Me and the Night and the Raki

Sunday, April 6, 2009

Our plane takes off promptly at 7:15am and lands just as promptly in Athens 40 minutes later. An hour’s layover and we are aloft again. We land in Chania on the northwest coast of Crete at 9:55am. We reach our hotel at 11am full of plans to hit the streets of Chania running. Instead of hitting the streets, we hit the sheets. It is close to 5pm when we wake up. I suppose there was a time when I could have hit the streets, but if there was, I don’t remember it. All we have to look forward to is dinner.

Our hotel night clerk shows us the restaurant we need to go to. It is, he says, 10 minutes away walking. It takes us half an hour, not because we are slow but because he is optimistic. It is raining when we leave the hotel. We walk along the harbor with wind driven rain hitting us in the face like rice thrown at a shotgun wedding.

To our left is Homer’s wine dark sea. To our right the hulking gray stone dockyard buildings put up by Benedetto Moro in 1599 while Crete was under the Venetian thumb. Venetian dominance lasted from the beginning of the 13th century through to 1669 when the Turks wrested it from the Venetians, dockyards and all. After 465 years and an heroic 22 year siege, Crete passed from the hands of the Serenissima into the hands of the Porte.

Our restaurant shown out of the darkness like a lighthouse in a storm. Inside everything was warmth and conviviality. I ordered a small carafe of raki in what precious little Greek I commanded. The waiter, whose English was fluent, appreciated it. In fact I have found that in my places I've gone, with the possible exception of Paris, the people appreciate a foreigner trying to speak to them in their own language. The waiter brought two tiny shot glasses along with raki. It is a grappa-like liquour though with less taste and much more punch. Nancy tried it. She said that must be what gasoline tastes like. I finished the careffe on my own. The waiter brought me a second one on the house. I insisted he and I share it. And there yards away from Chandia jetty and the heaving Mediterranean just beyond, the waiter and I knocked back shot glasses of raki like there was no tomorrow.

I really like Crete.