Monday, 31 March 2008

Spring blossom

"Isn't that tree beautiful?" The acacia in our garden bloomed so quickly that we hardly noticed it in the dull weather that we'd been having. After the rain and gloom of the last few days, our town has been dry-cleaned - whatever was wet is now clean and dry from the hot sun, which is the most common weather phenomenon in Hania: there's a 75% chance that it will be a sunny day in autumn, winter or spring (in summer that number rises to 95%). The acacia's blossoms last only a short time; let's enjoy them while we have them.

Sunday, 30 March 2008


We're in the Agora, the market square in Hania. The Asian peddler woman walked too fast for me, as we crossed paths in front of the souvenir shop next to the local products stall selling Cretan cheeses. I caught her wares in the photo: trinkets, torches, toys, tacky gifts, worry beads, all being carried in a box with a strap hanging off her shoulder. I wonder who buys this stuff?

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Olive tabby

How cute, I thought, as I watched the tabby kitten sleeping on the top of a chopped bough of a pruned olive tree in my neighbour's garden. What a perfect photo shot.

I grabbed the camera, and clicked open the balcony window. I saw his ears twitching.

Please don't run awa
y, I thought to myself; had I called out to him, he would probably have done so.

I slid the door open. He raised his head and opened his eyes, staring at me intently. I held the camera and aimed for the best shot. He stayed still, watching me.

I mouthed.

Flash! went the camera. And away he ran.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Shoe scraper

Back in the good old days, there was co tarmac on the roads, no concrete, no cement, just dust, dirt, mud and slush (and plenty of manure). Before they entered their house, people would scrape their feet on this metal blade, still found outside the main gate of many houses in the town centre, always placed diagonally. This street has been repaved - rather than pull it out, the workmen left the scraper as it was, to allow the next generation to wonder what its use might have been. The house this scraper belongs to is in a southern suburb; the house was probably built in the 60s, and is maintained in the most basic manner so that it can be let out to economic migrants. It was probably whitewashed in its youth, but now it has been painted over with green vinyl paint.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Flying the flag

25 March is a national holiday in Greece, commemorating the 1821 events that led to Greek independence. Greeks are very patriotic, and will even build a flagpost somewhere around their house to raise the flag on commemorative days. Here's my neighbour's flag, flying madly on a blustery day, amongst the scattered chairs and other objects which have been scattered about by a wind strong enough to cancel scheduled ferry journeys to and from the mainland...

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Our recent past

These are the derelict remnants of a very old house near the old port of Hania, to the east of the main town. The roof has caved in and there are trees growing in what used to be rooms, but you can still see its grandeur from the arched main entrance. In one of the rooms, you can even see the supporting beams of the upper storey and the "fitted kitchen shelves" built into the wall. This house is probably under a preservation order - it can be repaired inside, but its outside appearance must preserve features of the period it was built in. It may not be torn down, unless it becomes dangerous goes against the safety standards. It is a romantic house, situated in a romantic area near the harbour, and reminds us of the town's recent past.

It probably still has an 'owner' of some sorts. The entrances have been barricaded against intruders of the human kind, which shows that somebody doesn't want antique foragers to wander about in the ruins. You won't find much in there anyway - what could have been taken has already. Still, it is quite nostalgic to imagine what life may have been like for the people who once lived there, well before the age of mass tourism (the house is only a few metres away from the port).

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Is it Christmas?

We're a little tacky when it comes to celebrating events like Christmas: we want lots of twinkling lights and tinsel decorations. But we can't be bothered taking them down afterwards. They hang above us on central streets in the town from the electricity posts, waiting to be turned on again in 48 weeks time, after they were last switched off.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Surreal weather

Today warrants two photos - the normal view from my house, and the paranormal. The yellow view was taken yesterday, at about the same time as the other photo, which was taken this morning. The yellow fog effect is the result of a climatic condition that we call 'red rain'. The southerly wind blew windstorms in the Sahara Desert. It carried the dust and sand over the Mediterranean Sea and strew it all over Greece, passing first from Crete, and on to the Peloponese and Macedonia. It reached as far as Turkey. Thankfully, it did not rain; the sand and dust stayed in the air, and blew across the rest of Greece and beyond. Had it rained, everything the red rain fell on would have been tinged with the colour of the sand and dust that was carried in the air. The next day, we'd have to get out the hoses and wash down our houses and cars, even the washing that was hanging on the line waiting to dry, because it would all be red with sticky dust. And another good thing was that the wind changed direction, otherwise, the sandy air would still be hanging over the town like a peasouper.

