Note: My review of the Hotel Handakas can be found here.
During my Greece trip, I stayed in the Hotel Handakas. It is located in the town of Amoudara, a part of a municipality of the Heraklion Prefecture known as Malevizi. It was formed in 2011 from the merge of three former municipalities: Gazi, Tylissos, and Krousonas.
Amoudara is a small town, the major attractions of which are situated along or just off of the main road, Andrea Papandreou. It features a long stretch of beaches and accompanying resorts, plenty of tourist shops and restaurants, and one of the best cineplexes in Europe, the Technopolis. Signs advertising excursions offered by the myriad of tourist agencies that line the street spring up every hundred metres or so. It isn’t uncommon to pass by men and women clad only in bathing suits.
My first excursion in Amoudara was quite the glamorous one, consisting of a tour of the various mini-markets and European dollar store equivalents in an attempt to find toiletries and some clothing to last me until my suitcase arrived. My suitcase did end up arriving, if you’re curious. Three days later.
The main road offers a pleasant and relatively peaceful walk. The influx of tourists this month was not quite as large as it normally is, Sam told us.
There are a number of forks in the road, and you can use all of them to get to the beach. In fact, the beach is usually visible from that distance. That’s one of the useful aspects of the layout of this town: it’s rather difficult to get lost, as you can orient yourself by the beach.
The beach itself is rather typical of beaches in Greece and by that I mean, strikingly beautiful. You can walk for kilometres upon kilometres on the sandy stretch, with a gorgeous view of the mountainous landscape.
Near this mini-reservoir of water, I had my first of many encounters with one of the ever-present features of Greece: stray dogs. I didn’t realize that it was a stray at first, as a number of children were playing with it without fear. I was walking by, toiletries in hand, when I saw it glance at me. I didn’t think much of it, except for the fact that it was adorable, and kept on walking. When I walked past it, I notice a flurry of movement and all of a sudden, something runs up behind me. I turn and see the small dog jumping up and trying to grab at my bag.
I yelped and stumbled back, jerking the bag out of its reach. It jumped up one more time and then, giving me an angelic look with its tongue wagging, ran off. I breathed a sigh of relief and noticed a few of the kids giving me a strange look. No one else on the beach appeared perturbed in the least. Business as usual, I suppose. A sort of culture shock?
Take away: if you have any qualms about stray dogs, get over them before coming to Greece. Stray dogs here tend to be well-fed and not mal-intentioned.
Just over a week or so into my trip, I made the pleasant discovery of The Happy Train, pictured below:
Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate for a moment in finding how I was to go about procuring a ride for myself on this train. As it turns out, one of its departure locations is just outside of the supermarket Rania, which is approximately a 5-minute walk from the Hotel Handakas. The one-hour evening excursion leaves at 5pm every day, and there is a 2-hour excursion earlier in the day, starting at 10am. The driver arrived a bit late, but I definitely would advise getting there about 5-10 minutes in advance. My fare was seven euros.
The train didn’t follow its scheduled itinerary all that much, to be honest, but I still found the experience enjoyable. It’s certainly different from a structured and narrated tour. This was more so a chance to admire scenery. And to wave at people from the train, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Our only stop was at a small port, which also featured a beach, for 10 minutes.
After driving down to the port, we headed back up into the mountainous regions.
There, we encountered some of the local gods.
The train conductor looked rather bored, but obediently stopped for us as we-that is to say, two couples and their children, and I- ooooh’ed and aaah’ed over the mountain goats. The goats were considerably more composed than we were, and endured our chatter and photos and videos with nothing but complete dignity. This was, fittingly, the train’s last stop.
In the coming days and weeks, I’ll be posting more about Malevizi and some of the options available for sightseeing nearby. Keep your eyes peeled for that!