Thursday, 27 June 2013

Koum Kapi

Koum Kapi stands like a sparkling jewel amidst the crumbling ruins of the old tightly packed houses of Minoos St and the newly-built box-style apartment blocks that have sprouted up beside the decay. The sea has been left in its original state, as it remains unable to be built on. The cafes lining the street are some of the most popular in summer, due to the breezy atmosphere created by the sea mist. Foreign tourists rarely venture to this part of town, as it's partly obscured by the commercial centre. A walk towards the east will take you to another side of Hania that doesn't include the view of the lighthouse from the Venetian harbour.

If you want the right atmosphere to observe the locals, Koum Kapi is the place to be, not the old harbour. Swimmers, drinkers, bar staff, dog walkers, strollers, fishermen, tourists, locals and immigrants, of all age groups can be seen in the area, enjoying pretty much the same things.

Koum Kapi was once regarded as the seediest part of town. It was home to the poorest and the most down and out of Hania. Brawls were common, and so was crime. About 25 years ago, Koum Kapi was cleaned up of a good deal of its slum/ghetto appearance, making way for outdoor cafes of all classes. It is now the coolest place to be seen, not just status-wise, but also because of the shady afternoon atmosphere.

But you can still see the poverty of its origins - it remains in full view, often sharing space side by side with the plush cafes; despite Koum Kapi being located close to Hania's red light district (the infamous Minoos St), its mix of locals, immigrants and (well-informed) tourists is a sort of proof that different people can live together harmoniously. Immigrants wash ther underwear on the street hwere they hand their laundry to dry, as tourists stroll through the narrow lanes behind the seafront where the locals are sipping their frappe.

One thing that surprises people about Koum Kapi's beach is that it is very clean. While flotsam and jetsam were commonly seen bobbing up and down in the water, Koum Kapi's waters are now considered some of the cleanest in Hania, due partly to the biological treatment facilities further east, as well as Greeks' greater grasp of social responsibility. As you look out onto the horizon, you catch a glimpse of Zorba's hill in Stavros, which looks so close you can swim out to it.

Koum Kapi is the best place to enjoy an afternoon drink outdoors, as it also tends to be quieter than the Venetia harbour, but beware of the evenings - each cafe is equipped with outdoor loudspeakers, which means that you will be surrounded by a variety of different musical tastes all at once, making it difficult to comprehend what is being said around you. This is nothing new to Koum Kapi, where Hania's African community used to live in the 1800s, economic migrants from a different era. They were named the Halikoutes by the locals precisely because they didn't know what they were talking about when they spoke among each other - all they could hear was 'ha', 'li', 'kou' and 'ti'.

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