FIVOS TRAVEL FILIPPAKIS MICHAEL MHTE License :1039E601074201
Dimokratias Street 29 L.Hersonisou Crete Greece P.C. 70014
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tel: +30 2897024428
The province of Iraklion with the string of big resorts that lies to the east of the island, the great Minoan sites, Knossos, Malia and Phaistos are in easy reach of almost anywhere in the province, and there are excellent beaches.
Crete’s bustling capital boasts great restaurants and cafes, a vibrant market and an impressive harbor fortress as well as an archeological museum with the world’s finest collection of Minoan artifacts.
Virtually everything of interest in Iraklion lies within the old walled city, with the majority of the sights clustered in the northeastern corner. Despite the city’s rather cheerless reputation, parts of the old town can be genuinely picturesque, not least the weighty Venetian defenses: the harbor fortress and the massive walls framing the old quarters. Focal to this area are Venizelos and Eleftherias squares, most of the churches and museums are few minutes’ walk from either.
The most vital thoroughfare, 25 August street lined with banks ,cafes, souvenir shops links the harbor with the commercial city center. West of the here behind Venizelos square is the grandly named El Greco park.
In the 25 August Street are some of the most interesting of Iraklion’s buildings, including the church of Agios Titos and the Venetian Loggia.
At its southern end 25-August opens into Square Nikiforou Foka, which
forms a junction for central Iraklion’s other main arteries: Kalokairinou heads westwards down to the Porta Hanion and out of the city; straight ahead, 1821 street- a fashionable shopping spot-heads southwest. The 1866 street is given over the animated market.
A Roman port, Heraclium, stood hereabouts and the city readopted its name only at the begging of the 20th century. Founded by the Saracens, who held Crete from 827 to 961, it was originally known as El Khandak, after the great ditch that surrounded it later corrupted by the Venetians to Candia.
This Venetian capital was in its day, one of the strongest and most spectacular cities in Europe; a trading center, a staging-point for the Crusades and as time wore on the front line of Christendom. The Turks finally conquered the city after 21 years of war, which culminated in a bitter siege from May 1667 to September 1669. Under its new Turkish rulers, the city’s importance declined in relation to Hania’s, but it remained a major port and the second city in Crete. It was here, too, that the incident occurred which eventually put an end to Turkish occupation of the island. Finally united with Greece, Iraklion’s future prosperity was assured by its central position.
Almost all that you see today dates only from the last sixty years or so, partly because of the heavy bombing agriculture, industry and tourism. In 1971, Iraklion regained the official title of island capital, and the city is now the wealthiest per head in the whole of Greece.
The obvious starting point is the Harbor, now home to fishing boats and a pleasure marina but still guarded over an impressive 16th century Venetian Fortress, generally known by its Turkish name of Koules, emblazoned with the Lion of Saint Mark.
Though it withstood the 22-year Turkish siege, time has caught up with the underwater foundations and the building has been closed to visitors pending restoration. Even from the outside it is undeniably impressive; sturdy walls protecting a series of chambers in which the defenders must have enjoyed an overwhelming sense of security. The causeway leading to the fort is a favorite place for a stroll and for locals to fish at night, when the fortress is floodlit, it’s a place to watch the ferries coming and going.
On the landward side of the harbor, the vaulted Arsenals are marooned in the sea of traffic scooting along the harbor road. In their heyday these shipyards were at the water’s edge and as many as fifty galleys at time could be built here, or dragged ashore to be overhauled and repaired.
The city’s walls
Iraklion’s city walls were originally thrown up in the 15th century, and constantly improved thereafter as Crete became increasingly isolated in the path of Turkish westward expansion: their final shape owes much to Michele Sanmicheli, who arrived here in 1538 having previously designed the fortifications of Padua and Verona. In its day this was the strongest bastion in the Mediterranean.
Nikos Kazantzaki’s tomb
On the Martinengo Bastion, facing south is the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, Crete’s greatest writer. Despite his work being banned for their unorthodox views, Kazantzakis’ burial rites were performed at Saint Minas Cathedral, although no priests officially escorted his body up here. His simply grave is adorned only with an inscription, from his own writings: “I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free”.
