Every time I walk through the stunning streets in the old town of Chania, I feel as though I’m in a time capsule that has been touched by Greeks, Venetians, Turks, Jews, and Egyptians. The different civilizations are combined together, forming a wonderful multicultural mosaic.
And this is not by chance. According to archaeological research, the city of Chania is built on the ruins of ancient Cydonia, founded by Minos. During the 13th century, the medieval town of Chania stood by the Venetian conquerors and is characterized by Venetian Mannerism with some Flemish elements.
In 1645 the Turks conquered Chania, the Catholic churches were turned into mosques and buildings received a more oriental character. In 1913 Crete was united with Greece while during the Second World War, Chania was bombed, which destroyed the old town.
Within the maze of alleyways throughout the old town, you will come across monuments that are 5000 years old. I can see them at every turn, every arch, every hanging garden of the houses. I start my stroll, almost always, from the bustling Halidon street, where there is a fabulous courtyard that makes me want to explore more!
On Halidon there is a shop that sells the best ice cream, called “Piragmeno” (tweaked). Dimitris makes ice cream tailored to my needs. Pick one of the imaginative flavors (there between Smurfs, big babul, etc.) and into the ice-cream, Dimitris can add wafer, Maltesers or even Raki. No thanks, I do not drink alcohol, I prefer smarties.
I take a few steps back to find Zambeliou street and gaze at the houses with the characteristic Venetian facades, such as the mansion of the noble family Renier, which today has become a boutique hotel featuring 9 suites. Beyond that, you will discover Theotokopoulou street, which was spared by the bombing of the Second World War. There are Venetian buildings and shops with souvenirs that have obvious oriental traces of Ottoman rule, with latticed windows and wooden balconies. In this quiet neighborhood called Topanas, a Turkish name derived from the cannons of the Turks, I feel like I am in an old picturesque neighborhood. There rises the fortress Firkas that has been used as a barracks, naval warehouse and as a jail until the civil war.
There, at the alleys of Topanas among the Venetian mansions from the 17th and 18th centuries, is my favorite “Fagotto Jazz Bar” on Angel Street, a charming listed Venetian building of the 15th century. Elaborate doors, bright colors, plants, beautiful houses, stone balconies and arches, the old town of Chania is a unique dance that reminds us of a charming past!
For me, the real star of the old city is the old port of Chania. Here you will find the only surviving mosque, the Hassan Pasha mosque or Yali Tzamisi, which now functions as an exhibition space; the 7 surviving of the 17 shipyards, but also the much-photographed Egyptian lighthouse, the jewel of the Venetian harbor, with a height of 21 m. It is the oldest lighthouse of the Mediterranean Sea and one of the oldest in the world.
Chania, in my opinion, is the prettiest town of Crete and its charm certainly blows you away.
*All images by Polina Paraskevopoulou (Copyright)