After a hearty breakfast at the El Greco, we checked out and with advice from the desk clerk, significantly shortened our walk back down to the harbor and the adjacent Bus Terminal. There we purchased tickets for our hour-long bus ride to Rethimno, our next stop in Crete. We would be following a recommended two-week itinerary in Frommer’s Athens and the Greek Islands guide book, which called for five nights on Crete and this visit to the south coast.
This was our first, but not last, interaction with the bus lines on Crete and our coach was supposed to go out of lane 8. We lined up there waiting to load our bags into the luggage compartment underneath as what appeared to be our ride pulled in. A crowd of people quickly gathered with mass confusion ensuing and after asking around, we determined this wasn’t our bus after all. A friendly local pointed us in the right direction, we pulled our bags off and walked a couple of lanes over to get on the right one, and soon found ourselves on the road.
We arrived at the bus terminal in Rethimno and jumped in a taxi for 10 euros, as our hotel for the night, the Castello Bianco Aparthotel, was about five miles away with no easily discernable public transportation to use to get there. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the most charming person we’d yet to encounter on the trip, a young woman who spoke flawless English and was so enthusiastic about our staying at the hotel that it made us glow.
Our room was located upstairs, overlooking the pool and with a view of the ocean blocks away, all for 53 euros or a shade over $60. It had a small kitchen area and spacious balcony, perfect for sipping wine as the sun set later that night.
As it was still early in the afternoon, we donned our swim suits and walked the ¼ mile it took to reach the beach, stopping on the way to pet a horse that needed some affection.
Greece is well known for the quality of its beaches and we weren’t disappointed with this one, even though we had to walk down the sand a bit to get to a section that wasn’t owned by one of the resorts.
We caught some rays, swam a bit in the gently rolling waves and then walked back to the room to enjoy a glass or two of a local rose as we took in the view from the balcony. As evening came around we walked around the corner and up a short hill to Pagona’s Place for dinner. Here is my review from Trip Advisor.
My wife and I dined at Pagona’s Place last night, just a block or so away from our hotel. Pagona herself serves the diners and I’m not sure I’ve seen someone work as hard as she did. We started with a basket of bread and ordered the Sea Bream, Pork and Peppers and a 1/2 liter of wine. Serving sizes were substantial and the food was very, very good. Fish cooked just right, the pork simmered with red and green bell peppers until you could split it in two with a fork. We finished with two complimentary desserts and the obligatory shot of Raki as Pagona joined us to enjoy the drink. Total bill came to under 30 euros including the bread and a bottle of water. Eat here and you won’t regret it.
We had a little time to kill the next morning before our bus ride to Chania and so we lingered over the fantastic breakfast that came along with our stay. Besides the usual assortment of buffet items, one could order an omelet, which I did, one of the few I would enjoy throughout the trip. Perfectly cooked when it arrived, the delightful combination of fluffy eggs, ham, melted cheese and aromatic herbs was a treat for the taste buds and provided me with enough fuel to last the rest of the day.
We took a taxi back into town for 7 euros, stored our bags at the bus terminal and then walked up to Fortezza, a fortress that overlooks the harbor. Intended to protect the town, then occupied by the Venetians, it proved a failure when the Turks overran the city in 1646.
This large rock-strewn space is now overgrown and barren, with just two simple churches, a mosque and several former barracks (which in later years became the town brothels) occupying the grounds inside the thick walls and bastions that surround it.
The location did provide a great view of the harbor; Rethimno never became a major port for Venice, in part because its small size was not well suited to large Venetian galleys. But it sure provided for a postcard moment as we let the blue sky and sparkling water sink into our consciousness.
We stopped at the gift shop on the way out of the fort and picked up some small things to take back to the states with us and exited into the narrow streets of town.
Our first real exposure to the Greece of most people’s imaginations, Rethimno’s maze of narrow lanes and squares was inhabited through the ages by Minoans, Mycenaean’s, ancient Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines, the today’s historic city is largely the creation of the Venetians and the Turks, who occupied it for almost 800 years until the late 19th century.
Finished with our stay in Rethimno but somewhat sorry to leave this relaxing and picaresque stretch of coast, we worked our way to the bus terminal, picked up our bags and with only slightly less confusion than the day before (we were getting better at this travel thing), boarded the bus for the ride to Chania, our next destination.
We’d spend two nights there allowing us to hike the famous Samaria Gorge, which we were looking forward to. But we would always look back fondly at our short time in Rethimno.
Castello Bianco Aparthotel: http://www.castello-bianco.com/