NOTE: My camera’s memory card glitched and we basically have no pictures from our trip until we hit Athens. I may try and find images online, just so you have a sense of what we saw/ are talking about. (And will credit if I do.) But keep that in mind as you read these next posts.
After a long, refreshing sleep, we got our morning started with a gorgeous breakfast (10eu) by Marina: toast with butter and jam, eggs (boiled for me, scrambled w/ feta for J.) from their own chickens, fresh fruit, juice, and a dish of cucumber and tomatoes drizzled with a little olive oil. Sublime and a great start to the day.
Marina offered to take us into Heraklion with her when she went in to do some shopping, and she dropped us off at the Koules Fortress.
Koules was lovely — thick walls and an elegant design that had me contemplating how humans endured the constant barrage of cannonballs and cannons firing. The view of the harbor from the battlements was terrific.
From there we wandered a little further up the harbor road to the Historical Museum. This tiny gem is worth going a little off the typical path to find, if only for the third floor where they have a curated collection of traditional crafts. There are musical instruments (with music playing), tools, textiles, and a recreated home. It was clear how the woman’s work (in the illustration, a loom) was the driver of the household income. Other than the loom, there was almost no storage and the kitchen was minimal. A very different way of living.
Parasties Urban Kitchen is where we went for lunch (https://parastiescrete.gr/). We started with a dish of boiled greens with olive oil and lemon. A bit like a mild spinach, but with a complex bitter taste, this was not at all to J.s liking. I didn’t love it, but appreciated the quality, if that makes sense. Our mains were Cretan Wedding Dish — sheep with a risotto-style rice in and a kind of pasta dish that was a tightly wound shape cooked in a goat gravy with local cheese. Both were outstanding. We were ready to leave and were brought dishes of watermelon and grapes to enjoy.
Let me pause a moment to say that if I drank wine I only ordered the ‘house white’ — every single one of which was different. All basically tasty, but nothing I needed to pay further attention to. At home I drink exclusively red (usually a well-rounded Cab Sauv), but Crete required something very cold, therefore white.
With that we walked to the Archeological Museum. This is an astoundingly good collection of Minoan pieces. Well-signed in Greek and English, there are also audio guides available in many languages. Frankly, one of the best museums we’ve been in.
Dinner was a little walk into Skalani itself, at Koulas’ Taste. This part of my writing is a little difficult, I’m trying to offer information without being rude, but the truth is that we were treated poorly.
In retrospect, it is clear we misunderstood our host who told us Koulas’ was open earlier than the other (Stavros’ BBQ) and though that meant it was a taverna, therefore open all day. So we trundled up at 7pm, to find the courtyard filled with tables, but no chairs. We walked up, prepared to be told to come later, but a local told us they’d just opened, So we sat down, a little bemused to have a young man come out and lay down a table cloth and then bring us a menu. He then went about setting up the other tables. No problem, we thought, we’ve been the first at many a dinner place.
About 10 mins later a man pulled up on a motorcycle, staring at us in disbelief and it occurred to me that he’d just been called at home to come in and take care of these darn tourists. We ordered a soft white cheese which had a slightly sour flavor — like thickened sour cream — tzatziki (no need to describe), Cretan traditional spinach pies, a cabbage salad and J. had a grilled pork chop. The cabbage salad never showed. The spinach pies were lovely — stuffed full of onion and spinach. The bread basket was nice for the cheese to be spread on. We were served briskly and without any interaction. And after the food and drinks were placed on the table we were left alone . . . even after another bottle of water and soda needed to be ordered . . . and then we realized the young man had disappeared and the other man had driven away. We were literally abandoned. Eventually the motorcycle guy came back, with a box from a store. I figured he’d run out of cabbage, but no. And no check in to get us more liquids.
We eventually got his attention and asked if there was some kind of dessert. He said ok and went away, leaving us wondering. When he returned it was with a plate of deep fried dough with honey and cinnamon. The food was fine, and I think normally I’d be a bit more enthusiastic — we certainly enjoyed watching the square come alive over the hours we were there. It’s just that if someone had said ‘hey we’re not ready yet’ we might have just asked for a drink and tzatziki and bread and been perfectly happy to hang out for an hour as they got set up. Instead, it was a bad experience.