He was born in Iraklion in 1883 in the street now named after him. His early life was shadowed by the struggle against the Turks and for union with Greece. Educated in Athens and Paris, Kazantzakis travelled widely throughout his life, working for the Greek government on more than one occasion (serving briefly as a Minister for Education in 1954) and UNESCO, but above all writing. He produced a vast range of works, including philosophical essays, epic poetry, travel books, translations of classics such as Dante’s Divine Comedy into Greek and, of course, the novels on which his fame in the west mostly rests. Zorba the Greek (1946) was his first and
most celebrated novel, but his output remained prolific to the end of his life. Particularly relevant to Cretan travels are Freedom or Death(1950) set amid the struggle against the Turks, and the autobiographical Report to
Greco published posthumously in 1961 (Kazantzakis died in Freiburg, West Germany, in 1957 after contracting hepatitis from an unsterilized vaccination needle during a visit to China).
Kazantzakis is widely accepted as the leading Greek writer of the 20th century and Cretans are extremely proud of him, despite the fact that most of his later life was spent abroad, that he was banned from entering Greece for
long periods, and that he was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church for his vigorously expressed doubts about Christianity. This last detail gained him more notoriety when his The last Temptation of Christ was filmed by Martin Scorsese, amid much controversy, in 1988.
The church was also instrumental in working behind the scenes to deny him the Novel Prize, which he lost by one vote to Albert Camus in 1957. Many critics now regard his writing as overblown and pretentious, but even they admit that the best parts are where the Cretan Kazantzakis shows through, in the tremendous gusto and vitality of books like Zorba and Freedom or Death. Kazantzakis himself was always conscious, and proud, of his Cretan heritage.
For the most impressive views of the city’s defenses stroll out of the elaborate gates, the Porta Hanion at the bottom of Kalokairinou street or the Porta Kainouria at the top of the Evans street, and admire them from the outside. Both of these portals date from the second half of the 16th century, when the majority of the surviving defenses were completed. At the Porta Kainouria the walls are over 40m thick.
The Historical Museum
One of the most dynamic in Iraklion, with frequent events and interesting temporary exhibitions. The fascinating permanent collection-with many interactive displays-helps fill the gap which, for most people, yawns between Knossos and the present day, and since it’s always virtually deserted, wandering around is a pleasure.
The Priouli fountain
The Ottoman fountain of Idomeneus (mentioned by Kazantzakis in his novel Kapetan Michalis) is set into a wall to the rear of the Historical Museum, partly obscured in the evening by diners of the terrace of a nearby tavern. Close to the junction of Gorgolaini and Dhelimarkou lies the impressive Priouli fountain, built at the very end of the Venetian period during the long siege of the city by Turkish forces. Sited in what was then the old Jewish quarter, the fountain is based on the form of Greek temple. It used an underground source to supply the city with water after the Turks had destroyed the aqueducts.
Ayios Titos church
Originally Byzantine, but wholly rebuilt by the Venetians in the 16th century, it was adapted by the Turks as a mosque and rebuilt by after a major earthquake in 1856. The Orthodox Church renovated the building after the Turkish population left Iraklion, and it was reconstructed in 1925. A reliquary inside contains the skull of St Titus, originally brought here from his tomb in Gortys; his body was never found. In the Midle Ages, the skull was regularly and ceremonially exhibited to the people of Iraklion, but was later taken to Venice, where it stayed from the time of the Turkish invasion until 1966. On August 25 each year, a major procession from the church marks St Titus’ Day.
San Marco Basilica
One of the first and quite important works of the Venetian settlers was the building of a temple dedicated to their patron, St. Mark, in the centre of the city and opposite to the Palace of the Duke. The church of St. Marc was not totally dependent on the Latin archbishopric, but on every duke of the Cretan Realm. Because he himself was not in a position to fulfill his religious duties, he appointed someone else, the "primikirio"or the "capellano" for that seat. Within the church all the lords and the state officials used to assume their duties with every formality while common people used to seek protection from their patron Saint. Also the church was used as a burial place for the dukes and members of the high class (they were put in special sarcophagi). Next to the church on the southwest corner there was a high bell tower with a clock. During the long Turkish siege of the city, the bell was used as a bomb alarm, which is why many times
the bell tower became target of the Turkish cannons. When the Turks took over the city - , the church of St. Mark was given to Defterdar Ahmet Passa who converted it into a mosque, named after him. The bell tower was demolished and in its place they built a minaret. The new conquerors, without having any respect for the sacred place, destroyed the frescoes and the Christian graves. After the exchange of population and the Turkish withdrawal, St. Marc came to the jurisdiction of the National Bank and then of the Municipality. Lastly, in 1956 a contract was signed between the Municipality and the E.K.I.M (Society of Cretan Historical Studies) in order to start the restoration of the building, so today it is an ornament for the city, which is used as Municipal Art Gallery.
