Monday, June 2, 2008

Agia Marina Beach, Crete

Yesterday, I decided to go for my first swim this summer. The most convenient, as far as distance is concerned, beach is considered to be Agia Marina, about 6 km from Chania. The various travel guides will have you believe that it's a really wonderful beach etc. Well, like I said, it's convenient. It extends from Kato Stalos all the way to Platanias and from that point onward to Maleme and Kolymbari, albeit each time with the respective regional names from the nearby villages and communities. Here, I'm going to talk about the main Agia Marina beach, i.e. the part from Kato Stalos to Platanias.

It's one long, sandy beach with very fine-grained sand that sticks to your feet with the slightest droplet of water or sweat and is a serious pain to clean up. Although it's a habitat for the endangered sea turtles and keeps getting awarded a Blue Flag each year, I've yet to see the slightest sign of protection provided to the turtles. Certainly, the noisy beach bars with their bright lights, the (mostly) permanent umbrellas from the ubiquitous beach chair rental businesses and the 24/7 human presence on the beach do nothing to let them lay their eggs in peace. It really amazes me that it's always awarded a Blue Flag. It looks like the Greek tourist industry has made a huge mockery of Blue Flags and the people in the EU still haven't gotten wind of what's going on here.

There are lots of beach bars on this beach. Too many, if you ask me. The worst offender, of course, is the most popular, named "Ammos & Ilios" (Sand & Sun); finding a (horribly mangled and tatty) beach chair there is practically impossible on most days, it's overpriced (as is everything in Greece thanks to the mafia-like tactics of the oligopolies that rule the country and have sucked the blood out of everyone ever since the drachma was replaced by the euro) and incredibly noisy and crowded, with the jerks playing "beach tennis" being a major pain in the ass to every beachgoer. Really, you can't even walk on the beach without risking getting hit by a beach tennis ball.

The waters are really shallow; you have to walk for about 100 yards into the sea until the water's reached your waist or your chest, depending on where you tread. The seabed is sandy - and the strong currents mean that the sand easily shifts from under your feet, often catching swimmers by surprise. If you decide to swim there, be careful and alert - the currents are strong and we have at least ten drowning victims there each year. Also, in the afternoon, after the sand and everything has been stirred and shaken by the crowds splashing in the waters, the waters get really muddy.

As for getting there, it may be only 6 km from Chania, but there's too much traffic - and slow traffic at that. Just be patient. It'll take you anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour to reach Agia Marina, depending on the traffic (and the occasional accident). Of course, then you'll have to find a place to park your car. When you do, make sure you take advantage of your luck; who knows, you might also get to win the lottery.

As usual with all Greek beaches, thonging and toplessness are OK here, although very few of the local people (only women) wear thongs. It's the fear of the Power of Gossip, you see. I personally don't care - I wear my thongs and microkinis everywhere.

Overall, would I recommend this beach? No. I don't like it at all. Then again, if your idea of going to the beach is noisy beach bars, you'll like it. Personally, I've grown out of this whole thing.


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