An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Xania harbour in winter

Xania harbour is one of those places that we tend to avoid like some sort of dire communicable disease in the summertime. It's a tourist trap and swarms with badly dressed. loud, 'travellers" smelling of sweat and suntan lotion. The cafe and taverna owners overcharge because they can. Music and overloud televisions blare day and night. The place is a beautiful looking foul bedlam.

Xania has a picturesque setting and the most beautiful venetian harbour with a lighthouse and a disused mosque. The worldwideweb is littered with photographs of this amazing spot - in all weathers and all seasons - just enter "Xania harbour" into Google's excellent image search engine and feast your eyes.

For us though Xania harbour in winter is a glorious location. With a wide horizon it is possible to see the weather fronts moving across a constantly changing sky.  The mass of the tourist have gone and the place is taken over again by he local who sit behind sophisticated plastic sheeting that covers in the fronts of the tavernas and cafes drinking coffee and chewing the fat. The food quality rises dramatically and the menus shrink - fresh food is back in fashion nowadays.

We sat outside a fish taverna at the eastern end of the harbour yesterday afternoon and ate. Imagine the spread: one plate of fava sprinkled with roughly chopped onion and a sprig of basil; one plate of stamnagathi (a strong wlld green) prepared in olive oil and served with fresh lemon; a mixed plated of braised rice celery with radish; a plate of small individual dakos (half a dozen rye rusks soaked with oil and topped with crushed tomato and mizithre cheese. Those were the starters and were followed by a plate of golden, crisp fried potatoes, individually cut from starchy white potatoes grown on the Lassithi plateau, a plate of freshly caught sardines, a plate of tiny battered fish looking for all the world like whitebait but not, tastier and fresher; and finally a plate of grilled octopus that was still in the sea yesterday, boiled till malakos (firm) and then grilled brown with the tiny tentacle ends curled and carbonised. No, not finally - a plate of lemons quartered and a basket of crusty bread completes the meal. Oh yes and a carafe of local white wine and a bottle of water.

There are three of us and we eat in the sunshine as we watch the rolling slide show of clouds moving over a constantly heaving sea beyond the harbour. A couple of hours slip by in pleasant conversation and the temperature cools slowly, the clouds begin to grey. The light drops a notch - evening cannot be far. By the time we are done with the meal and the scarps have been stowed safely in a plastic bag for the dogs' super later, when the owner has brought complimentary raki (tsikourdia)  and halva it is coming on to a fine drizzle - we move inside and linger over the end of he experience (so much more than just a meal). We sit in company now and watch the early evening clear again before paying up the bill (42 euros) and strolling around the harbour and its winter defences now in place one last time before heading home.

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