Ringed by busy cafes its focal point is the Morosini fountain which dates from the final years of Venetian rule and upon is inauguration in 1628 became the city’s main source of fresh water. Originally the whole thing was topped by a giant statue of Poseidon, but even without him it’s impressive: the lions on guard are two to three hundred years old than the rest of the structure, while the eight basins are decorated with marine themes including dolphins and Tritons.
1866 street the market
This is one of a few living reminders of an older city, with an atmosphere reminiscent of an eastern bazaar. There are luscious fruit and vegetables, as well as butchers’ and fishmongers’ stalls and other selling a bewildering variety of herbs and spices, cheese and yoghurt, leather and plastic goods, Cds tacky souvenirs, an amazing array of cheap kitchen utensils, pocket knives and just about anything else you might conceivably need.
At the top of the 1866 street market, Platia Kornarou makes a pleasantly tranquil contrast. The focal point of the square is a beautiful hexagonal Turkish pump house, heavily restored, which now
houses a café run by the municipality, a meeting place for locals who converse at the tables under the trees. The small 16th century Venetian drinking fountain beside the café Bembo fountain was the first to supply the city running water. It incorporates a headless Roman torso imported from Ierapetra.
In platia Eleftherias( Liberty square), a line o pricey pavement cafes face a rather uninspiring concourse dotted with gum trees and benches, and skirted by busy roads, Mainly due to is size the square is one of the city’s most popular venues for political demonstrations, but most of time is used by locals for walking, talking and sitting out. There’s a small bust of Nikos Kazantzakis and a larger-than-life statue of Eleftherios Venizelos( the leading figure in the struggle for union with Greece)staring out over the harbor from the ramparts. Beyond the statue you reach the entrance to the Public Gardens, as often as not half taken over by a funfair, but otherwise relatively peaceful.
Heraklion Archaeological Museum
One of the major reasons to visit the city. The museum houses far and away the most important collection of Minoan art and artifacts anywhere in the world, and visit to Knossos or the other sites will be greatly enhanced if you’ve been here first. Given the museum’s status at the time of writing it is impossible to know exactly what will be on display, or where, but many of the major exhibits are described below.
The collections of the Herakleion Archaeological Museum include unique works of Cretan art, found in excavations across the central and eastern part of the island and which cover a chronological span of roughly 7000 years, from the Neolithic (7000 BC) to the Roman period (3rd century AD). Most objects date to prehistoric times and to the so-called Minoan period, named after the island's mythical king, Minos. They include pottery, carved stone objects, seals, small sculpture, metal objects and wall-paintings, which were discovered in palaces, mansions, settlements, funerary monuments, sanctuaries and caves.
After the completion of the new exhibition project in April 2014, the exhibition occupies a total of twenty seven rooms. Several important themes, such as Minoan wall-paintings are presented separately from the overall chronological sequence. The objects give a complete image of Cretan civilization, as it developed in different regions and important centers. Social, ideological and economic aspects form the core of the display, with a strong focus on religious and ceremonial practices, mortuary habits, bureaucratic administration and daily life. Explanatory texts, photographs, drawings and models of monuments supplement the exhibition.
Platia Ayia Aikaterini
The most interesting church on this square Ayia Aikaterini was part of monastic school which, up to the end of Venetian rule, was one of the centers of the Cretan Renaissance, a last flourish of Eastern Christian art following the fall of Byzantium. Among the school’s students were
Vintzentzos Kornaros, author of the classic Erotokritos, and many leading Orthodox theologians; most importantly, however, it served as an art school where Byzantine tradition came face to face with the 16th century painter Michalis Dhamaskinos, who introduced perspective and depth to Byzantine art, while never straying far from the strict traditions of icon painting. The most famous Cretan painter of them all, El Greco, took the opposite course, wholeheartedly embracing Italian styles, to which he brought the influence of his Byzantine training. Although there is little evidence, it’s generally accepted that these two-Dhamaskinos and El Greco-were near contemporaries at the school.
The church used to house a Museum of Religious Art with the finest collection of Cretan icons anywhere, including many of Dhamaskinos’ finest works.
The countryside south of Knossos is dominated by the bulk of Mount Yiouhtas (811m) which rises alone from a landscape otherwise characterized by gently undulating agricultural country. Seen from the northwest, the mountain has undulating human profile, and was traditionally identified with Zeus. The ancient Cretans claimed that Zeus lay buried underneath the mountain.
