Last stop on our cruise and we dock at Souda, Crete, Greece; a port city just outside of Chania. Out of all the Greek Islands, Crete is by far the largest and has its distinct pride compared to the rest of Greece. Kind of how Texas has its own pride within the United States. And there is many reasons to have pride, since Crete has created distinct poetry, music, been part of great civilizations and was part of the first recorded civilization in European history.
If coming by cruise, like we did, make sure you know that you’ll be docking at Souda, which is about a 20 minute drive from downtown Chania. You don’t have to buy any excursions with the cruise ships, as the city supplies buses that leave often and go directly from the cruise port to the market of Chania. I think it costs less than 3 euros for a round-trip and was super easy to book. Just have your Euros ready and pay for the tickets at the little welcome center on the dock.
Once in Chania, we were dropped right at the famous market. This is actually one of the top things to do in Chania and depending on how early you arrive, it’s a great place to start shopping. Roman and I decided to start shopping because most of the shops were just beginning to open and it wasn’t very crowded. We saw mostly the same souvenirs like everywhere else in Greece but leather was more evident here.
So since this was our last stop on the cruise, I really wanted to buy an amazing gift just for me. I ran into this leather bag store and they had many beautiful but expensive leather bags. The owner was a bit frazzled at first but she was just opening the store. She started talking to me more, thinking I was Italian at first because I was tan, wearing a tank top and had a European style hat on. She showed me all these different styles and got me to buy a satchel that I love. She was a lot of fun.
The market is a great way to start but if you don’t feel like carry extra stuff around then you can always end your day at the market. Just remember to give yourself enough time and remember that some stores shut down early. Especially the food shops. By the way Crete is specifically known for its unique food so don’t shy away from going into food shops and trying different food at restaurants.
After the market we head straight for the center of the city and the harbor. The walk is not far and really Chania is tiny. You could probably see most of the old city within a few hours. And there isn’t much to do but walk around and snap photos of the harbor and the city walls. Actually much of the city has ruins to see but if that really isn’t your thing, you’re left with sea excursions and walking around the harbor area.
We first took pictures of the lighthouse but even by this point the heat was pretty scorching. I was wearing just a tank top and could feel my skin getting burned by 10 am. The old part of Chania, which is where the harbor is, is surrounded by a city wall. It separates the old city and the “newer” parts of Chania and it doesn’t take that long to cross all the older parts. We decided to walk past the walls and along the walls and found some picturesque inner parts of Chania.
If this all sounds boring to you and too slow there are other excursions to take with the cruise line and on your own but they can be pricey and will take you the day to complete. More than likely you’ll have to skip Chania. We decided that since this was our last day we wanted nothing more than to explore, shop, drink and eat anything Greek and so that’s what we did.
After exploring much of the Old City we returned to the harbor at around 11:30 am and sat down at this café called Zepos Restaurant. Comfortable seating, shaded cover, beautiful views and of course authentic Greek food. For me this was how I really wanted to spend my afternoon and that’s what we decided to do for at least 2 hours. There is nothing like warm weather with Greek beer and an amazing view to put me in a really great mood.
So eventually we decided to get up and do some more souvenir shopping. There are many shops in Crete and leather is a great item to pick up from there. If you’re thinking about buying some leather, it’s probably better to shop around and go up and down some of the inner streets from the harbor. Don’t be intimidated by aggressive sellers. Greece’s economy is going through some struggle and shop owner are looking any sale.
I didn’t shop around for my bag but it was love at first side and it truly is a wonderful piece. I wear it when I only need a small bag instead of a backpack. Crete also sales many Greek foods and spices which make great souvenirs. They sale other souvenirs that you’ll find in any Greek port and so we decided to buy a dick bottle opener. In Greece the penis represents fertility and so there is hanging wooden penis’s everywhere. I wanted one as a conversation piece.
For me a day in Chania was long enough but there is way more to explore Crete than just Chania. This really should be just the jumping off into the vast island that is Crete. Next time I come back I would like to explore some ruins or hike some mountain or go to a vineyard. There is plenty to do but if you just have a day, spend your time exploring the city and enjoying the wonderful atmosphere.
images by: shawnvoyage