After breakfast, we started out in different directions. I went to the right, around the old fort, and visited the Naval Museum, where I saw models of several ships celebrated in the memory of the Greek navy, including the armored cruiser Geórgios Avérof, once the pride of the service. It was the last of three such ships of that type, built early in the 20th century by an Italian government that decided it could really afford only the first two. The Greek government made an offer and took the third off their hands, substantially assisted in this transaction by a legacy from a Greek millionaire with a non-Hellenic surname. The grateful government named the ship after him.
this picture, but it shows the ship during its days of glory. (As one minor effect of the patriotic frenzy, a Greek restaurant where we used to eat in Boston—and later in Cambridge, where it moved)—bore the battleship’s name. That restaurant is gone now, and I don't know whether the US still has any Avérof Restaurants, but of course there are plenty in Greece.)
The ship has a long and interesting history.
The ship has a long and interesting history.
In Greece, a kandíli was often filled with olive oil and lit with a floating wick. Nowadays, at least, candles are more commonly used in America, but both lamps and wicks are available through the Internet, so Greek-Americans can follow the older tradition if they want to (and don't mind paying a lot more for the oil). Those who are equally devout but less sentimental can even buy electrically lit kandília.
We met at the hotel at 12:30 and set out for a longer excursion—all the way around the outer harbor, and then down the length of the inner harbor to one of the still standing Venetian naval arsenal buildings. Designated an annex of the Naval Museum I had just been to, it houses a full-sized and seaworthy replica of a Minoan ship, which I was eager to see.
The Janissaries were the preeminent foot soldiers of the Ottoman empire. They played a big part in the Turkish invasion of Crete in 1645 and built this mosque in the same year, after Chaniá became the first major Cretan city to fall. From then until the 19th century there were always Janissaries in Crete, ensuring that Turkish authority was maintained and Turkish landlords got their due.
Coming to the inner harbor, we turned right and walked along a busy street with some hotels and port buildings on our right and a bustling marina on our left. The inner harbor, much calmer on this breezy day than the outer, is the clear choice of nearly everyone going in and out of Chaniá by water, yachtsman or fisherman, and the many docks we passed were crowded with boats. (One exception was an excursion boat that we always saw moored in the outer harbor, near the Mosque of the Janissaries.) We passed a row of seven huge arsenali, built to shelter Venice’s big war galleys. Some were in good repair, some in bad, but there they are, nearly four centuries old—Chaniá intends to put them to some touristically desirable use, but has not yet managed to do so.
We decided to forget the expense and have our first seafood meal. Like all seaside towns in Greece, Chaniá makes rather a specialty of seafood, but (as in the Mediterranean generally) overfishing and the consequent catch limitations have made those fish that are best for eating very expensive. The bream I chose were priced at €60 a kilo. Of course I wasn’t about to eat 2.2 lb. of fish, but the price was charged for the whole fish, not just the filets. These fish were small, so the two I picked came to 0.39 kilos, or about 14 oz., including heads, tails, skin, and bones. (They had been cleaned, however, so I didn’t have to pay for the innards.) For €23.40 (about $34 at that time) I got to eat perhaps 7 or 8 oz. of tasty though slightly bony fish. Dorothea ordered swordfish, which was less extravagantly priced, but found it overcooked and tasting perhaps a little less than fresh. We complemented our fish with a big order of French fries and a half-liter of retsina, both of which we shared, cutting the wine with a little water, and were given baklava and raki at the end of the meal.
Coming back to the harborside near the marina, we saw the woman whom Dorothea had talked with while we waited in Athens for the Chaniá plane. Dorothea was glad to see her again and to learn her name (María), which she had forgotten to ask. María was with her family, and introduced her husband and daughter to Dorothea, while I stood by smiling benevolently, as a polite non-speaker of Greek should do in these circumstances.
We walked back to the landward end of the outer harbor, but instead of going all the way around to our hotel, we turned left and walked a few blocks inland to Skrydlóf street, which was once home to Chaniá’s leather craftsmen, and is still filled with shops that sell sandals, belts, wallets, and other things made of leather, though we never saw the workshops where these were made.
On our way back to the hotel, we turned up Kondyláki street to make a reservation at To Cháni so that we could go there and listen to music after having dinner. But to our great disappointment, we found a note posted on the front of the restaurant announcing that it would be closed on both Saturday and Sunday. That must have been an unforeseen development, because the woman we talked to the day before had told us they were open every night. Alas, we had now lost our chance to go there, because we were due to leave Chaniá on Monday morning.
Our next stop was Tamám on Zambéliou street, which occupies a building that was once a Turkish bath. It’s an excellent and very popular restaurant, so we knew we’d need a reservation on a Saturday night. We made one for 8:00.
My main course was a Turkish lamb-and-eggplant dish called Hunkar Beyendi (which is translated as ‘Sultan’s Delight’ or ‘Your Majesty Liked It’) and Dorothea’s was a green pepper and a tomato, both filled with stuffing and served with yogurt. We shared the restaurant’s own “Tamám salad,” a mixture of chórta and fresh herbs (especially dill), sliced tomatoes, avocado mashed as a dressing, and a liberal sprinkling of walnuts. The complimentary dessert was a little cake made with semolina, coconut, and lemon, served with the usual rakí. Everything was fantastic, and the cost was 20% less than we’d paid for our lunch.