When you leave Knossos behind, the nature of the journey south is transformed almost immediately: the road empties and the country becomes greener. Almost any of these roads makes a beautiful drive, past vineyards draped across low hills and through flourishing farming communities. Just a couple of kilometers from the archeological site, at the head of the valley, an extraordinary aqueduct arches beside the road. This looks medieval and was built on the line of an earlier Roman aqueduct, but is in fact less than 200 years old, having been constructed during the brief period of Egyptian rule (1823-40) to provide Heraklion with water. A little further on, the junction where you turn right towards Arhanes seems a singularly unthreatening spot today, yet it was here, on April 26, 1944, that General Kreipe was kidnapped. The site is now marked by a lofty modern monument.
Much of the interest in this region centers on Arhanes, where there’s an Archeological museum and easy access to three fascinating Minoan sites at Fourni, Anemospilia and on the summit of Mount Yiouhtas itself. Nearby at Vathypetro the remarkable remains of a Minoan vineyard can be seen, at the heart of what remains one of the island’s chief wine-growing areas: many a winemakers open their doors to the public, especially at Peza. Houdhetsi has a music school and museum, while the village of Myrtia boasts a museum devoted to Crete’s most famous literary name, Nikos Kazantzakis.
East of Peza, a road runs through hilly farm country well inland from the big resorts, a region known as the Pedhiadha. There’s an important pottery centre at Thrapsano, and other diversions include the ancient site of Lyttos and some notable frescoed churches around Kastelli.
ARHANES is a large and prosperous agricultural centre, substantial enough to have a one-way traffic system and be served by hourly buses from Iraklio. The streets in the central area are narrow and confusing, and the best advice for drivers is to park up near the square and explore on foot. There are taverns and cafes around the main square, as well as numerous flashy modern bars, reflecting the region’s agricultural prosperity. In summer (mid – July to mid –August) a colorful daily street market, selling local crafts and delicacies, takes place in tehe old quarter.
The richness of the land around Arhanes is nothing new: this area was a major centre of Minoan civilization, and there are a number of important sites in and around town, including a hypothesized fifth palace to rival those at Festos and Malia. Most are relatively recent discoveries, having been excavated over the last few decades, and not all of the fully published. Consequently, these sites are neither particularly famous nor especially welcoming to visitors, but many of the finds are nonetheless important; indeed, some of the greatest treasures of the Iraklio archeological museum come from this region. A site described as the Palace, in reality more likely a large villa, lies right in the heart of modern Arhanes. Through the chain-link fence you can see evidence of a substantial walled mansion, representing only a small part of once stood here. Piecemeal excavation is still going on at others sites in the centre too, but much is hidden beneath more modern buildings. If you make the Archeological Museum your first stop, you can find out more about the status of the sites, and pick up a leaflet on things to do in the area.
Locals claim, with some justification, that wine sas been being made in the area around Peza for four thousand years, probably using grape varieties not far removed from the Kotsifali and Mandilaria (for red), Plyto and Vilana(white) that are extensively cultivated today. Cretan wines, traditionally very much vin ordinaire, are increasingly sophisticated, and a number of wineries open their doors to visitors, through most require appointments. The following are some of the wineries you could visit.
Paterianakis winery Organic wines http://www.paterianakis.gr/
It is a third generation family company,
the first in the island of Crete who introduce the organic grape cultivation and one of the
few wineries in Greece with a vertical organization of its production process! They cultivate six unique indigenous and five first class international varieties using the latest organic techniques, and they can inspire through a series of products with a strong personality.
Winery: Melesses, Muncipality of Archanon Asterousion, Heraklion, Crete, Greece | Premises: 7, Zografou str. 71201 | P.O. Box: 1125 | Τ: +30 2810 226674 | F: +30 2810 226673,
Lyrarakis winery http://www.lyrarakis.com
Brought up in this environment, in 1966 the founders of the company decided to become professionally involved with the production of wine. The founding of the company was accompanied by planting some of the best local wine varieties, namely the white Vilana, and the reds Kotsifali and Mandilaria. The winery is situated in one of the most noteworthy vineyard regions of Crete, namely at Alagni, Heraklion, the most mountainous village of the appellation area (AOC) of PEZA.
Winery :Alagni, Arkalochori, 70300, Alagni, Heraklion, Crete 703 00
Boutari winery www.boutari.gr
Skalani, on the Myrtia road some 4km beyond Knossos .
Modern estate with state-of-the-are facilities and fancy multimedia show. Boutari is a big, national company with an excellent reputation, though this Cretan operation is still in its early stages.
Miliarakis Vineyard House www.minoswines.gr
Sabas, about 10km east of Peza on the Kasteli road . The fine wine label of Minos wines. Tasting takes place in aroom furnished as a traditional kafenio, with expansive views over the surrounding countryside. You can also stroll, or take some more challenging hikes, through the local vineyards.
