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A horse and buggy stands on the Chania Crete's Old Harbor promenade. In the background is the Venetian Lighthouse
A horse and buggy stands on the Chania Crete's Old Harbor promenade. In the background is the Venetian Lighthouse (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A horse and buggy stands on the Chania Crete's Old Harbor promenade. In the background is the Venetian Lighthouse
A horse and buggy stands on the Chania Crete's Old Harbor promenade. In the background is the Venetian Lighthouse (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The Hasan Pasha Mosque on Chania, Crete's Old Harbor. It dates back to the second half of the 17th century and is now used for exhibitions.
The Hasan Pasha Mosque on Chania, Crete's Old Harbor. It dates back to the second half of the 17th century and is now used for exhibitions. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Signs announce what a Chania, Crete, restaurant has to offer. For the tourist, Chania is a great place to sample Greek and Cretan cuisine.
Signs announce what a Chania, Crete, restaurant has to offer. For the tourist, Chania is a great place to sample Greek and Cretan cuisine. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A delicious grilled squid as served at one of the restaurants lining the Old Port in Chania, Crete.
A delicious grilled squid as served at one of the restaurants lining the Old Port in Chania, Crete. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A street performer entertains tourists in Chania, Crete with a fiery performance.
A street performer entertains tourists in Chania, Crete with a fiery performance. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The Chania Cathedral. Built on the site of an earlier church, the cathedral was turned into a soap factory during the Ottoman rule of Crete. it was completed in 1860.
The Chania Cathedral. Built on the site of an earlier church, the cathedral was turned into a soap factory during the Ottoman rule of Crete. it was completed in 1860. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The sky is reflected in the waters of Chania, Crete's Venetian Harbor.
The sky is reflected in the waters of Chania, Crete's Venetian Harbor. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
People enjoy a Cretan dinner as others wander along the shop-lined cobblestone alleys in Chania, Crete.
People enjoy a Cretan dinner as others wander along the shop-lined cobblestone alleys in Chania, Crete. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
A full moon rises over the houses lining Chania, Crete's Old Port. They are full of shops, restaurants and bars.
A full moon rises over the houses lining Chania, Crete's Old Port. They are full of shops, restaurants and bars. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
Old town Chania is full of cobblestone alleys lined with shops and restaurants.
Old town Chania is full of cobblestone alleys lined with shops and restaurants. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The minaret of the Aga mosque in Chania, Crete. Chania has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottoman Turks and others over the centuries.
The minaret of the Aga mosque in Chania, Crete. Chania has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottoman Turks and others over the centuries. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
An anchor and a ship's propeller stand in front of the entrance to the Maritime Museum of Crete in Chania.
An anchor and a ship's propeller stand in front of the entrance to the Maritime Museum of Crete in Chania. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The Greek flag flies over Firka fortress that guards the entrance to Chania, Crete's Old Harbor.
The Greek flag flies over Firka fortress that guards the entrance to Chania, Crete's Old Harbor. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The ramparts of the 17th century Firka fortress guards the entrance to Chania, Crete's Old Harbor. Today it houses the Maritime Museum of Crete.
The ramparts of the 17th century Firka fortress guards the entrance to Chania, Crete's Old Harbor. Today it houses the Maritime Museum of Crete. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)
The Venetian lighthouse at the mouth of Chania, Crete's Old Port at sunset. It is sometimes called the Egyptian lighthouse because it was reconstructed by Egyptians in the 19th century.
The Venetian lighthouse at the mouth of Chania, Crete's Old Port at sunset. It is sometimes called the Egyptian lighthouse because it was reconstructed by Egyptians in the 19th century. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

When you walk down to the end of Chalidon street and burst upon Chania, Crete’s old Venetian port, the first thing you think of is vacation.

For Americans stationed at nearby NSA Souda Bay, this might not be the case. After all, work is just around the corner.

But for me — there twice on temporary duty — it seemed the weight of work slipped right from my shoulders. The smell of the sea air, the sight of the old lighthouse and the aroma of the Cretan food coming from the taverns lining the port put me in vacation mode.

Chania has a lot of history. It has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Ottoman Turks and others over the centuries. But now, at least from early spring to late autumn, it’s ruled by tourists.

They all have left their mark. Tourist shops are abundant here in warrens of small lanes behind the port, as are the restaurants and bars catering to them.

The Ottomans left mosques, including the Hasan Pasha Mosque on the harbor that is now used for exhibitions. There are Byzantine and Venetian fortifications including Firka Fortress, which today houses the Maritime Museum. The Chania Cathedral, completed in 1860, was built on the site of an earlier church. It was turned into a soap factory during the Ottoman rule of Crete.

The most famous sight in Chania is the Venetian Lighthouse. It was built in the late 16th century. It is sometimes called the Egyptian Lighthouse, because it was renovated by Egyptian troops who were part of the Ottoman army in the 19th century.

Before going out to dinner and trying Cretan specialties like fried snails, grilled octopus and roasted rabbit or lamb, have a drink at one of the port-side bars and watch the sun sink into the sea behind the old Chania lighthouse. Vacation pure.

abrams.mike@stripes.com

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