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The Rock-itt : February 2012
which offered sardines locally caught but there were many others that we saw later that we would have chosen had we seen them first. We walked around the Fortezza, a massive structure backlit by amber floodlights at dusk which cradled a taverna at its foot where one could watch the setting sun in the western sky, accompanied by a local beer called Alpha. Alfresco dining in Rethymnon The alleys and lanes were increasingly popular as the night lingered and it seemed that after dinner was taken diners moved to another location to sample coffee or Raki; we couldn't help but follow their lead. With some sadness we left town the next morning heading south rather than west where our next bed lay; this option would ensure we saw more of the island in the week we had at our disposal and got to see the south coast famous for its varied upland scenery and massive gorges. In the direction of Spili we drove and turned off southwest to Chora Sfakeion, the departure point for Egypt for the Allied Armies in May 1942 when the German paratroopers invaded Crete. On the way we stopped at Plakias a beachside resort with grey sand and a few shops; even after a fairly long drive the waters were not inviting and a strong wind from the south made us return to the car. The next stop was far more exciting; the seaside village of Frangocastello, a very well preserved Venetian Castle dating back to 1371. Here rooms are available and the beach is tan coloured and the sea was a cooling and perfect stop for lunch with a beachside café and taverna with showers catering for all comers. The castle at Frangocastello This stop was welcomed because we would arrive back on the north coast as dusk approached and there would be little chance of a dip in the crysta sea; the town of Chania was not far but we had to negotiate a series of hair pin bends that took us to one of the best views in Europe and then into the Impros Ravine and its history (plenty of WW2 sites and small museums in this stretch of road) and we returned to the main north coast road and within minutes we were in the conurbation that is Chania. We found our hotel easily this time, as we knew it was part of the Venetian port and signposts to this were frequent. Our Hotel, the PORTO VENEZIANO was perfectly located at the end of the old harbour and near to the seawall with its Egyptian lighthouse. The accommodation was excellent, the ambience even better and we were as happy as we could be. A short stroll to the harbourside restaurants ensured that we were going to have two special nights at this venue. With our vouchered meal destined for us (which was superb and at the water's edge) we filled our bloated bellies with Cretan specialties and washed down with local wine. Not sated by our good fortune we stepped out to find a bar where post dinner drinks could be taken. We not only found that but a bar in the backstreets where brilliant Cretan musicians strummed out well known Grecian melodies that took us back to another time. Our next day was planned to be a rest day on a special Aegean beach but the weather turned windy and the sea was rough, consequently the options were uninviting. We tried the resorts at Platanias but the sand was grey and the sea chopped up. No- one was swimming there. Further west we happened upon Maleme, the site of a WW2 airfield, the target of the first wave of German Storm Troopers in May 1942. Here sadly, was a massive cemetery to the fallen soldiers of the Third Reich laid out so that their souls could gaze north in their repose towards their fatherland. Nearby an amazingly preserved Minoan tomb with a corbelled stone roof known as a known as a Tholos was found to the side of the road. Crete is literally littered with these sites, many still undiscovered. As the sun moved west we sought a location that would give us a great view of the town and that had height and the rocky outcrop of Akrotiri was the obvious point. Amidst glorious gardens commemorating the Cretan struggle with the Turks the views west over the city of Chania are second to none. On the road back we ventured through Souda Bay where we found the WW2 Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery to the fallen at the battle for Crete in May 1942. There are many Aussies and Kiwis here, some as members of the RAF and others who served on British naval ships; Souda Bay was the perfect harbour chosen by the Allies for supply and embarkation. The lighthouse at Chania as the sun sets on the Aegean Sea. Ancient Cretan Tholos (Stone Age tomb) Our choice for dinner venues was numerous and we found an idyllic restaurant in the ruins of a collection of buildings so tastefully decorated that we felt that it had been there forever. Cretan songs were sung, the food was wonderful and the wine as good. We could not have been happier. Our last night in Chania was a special occasion and the morrow would bring so many more new sites and experiences. Chania from Akrotiri