Immediately west of Arhanes July & August Tues-Sun 08:30am. -14:30pm. Free entrance
Cross the bypass west of Arhanes and then walk for about 10min up a steep, very rocky trail.
The size of the Burial ground at FOURNI is evidence of the scale of the Minoan community that once thrived around Arhanes ; the site was used throughout the Minoan period, with its earliest tombs dating from around 2500 BC (before the construction of the great palaces), and the latest from the very end of the Minoan era.
The structures include a number of early tholos tombs-round, stone buildings reminiscent of beehives-each of which contained multiple burials in sarcophagi and pithoi. Many simpler graves and a circle of seven Myceneaen-style shaft graves were also revealed at Fourni, making it by far the most extensive Minoan cemetery known. In “Tholos A”, a side-chamber was found that revealed the undisturbed tomb of a woman who, judging by the Jewels and other goods buried with her, was of royal descent and perhaps a priestess. Her jewels are now on a display at the Iraklion Archaeological Museum, as is the skeleton of a horse apparently sacrificed in her honor.
2km northwest of Arhanes
Anemospilia is enlivened by a spectacular setting and a controversial story, though the site itself can only be viewed through a fence. The approach road heads north from Arhanes: coming from Iraklio, you enter the one-way street and almost immediately turn sharp right, back on yourself, just past a small chapel.
Following the road leading northwest face of Mount Youhtas, winding around craggy rocks weirdly carved by the wind (Anemospilia means the cave of the wind) until you reach the fenced site held in a steep curve of the road.
What stood here was a temple, and its interpretation has been the source of outraged controversy among Minoan scholars since its excavation at the beginning of the 1980s.
The building, apparently destroyed by an earthquake around 1700BC, is a simple one, consisting of three rooms connected by a north-facing portico, but its contents are not so easily described.
WEST OF IRAKLIO
Heading west from Iraklio, the modern E75 highway, cut into the cliffs, is – in daytime at any rate – as fast and efficient a road as you could hope to find. In simple scenic terms it’s a spectacular drive, but with very little in the way of habitation; there are only a couple of developed beach resorts and the “birthplace of El Greco” at Fodhele until the final, flat stretch before Rethymno.
Once beyond the western city beaches, the highway starts to climb into the foothills of the Psiloritis range as they plunge straight to the sea. As you ascend, keep an eye out for the immaculately crafted medieval fortress of Paleokastro, built into the cliff right beside the road; it’s easy to miss, so completely do the crumbling fortifications blend in against the rocks.
If you’re in no hurry, try the older roads west, curling up amid stunning mountain scenery and archetypal rural Crete, with tracks tramped by herds of sheep and goats, isolated chapels or farmsteads beside the road, and occasionally a village. There’s a choice of routes at Arolithos the road that goes further inland, through the village of Tylissos and via Anoyia, has more to see and passes through the Malevisi, a district of fertile valleys filled with olive groves and vineyards renowned from Venetian times for the strong, sweet Malmsey wine much favoured in western Europe. England Became a major market for the wine, and grown of the shipping trade between Candia (Iraklio) and England ports caused Henry VIII to appoint the first ever British consul to the island in 1522.
Ayia Pelayia , some 15 km from Iraklio, appears irresistibly inviting from the highway far above, a sprinkling of white cubes set around a deep blue bay. Closer up, the attraction is slightly diminished: development is rapidly outpacing the capacity of the narrow, tavern –lined beach, is beginning to take its toll on the village. However, the water is clear and calm, the swimming excellent and there’s a superb view ,too ,of all the ships that pass the end of the bay as they steam into Iraklio-spectacular at night, when the brightly lit ferries go by. Despite the development, and although the beach can get very crowded with day-trippers from Iraklio at weekends, Ayia Pelayia retains a slightly exclusive feel, partly thanks to a couple of upmarket hotels on the promontory immediately beyond the village.
Waterskiing, parasailing and motorboats are all available on the town beach; if you feel in need of a little more space, you can head to one of several other small beaches nearby, though none could be described as empty or unspoiled. As you continue out of the far end of Ayia Pelayia is it possible to walk to three small coves on the coast as it curls around to the north and west: Kladhisos, Psaromoura, with just a summertime bar, and finally Mononaftis. In the other direction, Ligaria, to the east, has a little harbour and a number of tavernas – most of the time it’s very quiet, but summer weekends can get busy. There’s turning off the E75 signed directly to Lygaria, or you can get there off the road down into Ayia Pelayia.
Fodhele is firmly established on the tourist circuit as the birthplace of the painter El Greco (1541-1614),