This port must have been wedged into the itinerary to fill out one more day of the trip. Souda Bay itself is a large NATO base, and we could see a few naval vessels moored on the other side of us from the cruise ship terminal.
Mercifully, we were the only cruise ship on the port, which is clearly an industrial facility, not a tourist destination. However, Chania kindly provided extra city buses for the 20-minute ride into the main city for 1.70 euros per person each way.
The bus dropped us off at a square in the middle of the bustling, noisy and mostly unattractive town of Chania, Crete’s second largest. We could hear the sounds of loud speeches coming from the market across the street.
The HoHo agent approached us immediately, offering tickets for the tour of Chania, and we asked her what the commotion was about. She explained that the people were demonstrating and speaking against all the cutbacks in the country. Greek citizens have lost their free books, their free schools, their free health care, their free pensions. In short, they are not at all happy about losing all the free shit bestowed on them for generations by the government. In Greece, tax evasion is a national participatory sport, second (maybe) only to soccer, and the country is broke. As Margaret Thatcher once said, socialism is great until you run out of someone else’s money to spend.
We crossed the street to view the demonstration up close before walking into the central Agora market. The market is an amalgam of tourist trinket shops, a couple of restaurants, two seafood stalls, a number of olive oil and fragrance stores and several meat stalls. Lynn was horrified and I was fascinated by the meat selections on display—they leave the furry feet on the whole rabbits, the head and feet on the chickens, the tuft of hair on the tail of the pigs.
Lynn found some small bottles of Cretan olive oil, while I shopped for local wine, which turned out later to be pretty good. One of the featured items in the trinket store was an entire free-standing spinning rack of wooden bottle openers in the shape of a penis. They varied in size and decoration, some painted in patterns, some plain polished wood, hundreds of them hanging from their circular rack right next to the display of children’s clothes. You just don’t see that in the U.S.
We had purchased tickets on the HoHo fro the young man selling them at the counter on the street. He said the next bus would have a problem with their English commentary, so suggested we wait about 30 minutes for the second bus to arrive that had a working English commentary. An hour later, our bus finally showed up. Then waited at the stop for nearly 15 minutes while the riders steamed and expressed their protest. We finally started off when threats of mutiny and refunds started to be expressed by several passengers, including Lynn, who was now starting to feel the early pangs of hunger.
Finally we started off on our tour of Chania, after basically waiting and wasting an hour and a half. Turned out it was no great loss. Besides the Agora market, Chania has the requisite monasteries, churches, museums, restaurants and shops, none of which seemed all that interesting to us.
What was interesting when we returned, however, was a little grocer who sold wine, so we invested 4.04 euros on a bottle of vin de Crete. Why it was priced at 4.04 I could not tell, because some of the others were priced at 3.76, 4.22 and similar odd numbers. It turned out to be fairly light but opened up a bit in the bottle and was quite nice before dinner.
More on this another time, but we chose to dine in the Lido Buffett, which offers a larger assortment of dishes in a far more informal setting that lets us determine our own timetable rather than having to wait until 8:30 p.m. to be seated. By 9 p.m. we had enjoyed quite a respectable dinner of duck confit and escargot (me) and onion soup with coc au vin (Lynn), all accompanied by two glasses of Portuguese Douro, which is not available by the glass in the Britannia.
Then we repaired to the tiny casino on the second deck to be utterly wiped out at the blackjack table. Actually, Lynn won a bit and I borrowed for her to get wiped out. We walked away with $20. That’s one way of ensuring an early bedtime for the voyage across the Aegean Sea to Athens, the seat of democracy and Western civilization as we know it.