The Greek word for pie, píta, is used for cake as well as for filled pastries, and of course Americans are familiar with it as the name of a type of flatbread from the Middle East. Pita is a word borrowed from Greek: in the Arabic countries that our kind of pita bread originally comes from, its name is khubz.
In Sfakiá, they start by making dough with flour, olive oil and salt; shape a wad of this dough into a small bowl; put a smaller ball of mizíthra cheese inside; and then shape the bowl over it until the result is a ball of dough with a center of cheese. Then they carefully flatten the ball and bake it on a griddle, one side at a time, so that it comes out looking like the picture. The honey you see is ladled on top just before serving. Sfakiá pie was a lovely beginning to our day.
We rolled our bags down the marble walkway to the roundabout at the foot of the main street. That was the easy part. Now we had to drag them up the 200 feet we had much more easily rolled them down on the day we arrived. The ascent was quite a chore; the hill seemed to have become steeper in the past 48 hours, though that may have been an illusion. In a note I wrote that night I estimated the height of the parking lot above the bottom of the hill as equivalent to a four-story building, but I probably exaggerated. The place at the bottom of the lot where the buses parked was no more than two stories above the lower road, and was accessed by stone stairs that were just fine for passengers who weren't rolling luggage (and had better knees than we do). We had to stay on the paved surface, which meant climbing up a steep 60-yard hill to the parking lot entrance, and then go another 60 yards down a gentle slope to get to the place where buses stopped. We were plumb tuckered when we got finished with that, and my left knee took the occasion to remind me that it had once been declared an almost cartilage-free zone.
We found a small crowd waiting. Besides tourists and Sfákians bound for Chanlá (the bus’s ultimate destination, though it was not ours), there were hikers on their way to the village of Ímbros—which would be only about 5 miles away if there were no curves or switchbacks on the road, but of course there were plenty, not to mention a major increase of altitude—in order to walk back down the Ímbros gorge. Though neither as long nor as spectacular as Samaria, it’s a popular hike, ending at the village of Komitádes only about 5km. east of Chóra Sfakíon.
Still others, including us, intended to go east (away from Chaniá) rather than west along the north coast road. Everyone in this category would be leaving the bus at the town of Vrísses, where some of the many buses that run between Chaniá and the cities to the east make a stop. (At one time they all stopped at Vrísses, but a new limited-access coastal highway now bypasses the town, and most buses stay on it.)
In addition to us tourists, of course, some everyday Sfákiots wanted to get to one place or another along the route. So there were a fair number of people waiting when the bus pulled in. However, we were lucky enough to find two seats together.