Crete. A gigantic Island that could almost be its own country. We flew into Chania and grabbed the airport bus into the city. I think we got lucky, the busses only run every hour and it was loading up when we walked out of the airport. I didn’t want to wait an hour for the next bus. You would think they would run more often than that from an airport. The main station in Chania is buried in the center of town. The streets are so narrow, I have no idea how they get busses in and out of there. Talk about threading a needle.
We kind of planned ahead and found a number of campsite on the island before we left Germany. So we had a general idea which direction we wanted to go and what to expect. If you’re in need and you fly to Chania, they have free wifi at the main bus station. I thought this was pretty surprising considering finding wifi anywhere else in the rest of Europe was almost impossible. Come to Greece and it is everywhere. They also have some pretty good sandwiches there too. As far as mass transportation, it is either bus, taxi or rent your own vehicle. The busses run only every hour or so and stop around 6pm or so. Plan accordingly. We grabbed the next bus out towards Kissamos a town about 46 kilometers west of Chania. Our campsite, Camping Nopigia, was about 7 kilometers short of town, away from anything hustle and bustle and directly on the water. We were ready for relaxation, and lazy in the sun.
One thing we did not expect, was how influenced business was by tourism in Greece. I understand the concept of high vs low season, but here in this area of Crete, it high season and no season. We wanted to stay at the campground for 3 nights, but had to cut it down to 2 because they were closing on that third day. And by close I mean, completely shut down until May of next year. So our relaxation in Crete was little shorter than we planned, but we still had the rest of the week in the greek isles so it wasn’t all that bad. On the bright side, we shared the entire campground with two other couples for the last three days they were open. It was like a ghost town, perfect.
The area was called Nopigia, in the eastern corner of a Kissamos bay. On either side of the bay were two giant peninsulas that jutted north. Both national parks. It was quiet and secluded. The rest of the first day, we took a walk along the coast up the peninsula, exploring and playing in the perfect crystal clear water. It was sunny and warm and exactly the change in weather we were looking forward to. We made our way back to the campground and used their community outdoor kitchen to cook some pasta for dinner; calling it an early night after.
The next day we decided we wanted to head into Kissamos to try to rent a car. We talked to the reception desk at the campgrounds and they suggested Autofun. A company that rents compacts for about 25eu a day, which is pretty cheap. We didn’t know where the bus stop was on the main highway so walked in trying to hitchhike. We got about 4 kilometers in and finally met a british family at a gas station that gave us a lift the rest of the way. We never saw a bus stop the entire way in. When we got into town we found the car rental place and they were closed for lunch or something. Apparently Greece is very similar to Spain in regards to the siesta. So while we waited we walked to the other side of the square and had lunch. Enter our greek salad binge (we’ve had worse binges).
I don’t remember the name of the restaurant we ate at but, it was the best meal we had the entire time we were in Greece. And we had some amazing food. We shared a giant greek salad and an entrée called Moussaka. The salad was simple: cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, green peppers, dried oregano, feta cheese, and obviously, olive oil. The feta was a giant square about a half an inch thick. It didn’t crumble apart, it kept its shape as you forked away a chunk, kind of like butter. It was crumbly and creamy at the same time. I liked feta before, but this was on a whole other level.
We wanted to make a point to only order an entrée item that we had never had before. Per the recommendation of the service, we ordered the Moussaka. Basically, the Greek take on lasagna, but this one was cooked in a stone pot as a single portion. This confused me when we ordered others later on and the looked like a typical lasagna cut. The bottom of the pot was lined with thinly sliced potatoes and topped with cheese baked to a crisp. In the middle it was stuffed with zucchini, eggplant and lamb and filled with a creamy béchamel sauce. The béchamel sauce on the top had thickened when it cooked, while the rest was still creamy. It was an amazing contrast of texture and consistency. I want to buy a stone pot just so I can make it the same way. I am afraid a lasagna pan wouldn’t do it justice, but then again, it could be that they had made it fresh. This meal definitely set the par for the remainder of our foodie experience in Greece.
Wine in Greece is also cheap and delicious. You can get if from the restaurant in a number of different ways: by the bottle, or opened by the liter or half liter. It is usually much cheaper if you buy the opened wine by the carafe. I like to try things mystery style. I think we shared a half carafe at every dinner because it was so reasonably priced.
After a most satisfying lunch, I walked back across the street when I saw the guy open the store back up and asked about a rental car. The rates were great and I was definitely ready to rent, but there was one small problem. This is basically how the conversation went:
me: Hi, I would like to rent a car.
him: You want today?
me: Yes, today, thank you.
him: We don’t have today. We only have one car available for tomorrow, but it is reserved.
me: Do you have anything available for rent today?
him: No, we have one car.
me: Ok you have only one car, and it isn’t available. Do you have a scooter?
him: Yes, but only one.
me: Ok is it available, could we rent it?
him, No, it is too small. not worth renting.
me: Ok, thank you…I think.
This is a prime example of high season and no season in this area. We tried another car rental, that was closed as well. They had cars available, but the only way you could rent was to call them by phone, then they would come down and open the store and run the paper work. This place was a bit more expensive than my last conversation, so we decided to not rent a car and just hang out along the water. Since the campground was closing we had to checkout and leave anyways. So we nixed the rental idea and went to the beach and played in the water for a bit.
We walked along the waterfront and made our way back into town and caught the bus back to Nopigia. The reason why we couldn’t find the bus stop on the way in to town was because the bus take a completely different route off of the highway. Good to know. We went back to the campground and relaxed by the pool for the rest of the day and watched the sun set from the tent. Yes, they have a pool there, and it is very nice. They also have wifi across the entire campground! Camping Nopigia was great. We made dinner again and walked down the street to a small restaurant. They had some live music playing so we sat and talked for a bit over some wine. They had brought a book about Kissamos over to our table and we thumbed through it learning about the food, the culture and the history of the region while we listened to music and enjoyed our wine. With the exception to the car, a great first day in Greece.