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Master Chief Petty Officer Jerry Daniels of Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Crete, looks at paintings at a new gift shop on the base's Marathi pier facility.
Master Chief Petty Officer Jerry Daniels of Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, Crete, looks at paintings at a new gift shop on the base's Marathi pier facility. (Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

Sailors assigned to U.S. and NATO ships stopping at the Marathi Naval Pier Complex in Souda Bay, Crete, can now do a little shopping for local souvenirs before heading back to sea.

The naval support activity’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation department recently opened the Golden Fleece Gift Shop on the pier, which is set on an isolated, rocky hillside about 20 minutes from both the main base and the town of Hania.

“When people come from the ships, they want to buy Greek stuff,” said Stephen Taylor, Souda Bay’s MWR director.

“Some can’t [go into Hania] if it’s a working port,” he said. “They work all day, go to the rec center … buy their souvenirs, go to sleep and then get up and work again.”

So MWR employee Katerina Tsapakis came up with the idea for a pier side shop and opened it March 18, Taylor said.

“Unless you’ve visited Souda, it’s hard to understand how far it is from both the base and Hania,” said Chief Petty Officer Edward Snyder of the Navy Region Europe staff.

Snyder spent six years sailing the Mediterranean as part of the U.S. 6th Fleet staff on USS La Salle and has been to Souda Bay twice.

The Golden Fleece stocks are nearly all Greek or Cretan items, Taylor said, “… from postcards to chess sets with Greek characters, gods and soldiers.”

The shop also sells olive oil, spices, stone statues, globes and models of ancient Greek ships.

The chess sets will be popular items, said Snyder.

“Generally speaking … these are things you won’t find in any other country,” he said about the marble chessboards. “In the over 25 countries I’ve visited, I’ve never seen anything like them.”

Last year, 488 ships with tens of thousands of sailors aboard stopped at Souda Bay. This was a busy year for the port because of the large number of ships participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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