I leave the hotel in Athens in the early evening and head back to the airport because tonight I fly to Crete! The flight is only 45 minutes long, and much more reliable than taking a ferry. Ferries tend to get canceled frequently due to rough waters. I choose to stay in Heraklion, the capital of the island. I arrive around midnight and take a taxi to my hotel. It made more sense to fly in later as it is cheaper to stay in Crete than Athens, and I don’t lose any time for exploring tomorrow. I check into El Greco, and it’s a decent place and seems to be close to the action.
Crete is the largest and most populous Greek island. The Minoans lived here; they were considered to be Europe’s first advanced civilization. The island is mostly mountainous with valleys, with beautiful beaches that scatter along the coastline. You may recognize Crete from some stories from Greek Mythology; it’s the birthplace of Zeus, Artemis and Apollo. And the story of the Cretan bull who mated with the queen who then gave birth to the Minotaur. Those Greeks were into some kinky shit. Haha.
Heraklion is the largest city on Crete, and I am excited to get out and explore this cool place– I can tell already that I’m going to love it here. I step out of the hotel and I realize I am staying a short walk from Lions Square, where I’m headed to have breakfast at Kirkor. This cafe has been around since 1902 and I’m told they make an amazing bougatsa. I order that and a freddo cappuccino.
Bougatsa is a phyllo pastry with a sweet or savory filling; I try it with cheese and honey. So good! I have a seat outside, overlooking the Morosini Fountain in the square.
After breakfast I make my way towards the water, stopping to have a look at the Venetian Loggia. Many cities on Crete have been heavily influenced by the Venetians who occupied the island from the 1200’s.
This loggia was built in the early 1600’s and now houses the Town Hall. A bit further down is the Basilica of St Titus, a square temple with a dome.
I have a peek inside; looks cool.
Continuing on, I’m passing tons of souvenir shops and I’m holding back for now – as I’ve said before I love souvenir shopping! I finally end up down at the Old Port, with more old Venetian remains and tons of boats.
Also here is the impressive Koules Fortress, and I walk down the very blustery path to the entrance as I try to avoid the water that’s splashing over the rocks.
The fortress was used as a barracks, a prison, storage, a church, a water reservoir and a mill and bakery.
So, it was pretty important. I look around a few of the rooms and then up to the second floor which is open air.
It’s time to think about dinner so I head back to the hotel and take the route past the ferry port where I’ll be leaving from in a few days. Pro travel tip…I want to make sure I know how to get there beforehand so I can walk there without getting lost! As I near the hotel, I discover that the Central Market is right across from it so of course I have a look around and grab a few snacks from the small grocery store. So much cool stuff to buy here. I have a few ideas for dinner, and I settle on a recommended place called Peskesi. I didn’t realize I would need a reservation, but since I am alone, they are very accommodating to give me a table. I’m sitting close to the entrance and I get to see how many people they turn away that don’t have resos. The meal starts with bread and a perfect oil and beetroot sauce for dipping.
I choose the local young goat meat with traditional yogurt and cheese as my main, and a glass of white wine. The goat is slow cooked and very tender; I’ve never tried goat meat and while I enjoy it I’m not sure if that was enough for me to want it again. Haha.
After dinner, they bring me a shot of raki and a dessert – I forget to ask what it is but it’s like a blob of sweet semolina.
Some Greek restaurants will bring you alcohol and dessert at no extra charge which is a nice but also weird surprise. After dinner I debate going to find some kind of nightlife but sometimes it’s not as much fun doing that alone when there’s no guarantee of meeting anyone new. I decide to call it a night instead…