Today (May 23) was one of the most anticipated days of the Greece trip: a hike down Samaria Gorge. Dropping 1227 meters (4025 feet) over 18-kilometers (11 miles), the gorge is full of both natural beauty and hikers, most of whom spend 6-8 hours traveling from a dry, rocky beginning to the inviting, sandy beach at the end.
Water stations have been built at intervals on the trail to help people deal with the relentless sun that pours into the gorge, and with the effort necessary to traverse it. Tickets are carefully counted at the end of each day to be sure no one has been stranded on the trail.
So. Six to eight hours hiking on a constant downward slope, with serious sun and no way to bail out part-way through. Given my physical limitations, this sounded like a reeeeally bad idea. So I opted out, and therefore spent today on my own in Chania.
After breakfast, I went back up to my room and relaxed, enjoying the morning breeze and the view from my balcony. Then the nice folks at MAICh called me a taxi and I rode into Chania to run a very important errand.
I have been very happy with how travelling light has been working so far, with only a small annoyance here and there. But I made the decision to buy some gifts in bottles — how could I not, with the places we’ve been visiting? — and so I had to figure out how to get those bottles back to Nebraska. I decided to mail them. So, my first order of business was a visit to the post office.
Here are the ways in which the people at the main Chania post office are ridiculously helpful:
- First and foremost, they spoke English. (!)
- A short search was undertaken, resulting in two boxes designed specifically for mailing bottles.
- I needed bubble wrap. I was escorted out to the sidewalk, and pointed in the direction of an amazing little store half a block away that sold, among other items like shower curtains and paper napkins, bubble wrap by the meter. One of the people working there also spoke English. I am too blessed.
- My bottles were personally swathed, boxed and taped within an inch of their lives — not by me, but for me while I stood by nodding
- I also received a (completely unnecessary) apology for the high price of shipping.
The whole experience took one hour, and was entirely satisfying (other than the euros spent, oh well). I felt proud of myself for no real reason, and grateful to Greece’s gracious public employees.
Afterwards, I treated myself to a well-deserved lunch in Chania’s old market.
This was billed as a “Cretan salad,” although I don’t know if it’s truly traditional. In addition to the usual players, it included potatoes, capers and rusks, which are like the hardest croutons you ever ate. A short soak in oil and vinegar makes them just perfect!
I was also brought a teeny tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream with a teeny tiny spoon at the end. Note to self: sometimes just a little ice cream is the perfect amount.
I walked through the old market on my way back to the taxi stand. Narrow streets and awnings combine to make it a shady oasis from the Cretan sun, which was making itself known in mid-afternoon.
Then I stepped inside a Greek Orthodox church on a city square. I didn’t take any pics, so as not to disturb those praying inside, but it was another cool escape from the sun, and much more peaceful than the market.
My next adventure was procuring my own taxi. I practiced saying “MAICh” (with the proper “ch” sound!) as I walked to the taxi stand. I leaned in the window of the first taxi, said, “MAICh?” — the driver said, “MAICh?” back to me, I nodded, and he waved me into the car. Mission accomplished!
When I returned to campus I did my laundry and a little writing, a little reading. I waited for the others to return from their big day so we could all eat together. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up in the kitchen and they closed down for the night, forgetting about us! Our weary hikers (and I) had to settle for delivery. I had a chicken skewer and some pita with tzaziki sauce. Then we all went to bed: they, completely exhausted, and I, satisfied with my first taste of maneuvering through Greece on my own.