an absolute stream of Greek. It took me a while to realise he was actually addressing me. And even longer to work out he was actually the postman just behind the ticket counter looking for a pen or something, and the ticket guy wouldn't be back for ten minutes.

Kissamoschurch The "centre" of Kissamos-Kastelli is a small patch of tarmac which serves as  the bus station, and it also features a very pretty little church, a memorial, a  fountain, and a taverna with tables randomly distributed around the place. I stopped there for a quick drink before hopping on the bus, and got served by a kid who couldn't have been older than eight, but who opened my beer bottle with the air of someone who had already been doing it for years.

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