5 Georgioupoli - Drapano Peninsula - Aptera - Vrisses - Kourna Lake

This time the first point of our program were the coastal settlement Georgioúpoli, from here the long strip of beaches stretch to the east along the coast of Almirós Bay. The main place of interest in the settlement is a small white church on the end of the breakwater, which jut out in the sea at the distance of 200 m. The sea raged, therefore it was impossible to pass to the church on the narrow bank from large black stones.

Click the images to enlarge them.

We have gone further to the west, to Drápano Peninsula. The road ascended, opening before us the view of the sea coast and the picturesque valley, which surrounded Georgioupoli.

The road has become even there above. Sometimes were visible the consequences of the fires, which have fallen upon Greece this summer: the burnt trunks of low trees, the naked burnt out earth. By the way, at the day of our arrival to the island, above our hotel in Stavromenos a fire helicopter have flown to the sea, have filled a tank by water, which hung under it, and have flown along the sea to the direction of this place, Drapano.

Meanwhile the weather finally has become bed and it was raining. However, it lasted only several minutes, after that the sun have burst through again. At all the time of our stay in Crete it was raining only two times, at the second time it was transiently as well.

Along the way we have passed past the small modern church, which solitarily stood in the middle of a field and we have come inside. Similar churches are typical for Crete, but not all of them proved to be open.

Our next stop happened not far from Gavalohóri village. A little below the rural cemetery, which is also very interesting, with stone crosses and gravestones,it is located the picturesque lawn with a dozen of stone wells, built in the Venetian period. Surrounded by spreading platans and high fir trees, this place fills by the sensation of rest and pacification.

We have reached the sea and further we went along the coast, for a short while we have stopped in Kalíves settlement with the beautiful view from a bridge over the river that falls into the sea.

We have passed a little along E75 to the west, then we have turned to the left and have gone to Aptéra.

It is the ruins of the large ancient city, which was founded in VII century B.C. and flourished in the hellenistic period. The small part of the debris is located next to the road near Metóhi village, whereas to a main part of the them one have to pass further by the road sign. Among the ancient ruins of the various degree of destruction the most interesting is the three large well preserved water reservoirs for Roman baths.

Then we have arrived to the top of hill, here is located the Turkish fortress, which was closed at that moment. A little below is located a point with the remarkable view of another Turkish fortress named Idzedín, of Souda Bay, of the Souda fortress on an islet in the bay.

Our further way passed backwards, to the south and to the east, dodging between small villages. Near one of them, Hiliomodoú, we have temporarily stopped in order to admire the Byzantine Church of Saint Nicholas of XI century.

The next our stop was in Vrísses. The road to the south coast here begins. The central square of the settlement is located near the wide bridge of the old national road over the Almiros river. The place is picturesque, especially if you go down under the bridge. The river in this season is the series of large puddles, between which the groups of geese and ducks walk, noisily quacking, soliciting food. It is evident that the birds are fattened and dont look like their wild fellows.

Immediately after Vrisses our wheel was burst and we have stopped in the roadside opposite a storehouse. We have changed it with difficulty, thanks to good people - the workers of the storehouse, then we have gone further with the spare wheel to the next point of the program (and the last, as it proved to be) Kourná Lake.

After passing past the drive to the lake, we have risen to the place with the beautiful panoramic view of the lake, then we have returned and have turned to the coast. After leaving the car on the hillock, we have gone down and have walked along the coast. There were no people, it allowed us to entirely take pleasure by beauty and tranquillity of this place. It was cool for the bathing, therefore we only have wetted our feet, have sat for a while beside the water and have gone further.


All-round panorama of Kourna Lake

We also planned to visit Agriroúpoli this day, the place with picturesque springs and waterfalls, but it began to grow dark, it was lost much time because of the unforeseen stop, and we have gone home to the hotel.

     

6 Rethymno

This city was the only stop in our passage to the south of the island; therefore it is here separately.

In the entrance in Rétymno we have turned to the embankment, where the strip of sandy beaches stretch towards the center of the city. However, there were very few of vacationers because of the permanent storm.

We have parked near the Fortezza fortress, whose massive walls were built by the Venetians in the second half of XVI century, and it has become the first place of our visit.

The exhibition of Ukrainian artists in the former artillery storage was placed immediately after the entrance (3 euros). Inside the fortress is situated the several structures which are scattered over the territory, one of which, with the large dome, earlier was a mosque, and still earlier it was a Catholic church; the small Church of Saint Catherine is located next. In the shadow of trees stands one more small Church of Saint Theodore; on the southern side of the fortress is the modern Erofíli theater. We have passed along the fortress wall with the loop holes and admired the opened views of the sea, of the Venetian harbour, of urban quarters.

