Racing The Light In Chania

MikeachimThe Everyday24 Comments

Chania harbour, Crete, 2007 - Mike Sowden

I’m running along the harbour wall, and I’m not going to make it.

Yet another heart-rendingly beautiful Crete sunset is turning the sea copper, pulling the distant coastline into shadow. Presumably I’ll get bored of these at some point. Nice sunset. Meh. I’m trying to prepare myself for the disappointment of wasting this one. Of not making it in time.

Because there’s just no way.

Chania Lighthouse, Crete, 2007 - Mike Sowden

Chania (also Hania and Xania) isn’t a city – it’s a painting. My first half-hour at the harbour, gritty-eyed from too little sleep thanks to the worst sunburn I’ve ever had, were spend dangling my toes in the water of the harbour, wondering if I was gently hallucinating the colours around me. It’s one thing to read about the clarity of Mediterranean light in Braudel, and quite another to have it stream into you firsthand.

Chania’s lighthouse, like the whole harbour area, is beautiful to the brink of looking fake. It still stands after four hundred and fifty years (and countless renovations), through Venetian rule, surviving the Ottomans, taken by the Greeks, briefly occupied by the Egyptians and the Nazis and dodging the worst of the Greek Civil War of 1946-’49. It should look like the architectural equivalent of Keith Richards. Instead, it’s utterly lovely.

Chania harbour, daytime - Crete, 2007: Mike Sowden

The previous day I wandered out to sit under its dusty stonework, listening to the sea and feeling the sun and wondering how I’d ever be able to endure a grey day in England ever again. Speedboats roared past, the touristy glass-bottomed cruiser rocked and slapped back and forth, and I picked up pieces of broken beer-bottle and photographed things through them. A bit later I dozed off until an arguing Greek couple passed me, allowing me to test my Greek ear. (I pick up “malaka“. Doesn’t bode well for the relationship).

But mainly, I sat there all afternoon because I’m tired. Because walking to the lighthouse is a real walk.

Now I’m remembering just how far. I’m rushing to photograph the sun behind the windows of the lighthouse, as if it was operational again but a million times brighter – a Hellenic Eye of Sauron. But it’s too late. The sun’s already too low, so the best I can hope for is….

I rush to a restaurant table behind the sea wall. “Uh…signomi….? Ah! English. Can I…look, I know this is cheeky but can I stand on your table?”

I clamber up and poke my camera over the wall.


Chania lighthouse, backlit - Mike Sowden, 2007