If you’re a regular follower of our blog (and we certainly hope you are), then you know that Carla and I are on a journey to find our new home someplace in Europe. After looking in Spain, France, and Italy, we began this year’s search in Portugal, but after one month, we realized that we just weren’t connecting with it. There’s much to like about Portugal . . . and it seems that quite a few folks are falling in love with it and calling it their new home. But for us . . . unless something very unexpected happens, our new home will be elsewhere.
We have been in Chania for over two weeks and as we noted in our last blog, there is much to love about this remarkable town. It’s beautiful, charming, loaded with ancient history, the people are delightful, the weather is gorgeous, the entire island of Crete is amazing, and it’s quite affordable. Much of what makes Chania so beautiful and charming is its ancient history which dates back over 5,000 years. Chania has been part of the Minoan, Mycenean, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman empires. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in Europe.
As you stroll its narrow and windy streets and maze-like alleyways, you can see how beautifully these different styles meld together to create a harmonious and beautiful town. And of course, being right on the Mediterranean Sea with a picture-perfect harbor only adds to its attraction.
So . . . is this a place that we could see ourselves living? Well, it turns out we are not so easy to please. There are SEVEN major criteria that we are looking for in our “perfect place”. . .
Is It Both Beautiful and Charming?
If we’re going to move thousands of miles away from our home country, we want to be in a place that excites us visually. We want to delight every time we stroll through the old town. This may seem like a lot to ask, but in Europe it’s not that difficult to find and Chania easily passes this threshold. It may just be the most beautiful and charming town I have visited.
Is it Historically Rich?
No matter how beautiful the town is, if it doesn’t stimulate us intellectually, it won’t hold our attention for very long. Chania and the history of Crete are ancient - going back thousands of years. Historical relevance is a strength for Chania and Crete . . . and the history is not just local; it’s really about the history of human civilization. So, yes, Chania passes this test with ease as well.
Is the Surrounding Area Both Beautiful and Interesting?
Chania is on the island of Crete, and seeing the beauty and the attractions of this island can keep us busy for years to come. The geography ranges from snow-capped mountains to the beautiful sea - and everything in between. The ruins, castles, monasteries, and museums on this island are second to none. After all, the first known human settlement in Europe began here. So, with both natural beauty and places of historical interest, Chania and Crete again perform incredibly well.
Is There Easy Access to Visiting Other Countries?
A priority for us in wanting to live in Europe is to have easy access to many of the places and countries we are interested in visiting. We’d like to take a 3–5-day trip somewhere new at least once every 6 weeks. This is where Chania comes up a little bit short. It does have a small airport, but to really go anywhere, you must pass through the capital city of Athens, which is an hour flight from Chania. Once in Athens, there are many direct flights to cities across the world, and certainly within Europe. And while having to go through Athens is not ideal, it’s also not a deal- breaker for us. If we needed to fly once a week or every other week, it would be a challenge, but traveling once every 6 weeks for enjoyment . . . we will be just fine.
Is It Affordable?
Everyone has a different threshold for what’s affordable, and everyone has different needs that require them to dig deep into their pockets. We live moderately and our dream (as far as our living situation goes) is to be able to live within walking distance of a beautiful historic old town, eat out somewhat regularly, and have enough money to travel to other places 6-8 times a year, as well as to the states twice a year. Chania is very affordable (especially compared to living in the U.S.) and it offers us this opportunity for further travel.
Do We Have the Opportunity to Make Friends and Develop a Sense of Community?
Carla and I get along amazingly well, especially for two people who travel and spend as much time together as we do. But we’d still love to develop a larger network of friends and meet kindred spirits in the place we’d like to call home. We have found Chania to be a very friendly place and the people here are delightful.
We do realize that we would be somewhat reliant on the Expat community (especially those who speak English reasonably well) for our initial connections. In most countries, people have their families and established circles, and it can be difficult to break into a new circle of friends. This is true wherever you go. With expats, everyone is in the same boat and there is an openness to meeting new people and establishing new connections. On the other hand, we don’t want to live in a place where the expat community has taken over the native culture. We enjoy Greece and their culture, and that’s what we want to buy into. But we are also realistic about meeting people and making friends, especially with our limited proficiency with the Greek language. In talking with a few folks, we have heard that the expat community is a welcoming group with lots of diversity . . . and that’s exactly what we’re hoping to find.
Is It by the Ocean or Sea?
This is where we feel a bit spoiled . . . smelling the ocean air in the morning, hearing the sound of the waves crashing at night, the kick in our step as we walk the shore, and just the daily presence of a magnificent body of water is a gift, and one that we will readily accept. Here we can comfortably find a place that is walkable to the old town as well as to the water. Additionally, Chania’s affordability allows us to have a large enough dwelling to house family and friends when they come to visit. So, Chania supports living by the water quite nicely.
So far, Chania ticks every box for us . . . and yes, we have quite a few boxes that need ticking. We absolutely love it here . . . but it would be premature to call it home before we see the other three places (two of which are islands) that we plan to visit in Greece over the next 6 weeks. The good news . . . if we find a place that surpasses Chania, it will be a city or town that has truly exceeded our expectations and we will be thrilled beyond measure. Watch this space.