Friday, May 30, 2008

Crete, Part I

After dropping off the car in Athens, we boarded our ferry from the port of Piraeus to start the island hopping portion of our trip! Our first stop is Crete. We were surprised that our ferry looked a bit more like a cruise ship!

Also, we noticed that one of the nearby ships reminded us of our best girlfriend back home:

OK, so it actually looked like this:

But so close! Miss you Ariane!

We even learned it had a pool on the top deck. Excited, we checked it out:

As you can guess, we didn't do any swimming after all! Instead, we decided to have a tea in the "saloon". Because the boat was landing at 6:00am, we called it an early night and retired to the bunks we had rented in one of the ship's cabins.

Once the ferry docked, we had to take a bus from the port of Iraklion to the city we are staying in, Rethymnon. We started to realize just how big the island of Crete is when the bus ride took almost an hour and a half and the cities aren't even on opposite ends of the island!

Our "budget hotel", Hotel Axos turned out to be absolutely gorgeous! We have a huge room with a kitchen, appliances (hooray for toast in the morning!), and a porch looking out to the pool! In addition, the staff is really great as well. It's a family-run business and they've been so wonderful making us feel at home and helping us plan activities. If you're ever in Crete you should definitely stay here!

Yesterday, we caught the bus back to Iraklion and then another city bus to see Knossos, an ancient Minoan palace. We were excited because our guidebooks had told us it was "partially restored".

Unfortunately, the palace wasn't as restored as we had hoped. For example, the "Grand Staircase" looked like this:

After seeing ancient ruins all of the world (Giza, the Acropolis..) we were definitely a bit disappointed.

After Knossos, we checked out Boutari winery, which was nearby. We took a tour and then did a tasting, The wine was delicious and we also learned their growing methods are very sustainable! They handpick all the grapes, use no pesticides, and only use rainwater for irrigation. The production is very small, only about 50,000 bottles are produced per year in the six vineyards they have in Greek and France. I picked up a few bottles, including an "experimental varietal" to bring home. The experimental wine isn't sold anywhere except for the the winery itself. The idea is that people buy it and give their feedback and if it is successful they will put it into production. I didn't get to try it before hand, so it's a bit of a gamble. We'll see when I get home!

When we got back to the hotel, we used our kitchen to cook a delicious pasta with goat cheese and fresh tomatoes. We also had a salad and some fresh bread spread with honey from Mount Olympus. Delicious!

One of the guys who runs the hotel, Manos, invited us to the hotel bar/club because a band was playing. The band played all American cover songs and the bar was packed with all the locals who run the trade industry. We got to hang out with a bunch of them and even got a chance to try the local drink, Raki. Raki is very strong and is made with the leftover grapes from wine production. It tastes terrible and comes in large 1.5 litre water bottles - very sketchy!

All-in-all it was a great night and we're happy to have made some new friends!

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