Crete after sunset: Chania

Busy street in Chania, Crete, Greece
A busy street in Chania at dusk.

The city comes alive as the sun sputters into the sea, dragging the heat down with it.

The fish that had sat on display, nestled in flaked ice, now grace the plates of tourists in artful swirls of purple grilled octopus, red snapper with lemon bursts, blackened escargot and white-fleshed scallops. Sunset catches in wine glasses and raki shots, while stray cats wander between tables on restaurant patios, hoping for dinner scraps from soft-hearted tourists.

The shops get their second wind, churning out wares to the thrumming crowds — colourful pottery, warmed by the lights as though having just come out of the kilns, olive oil soaps and creams, lightly scented and prolific in their quantity, wooden bowls and jewellery boxes, kitschy keychains with the nazar blue bead of the all-seeing eye, sculptures and figurines of gods clutching snakes, bare-breasted warriors and lovers embracing in violent virility, and countless museum replicas of varying quality, everything from ancient Greek jewelry to mosaic art pieces.

Harbor in Chania, Crete, Greece
View from the wave breaker and lighthouse onto Chania’s harbour.

Somewhere in a sequestered courtyard, sheltered under bougainvillea blossoms, a busker strums a guitar for tips. In the harbour, boats sway gently to the music. The notes echo down the cobblestone side streets and skip over the water like smooth stones, leaving waves of ripples. On the harbour edge, couples sit with their feet dangling down, the city a quiet glow at their backs.

The harbour curves into itself, reflecting the crescent of the moon. A wave breaker of cement blocks creates a hush-quiet in the bay — on one side a puddle of rain water, soft-lit with out-of-focus images of restaurant patios pressed against the water’s edge, on the other, the Aegean thunders in white froth, breaking the night into liquid constellations. A lighthouse sits on the end of the wave breaker, a last outpost in the dark, and tourists pilgrimage towards it over the high line of the cement wall, across the hungry quiet and the restless waves.

Lighthouse in Chania, Crete, Greece
Chania’s lighthouse sits across the harbour front.

* A moment in time from Chania, Crete.

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