Crete December 2018

Ariel of Hamble
Jim and Valerie SHURVELL
Sun 28 Apr 2019 04:58



1st to 8th December, 2018.

After lots of discussion regarding the thoughts of taking

Ariel to Crete one summer we decided to join a tour of

Crete by flying to the island in December.

Crete is renowned for its Greek ancient cities, white

mountains and stunning coastal stretches.


On the Sunday we visited the Monastery of Arkadi. Its

a Eastern Orthodox monastery situated 14 miles

southeast of Rethymnon. The current church dates back

to the 16th century when it was a place for science and

art and had a school and a rich library. It played an

active role in the Cretan resistance of Ottoman rule

during the revolt of 1866. 943 Greeks mostly women

and children sought refuge in the monastery. After three

days of battle and under orders from the abbot of the

monastery the Cretans blew up barrels of gunpowder

choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender. 

The monastery became a national sanctuary in honour

of the Cretan resistance celebrated on the 8th November

each year. The explosion did not end the Cretan

insurrection but it attracted the attention of the rest of

the world.

 Elefterna museum was created about thirty years ago to

accommodate the excavations of the ancient city for

Homer in Crete. It is a very organised and beautified

presented museum. It is divided into three rooms. 

Room A has displays of vases, sculptures, weapons,

tools, figurines from clay, stone and metal.  Room B

presents religious life and cults at Eleuthernia from the

early Iron Age to the Byzantine era. It also houses one

of the earliest monuments to the unknown soldier in

world history. Room C is dedicated to the ritual of

funeral pyres and those buried in what is called

Building M contained four women aged 13.5 to 72

years who would had held prominent positions in the

Early Archaic society of Eleutherna.

We had a wonderful lunch in a harbour restaurant in

Rethymon and walked around the old town. Rethymon

is a city on the north coast between Chania and

Heraklion.  In the old town the Venetian Harbour is

filled with fishing boats and line with tavernas. 

Rethymon Lighthouse was built in the 1830s. On the

hilltop you can see the Fortezza a star shaped 16th

century church. The long sandy beach stretches to the

east and are among the most popular beach resorts on

the island. There are lots of lovely little shops selling all

sorts of island pottery, pots of honey, paintings and


Day 2

We went high into the mountains to Argyroupolis to see

the famous waterfalls and the view over the valley and

then onto Lake Kournas and Kournas which is a fairly

large village perched on a hill overlooking the lake. Our

coach took us onto the Aptera archaeological site and

then the Hagia Triada an ancient Minoan settlement.   

The lunch time stop was in Chania.  A beautiful town

where we had lunch and a walk around this very

interesting town.  The Venetian harbour, the old port,

the narrow shopping streets and waterfront restaurants

together with the old buildings give you a feeling of

Venetian and Turkish design. This town gave us an

appetite for a return visit one day.

Day 3

On the Akrotiri peninsula we visited the famous Agia

Triada Monastery known as a Venetian masterpiece.

The monastery whose name means “Holy Trinity” was

built in the 17th century by two brothers of the Venetian

Zangaroli family on the site of a pre existing church.

The monks produce and sell wine and olive oil on the

premises. The monastery has a library which contains

some rare books which contains a collection of icons

and a collection of codices.  An important icon is of St

John the Theologian dated to around 1500.

We visited Lake Kournas the only freshwater lake in

Crete near the village of Kournas a large village

perched on a hill overlooking the lake. The landscape is


On our travels we stopped at the tomb of the great

Cretan statesman Eleftherios Venizelos in order to

enjoy the scenery and views of Chania before driving

into Chania for lunch.

This has a wonderful port where we were able to stroll

around the little alleys and walk through the market hall

before enjoying a nice lunch in a small restaurant. We

discovered the Jewish quarter of Evraiki. If you stand in

the square facing the sea the area to the left (west) is

called Evraiki.

We were lucky enough to see the White Mountains

which gave us such a panoramic view.

Day 4

This is the day we visited Matala where in the 60’s it

was a hippie paradise. For all those who didn’t want to

fight and go to the Korean war they found their way

there by ferry and lived in the cliffs in caves living the

hippie life. Joni Mitchell the folk singer lived there with

her friend singing her folk songs under the starry sky.

Finally the military junta and the church drove them

out. The caves had originally housed lepers at the end

of the Stone Age and then the Romans used them as

burial crypts. When the hippies arrived searching for

peace and enlightenment the caves became the cheapest

hotel in town.

We visited the Minoan Palace of Phaistos located in the

south central Crete. It is one of the most important

archaeological sites in Crete with many thousands of

visitors annually. The Minoan place of Phaistos

corresponds to a flourishing city which arose in the

fertile plain of the Messara in prehistoric times from

circa 6000 BC to the 1st century BC as archaeological

finds confirm. The first palace of Phaistos was built in

2000 BC by its founder of Minos himself and its first

king was his brother Radamanthys. In 1700 BC a strong

earthquake destroyed the palace and it was rebuilt

almost immediately.  Phaistos was no longer the

administrative centre of the area but it continued to be

the religious and cult centre of south Crete. In 1450 BC

was another great catastrophe not just in Phaistos but

across the whole of Crete. The city of Phaistos

recovered from the destruction, minted its own coins

and continued to flourish for the next few centuries

until the first century BC when it was destroyed by

neighbouring Gortys.

The first excavations in the wider area of Phaistos was

undertaken in 1900 by the Italian Archaeological

School and continued until the Second World War.

Most of buildings visible today belong to the

Neopalatial period (1700 to 1450 BC). A brilliant site to


Day 5

Another archaeological site today.  This time it was the

Malia Minoan Palace. It was discovered in 1915 by

Joseph Hadzidakis.  It dates from the Middle Bronze

age which was destroyed by an earthquake. It was

rebuilt and the ruins we see today were from the


We also visited the Keras Kardiotissas Monastery or

simply known as the Keras Monastey is an Eastern

Orthodox monastery dedicated to Virgin Mary situated

in the village of Kera. It is still inhabited by nuns and

and today it is one of Crete’s most important

monasteries of Crete dedicated to the Virgin Mary.


Day 6

We hired a car and visited Agias Nicholaros and met up

with Tony Cross a regular Cruising Association

contributor for a drink who gave us a great tour of the

town before we drove to Spinalonga and exploded the

small island.

Crete isn’t for Ariel as the harbours are small and very

rocky with very little depth and there are very few not

to mention the very strong winds during the summer

months but another holiday there by plane is on the







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