This kind of weather condition is known as Good Friday weather; on the day that Christ was crucified, the sky hung with a yellow haze over the city, as if doom was nearing. It really is scary weather. I remember a decade ago, on the 25th of March (ie about the same time this year), the sand fell with the rain so thickly, that the next day, not only was the town covered in red rain sand, but so were the snowy mountain peaks. Can you imagine what we were seeing: grey rocky mountains, covered in snow, with a read peak at the top, which was the sand from the red rain? A sight worth photographing, if I ever see this again.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

The open-air market

Strictly speaking, I should be taking a photo each day, but today's photo was taken yesterday at the street market. The vegetable stalls are held outside the district court building every Saturday, a perfect way to use the parking area. Here are a few hawkers' cries that I heard yesterday:

(at a stall selling very old-fashioned looking XL jumpers)
Everything cheap! Everything free today!
I'm not making any money today!
I'm giving it all away!
You may be wondering why I'm doing this:
Because today - I'm celebrating my happiness!

(at a stall selling shoes)
Everything for ten euro today!
One left shoe and one right shoe, only ten euro!
Or two left shoes or two right shoes!
All combinations possible!

(at a vegetable stall selling stamnagathi - spiny chicory)
Stamnagathi straight from the mountain!
Fresko fresko, come buy it now!
Summer's coming, stock up now!
Only four euro a kilo, cheaper than tomatoes!

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Urban housing

This is what I like most about Hania. On any given street in the town, you can see a detached art deco 1960s house standing right next to a near-derelict one, with an apartment block built behind it, close by to an old stone villa, complete with a satellite dish. This mish-mash of styles is simply another aspect of a town that is constantly under development. Personally, I'd like to live on the lower storey of the villa with the satellite dish, because I prefer to be down to earth, and have my feet firmly planted in the soil.

Friday, 21 March 2008


Just recently, most of the greater area of Hania (practically the whole province) has had its roads dug up to lay new optic-fibre cables and get the whole district connected to the main sewage system. Greeks never feel any sense of urgency to get these works done in a reasonable amount of time. Why should they, when no one stresses them out over finishing anything punctually or safely (an important consideration, given that near the roadworks near our house two people so far have been killed on site). The residents in this central town street must be relieved that, after two months of suffering dust storms every time a car drove by, or a light breeze blew through the air, the tarmac is finally being laid, and they can wash their houses and cars again in full knowledge that the roadworks are over in their neighbourhood.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Urban archaelological digs

A house was recently pulled down in this central town street to make way for a new building to be erected on the section - probably an apartment block, as the rest of the street is full of them. Before the ground is dug up to lay foundations for the new building, the archaeologists move in first to check for remains of ancient structures. The holes in the ground are old rooms or houses that were found on the site. The remains will be recorded, and eventually the owner of the plot will be allowed to start building on the land.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The calm before the storm

It is mid-March, the beach is void of deckchairs, sunbathers and fast-food kiosks, despite the fact that it's a very warm day (15 degrees Celsius at 8:30am). Calendar Easter weekend is coming up, but the charter flights don't officially start jamming in the package tourists until mid-April. It's going to be a slow start to the season. I live close by here - the road leads to the supermarkets, which is how I came to be at the beach so early in the morning.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

General strike

Greece is experiencing one of the worst cases of social unrest in a long time. Various pensions schemes are going to be unified under a single national security system, and this has upset many people (but not me in particular). The sight of uncollected rubbish is becoming more and more common these days, as are the locked banks, empty ATMs and a go-slow policy in government offices. A trip into town these days is a smelly experience. And did you know that it's illegal to strike on Mondays and Fridays in Greece? That would be like a three-day weekend, wouldn't it?

Monday, 17 March 2008

Snowy mountains

Hania may be on an island in the Mediterranean, but we've never had a winter when snow hasn't fallen. It's rare to get snow in the town or other low-lying areas, but Lefka Ori (the White Mountains) are covered in snow from mid-November to late March, or even early April. This shot of the mountain range was taken (from the car window) close to our house as I was going to school to pick up the children at about noon. The olives from the trees in the photo were only recently harvested.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Welcome to Hania

Welcome to Hania (often written as Chania), a seaside resort town in the Western part of Crete, an island in the Mediterranean, a southern province of Greece, a member of the European Union since 1986. The residents of the town of Hania number approximately 60,000. During the summer, the number of people finding themselves in the area rises to half a million due to the package tourists who flock to the city to enjoy the nearby beaches, filling the pockets of the the hotel owners of the district, while at the same time providing seasonal employment for the residents of the town.

The centre of the town features the Agora, the central market of the town, with its main feature being its construction in the form of a cross; all roads in and out of town lead to the Agora. Some people still believe that this is the only place to come to for all their fresh produce needs. The old man on the right is dressed in traditional black breeches and headgear. He probably came to the Agora to buy some cheese or honey. The man walking behind him is clearly one of the newer economic migrants to the town, otherwise he wouldn't be wearing a belt bag. And the best restaurants in town are in the Agora.

Welcome once again to Hania (or Chania, Khania, Canea or Kydonia, as it was called historically). As you get to know the town through the daily photo gallery, maybe you'll end up liking it so much that you'll invest in a property here for your retirement, like so many British and German tourists. Good luck to you.