The Venetian harbour resembles the harbour in Chania, only it is a little smaller here. The same many-colored houses; the large, archaized sailboat; the lighthouse on the sea.

A beggar with a lyre (the folk instrument like the violin, which lies not on the shoulder, but on the knee of performer) sat at the pier and he squeezed out of this lyre completely indecent sounds. I tried to photograph him from about twenty metres, but the fellow burst into angry tirade, so that any will to immortalize him in the memory of descendants died.

After wandering around the city, we have visited the National Garden. Small, filled with diverse vegetation, intersected by shady paths with benches, it is excellent place for leisure of the townspeople, which quantity were sufficient there in spite of workday.

After resting in the shadow of trees, we have returned to the car we had to move further.

     

7 Arsani Monastery - Arkadi Monastery - Eleftherna - Gerondospilios Cave - Bali

This time we have begun our way not from the main national road, we have passed to the south inland.

Soon the Arsáni Monastery with the white fence appeared before us. The admission was free, but no one of its inhabitants was there inside, two churches were closed, although all round were well-groomed and beautiful. After walking there a little, we have gone further.

Our next stop was the Arkádi Monastery. In the 1866 the local residents together with women and children, which have risen against the Turkish yoke, were locked here and several days hold the line against the superior numbers of enemy troops. When the Turkish guns break through a wall and defence was broken through, the rebels, instead of surrendering preferred to explode themselves, and at the same time also the mass of the enemy soldiers. In the memory about this event, before the entrance into the monastery is located the monument in the form of two parallel walls with the arches, between which the busts of local heroes stand. After rising in the small room above the walls, so called ossuary, the cabinet filled with the skulls of rebels appears before the look.

Inside the monastery (2 euros for the admission) is located the uncommon church, built in the 1587 in the Venetian baroque style and dedicated to Christ the Saviour and Saints Constantine and Helen. All events of the past practically did not damage it. After looking around it inside and outside, after walking on galleries and after visiting a museum, we have gone further.

A roadway marker called to turn towards the ancient Eléftherna, and we have turned. According to guides, there are located the ruins of the ancient city, but we have not get there. However, we dont regret about this, ruins are identical everywhere and uninteresting, and everything that were found there, were distributed among museums long time ago.

But we stopped in the remarkable place, at the cemetery on the slope of the hill (thus even a cemetery can be the inspiring and remarkable place!), where among the gravestones with crosses stands the Byzantine church of XII century, dedicated to Christ the Saviour and Saint Anna. It has the simple square form of building, the round tower with the conical dome, the uncoloured, stone texture of walls. These churches, located in the wilderness and therefore are not touched by the subsequent conquests and transformations, they carry spirit of that distant time, are for me, perhaps, are the most striking impression from the architecture of Crete.

Our further way passed through the picturesque village Margarítes with the stores, whose walls were covered with souvenir ceramics, through the large non-touristic settlement Pérama, to the Gerondóspilios (Melidóni) cave.

After paying 3 euros for the admission and after obtaining information booklet, we have passed to the narrow entrance and have walked down the stairs on the bottom of the large hall of cave (the length is 65 m, the width is 30 m, the height is 25 m). From the top hang down the stalactites of whimsical form, generally of green color. The cave from the old times served as the place of worship, here were found the great number of ancient objects. The large white sarcophagus with a cross is situated in the center, where the bones of local residents lie who were killed here in the 1824; 400 people have choked when the Turks have blocked the entrance, have kindled a bonfire and have turned the smoke inside the cave.

After returning to the light, we have gone seaward to Balí. This settlement is located beside the row of picturesque bays with sandy beaches and it is very popular among tourists. We have stopped at the place where the road approaches closely to the coast, and have walked down to the beach, sufficiently crowded, with the fine light sand. In spite of a little roughness, the sea was pleasant and refreshing, we have spent a couple of hours there, then we have gone further, along E75 to the east.

According to the plan we had to visit some of other places eastward, but we have managed to stop only in Fodele village. The terrible broken-stone road from this village to the old national road, which passes in the south, and then the ride towards the dazzling sun to the west, they killed any will to turn somewhere, all the more the roadway markers were invisible. We visited Fodele and Agia Pelagia another day, but since these places are located in the Iraklion nome, i.e. in the east, then this trip will be described in the "east" part of my story.    Further...

     
Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.