Chalepa, a neighborhood of many changes
Chalepa, an area of Chania next to the sea with a view each evening of gorgeous sunsets, is no longer a place for grazing sheep or farming.
During the first ten years of the New Millennium the transition of Chalepa from a farming community to an urban suburb has come to an end.
The complete change of Chalepa from a quiet neighborhood of stately homes next to large fields has been accomplished and Chalepa has a different personality these days.
In a way this was a lucky change for my family as we were able to live in a modern house in a quiet, beautiful corner of Chalepa, yet still have easy access to the city. How quickly life can change! Ten years ago we enjoyed privacy because we lived on a dead end road and the southern and eastern sides of the house looked out onto views of nature, now we are surrounded by buildings and live at the corner of a paved intersection.
Although everyone in our neighborhood is trying to grapple with the inclusion of new residents because of the recently built many-storied apartment flats there is remains a flavor of the old neighborhood spirit.
Long time neighbors greet one another on the street and talk from the balconies to the mailman in order to catch up on any news. Some of the residents have beautiful balcony gardens which overflow with color and flowers all year around.
Sadly the farms have been pushed further and further away due to the modern building frenzy. I’m glad to say I can hear a rooster crow each morning to wake me up and my friends two blocks away have bronze colored chickens in a coop offering fresh eggs for their family.
A stroll along Chalepas’ streets
As you stroll along the streets next to the sea you can peek into a very few remaining leather factories. Note the hides neatly hung from the ceiling as part of the tanning process in preparing the leather.
Small tidy churches are tucked into many corners of Chalepa in honor of a particular patron Saint and to host a panigiri on the Saint’s day. At a small harbor down the hill from the Tabakaria area we find a church dedicated to Saint Kiriaki. A panigiri (local feast) was celebrated just last week at this small church. Mass was held there and the streets were decorated with colored lights. Many vendors set up tables so visitors could shop for many things from icons to CDs. Families from miles around attended the celebration causing once-a-year traffic jams on the side streets.
On the main platia (square) we find the large and impressive Evangelistria Greek Orthodox church. About four blocks away on Daglia Street sits a Russian Orthodox Church (Agia Magdalini) surrounded by large gardens. Both churches are very popular for weddings and baptisms. The Evangelistria Church has built two roomy neoclassical style buildings to the east of the church to more easily accommodate the needs of the community.
Instead of a small market every two or three blocks, Chalepa now has an Ariadne supermarket located a block north of the main road, Akrotiriou street. At the Evangelistria square Mrs. Dimitra has renovated her small pantopoleio (mini market) into a freshly painted lemon-colored well-organized mini supermarket.
The Evangelistria Square which was empty except for the peripitero (kiosk) and the pantopoleio of Mrs. Dimitra and her family ten years ago has expanded. Now we find a kafeneio in a renovated house painted a muted yellow with sea green shutters. The kafeneio has a cozy back garden for drinking coffee with friends.
Around the corner a small modern style cafe has emerged, complete with a large television screen. Here you will find many different people from Chalepa especially students from ATEI (Higher Technology Educational Institute) which is located south of the church.
Next door to the new café is Mrs. Georgia’s fruit and vegetable shop where her family also offers their own production of wine, olive oil and cheeses. Mr. Petros, her husband, knows how much I love fresh farm eggs and always tells me when his mother has sent fresh eggs with him to sell.
Across the street we have one of the best fish shops in Chania offering fish, freshly caught, early every morning.
The street level of the newest building on the platia (square) houses a DVD shop and a store offering everything from snacks to furniture to household decorative items.
At the edge of the square you will find our excellent bakery which offers a large variety of breads, cookies and other treats. For those of us on a diet they have bread sticks and other items specially baked to suit our needs – and very delicious.
A popular summer gathering place is the “kouloura” (round beach) formed at the edge of the sea. In the early morning many elderly and other health conscious swimmers enjoy a dip in the sea there. As the sun rises higher in the sky and the temperature becomes hotter you will find sunbathers and families enjoying this refreshing nook.
From the cliff on the south side one can easily walk down to the Kouloura beach. The cliff protects the beach from noises and makes the place private. This beach seems far away from the neighborhood although it is located only a few blocks from the hustle and bustle of the main platia in Chalepa.
by Vicki S. Nikolaidis
- Chalepa in Chania, an alluring district with a long and diverse history