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A Jewel with Charm: A Stroll through Chania

Narrow Lane

On Foot to a Journey of Discovery

Summers in Crete are hot and dry – more than half of the summer days are filled with sunshine. So, of course, it’s incredibly tempting to spend your days in and around the Mediterranean Sea, especially during the holidays. But be sure not to miss a day trip to Chania, the port city on the western north coast of the island. The former capital is known as the true “Pearl of Crete”, and is often even called the “Venice of the East” because of its picturesque Venetian harbour. Away from the water, you can also saunter through magical Chania slowly: on a stroll through the old town, through winding streets and historic districts.

Chania’s Old Market

An Absolute Feast

On the threshold between the new and old town, you’ll find Chania’s old market hall, the 4,000 square metre ‘Agora’. The cross-shaped, landmarked building is over 100 years old and was modelled on the market hall of Marseille. The first thing that catches visitors’ attention is the cast-iron, open roof structure, but then... those smells! Spices, olives, cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables, freshly caught fish and Cretan specialties can be tasted and bought at the market stands. The market hall is open Monday to Saturday from 8.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m., and again on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Full to the brim? The back entrance of the hall leads straight into the heart of the old town.

Leather Bags
Chalidon – Chania’s Boulevard

Shopping in Leather Alleys

Take Tsouderon to quickly reach Odos Skridlof, the “Little Leather Alley” of Chania. If you’ve already run blisters into your feet at this point, you’re sure to find a suitable replacement here. You’ll find the black knee-high boots of traditional Cretan men’s clothing and typical Greek leather sandals, but also bags, purses, and jewellery – actually anything and everything made of leather. You’ll come across the Chalidon at the end of the alley, Chania’s boulevard. There’s hustle and bustle here, and if you’re in the mood for peace and quiet, then rather head west. You’ll find Evraiki there, the former Jewish district of the city.

Jewish Evraiki District
Oriental Lamps

Strolls under Blossoming Rooftops

Under Ottoman reign, Chania was divided according to religions: The Muslim Turks lived in the east, the Christians in the west, and the Jews in the northwest of the old town. The Jewish Evraiki district, with its narrow streets and a blossoming roof overgrown with bougainvilleas, exudes a very special atmosphere. In some buildings, carpet weavers still practise their traditional art. In the “Temple Gift Shop”, first an orthodox church, then a mosque, today an original souvenir shop, you can buy handmade oriental lamps – such a unique souvenir.

Etz-Hayyim Synagogue

The Last Synagogue

The Etz-Hayyim Synagogue is also located here, the only remaining memorial for Jewish life on Crete. The building was erected as a Catholic church in the 15th century during the Venetian era of Crete, and was later handed over to the Jewish community. From 1996 onwards, the synagogue was extensively renovated and reopened at the end of 1999. The rescue was thanks to the art historian and author, Nikos Stavroulakis. He ensured that the synagogue was included on the list of the 100 most at-risk buildings in the world – the necessary financial resources then also poured in. It’s only a 2-minute walk from there to the harbour, where you can end the walk with a cool beverage.

Etz-Hayyim Synagogue

Photo credits

  • Header - Photo by high fliers on Shutterstock
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