Saturday, 8 September 2012

Behind the Agora of Hania (Πίσω από την Αγορά στα Χανιά)

Throughout the summer, I've steered clear of the town centre. It's been too hot and dusty for walking; the coast and the countryside are more appealing at this time of year. But now that schools have started, we find that we need to go into town more often, which gave me a chance to catch up on what's happening there the other day.

The area behind the Agora (the central cross-shaped market) has a completely new look: Tsouderon St has become pedestrianised. Although I used to go by there regularly in the past, I don't have any photos of the area behind the Agora, and no wonder, as it lacked the charm visitors associate with Hania's historic Venetian port.

Tsouderon St was known for its mixture of old-fashioned shops, some of which are still going, like the fresh pastry supplier and the egg merchant, as well as its specialised boutiques, but it was very difficult to browse with pleasure there due to the traffic, so I often avoided it. The footpaths were narrow and the two sides of the road were separated by another narrow strip of tarmac where cars often sped past, with no space for stopping, creating a loud noisy annoying atmosphere.

It's the first time I've been able to walk along this inner city street without feeling jostled. It looks as though an urban rejuvenation will take place here, after some of the side streets (with narrow footpaths like the ones here used to be) coming off this road  almost emptied out as the boutiques closed down one by one during the crisis (overpriced shops selling not very usefull stuff). But now, it looks more like an area that you feel like visiting  - there are even single stools placed at regular frequent intervals to sit down and rest: I am impressed.

To the west, Tsouderon St leads on to Skridlof St, commonly known by the locals as the touristy Stivanadika ('leather street') which ends up at Halidon St, which leads directly to the Venetian port. 

I think this area is going to become a meeting point now - since the shops began to empty, due to elitist tactics and mobility issues, the main πιάτσα all went to the grimy Apokoronou St shopping area, which I detest, because it has loud stinky traffic. There is a cafe on the corner there which has taken up all the footpath (probably completely illegally, since handicapped people would find it difficult to cross through the tables and chairs); if you sit there for coffee, you will become deaf.

Turning streets into pedestrian zones isn't an easy task, as it means closing off other streets that would eventually lead onto the pedestrian area. Mousouron St, also known as Keradika (the 'candle sellers' due to the preponderance of many old fashioned shops, some of which are still selling funeral accessories and other religious items) has now been cordoned off. This street is also well known for its shoe shops and a popular zaharoplasteio (confectioner's).

On a warm evening, this area is going to be irrestible in the winter. I reckon it will take off sometime then, when our tourists leave and we get the city back to ourselves, so that we can reshape it into the town we like to see - in the summer, too much in this area is geared towards tourists' needs, which are not similar to our own. This move might even help the Stivanadika to keep going later in the season, as they always close down after summer. But they sell useful leather items (mainly for giving as gifts), and I don't see why they shouldn't be treated as part of the main shopping area. Tourists can't be the only ones interested in our unique Cretan arts and crafts based on leather!

Not everyone is happy with this change; my cabbie husband thinks that it has created too much congestion on the main roads. You can't please everyone, I guess.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.