Your travel guide on Crete

St. George Gorgolainis Monastery

What to do in Heraklion reagion…

The monastery of Saint George Gorgolainis is located at an altitude of 480m, next to the village Asites, 24km south of Heraklion. It is built at a lush green area with huge platan, cypress and oak trees. Indeed, one platan and one cypress tree inside the complex have been declared as protected natural monuments by law.


The monastery, one of the oldest in Crete, has survived from several attacks during the Turkish occupation, as it housed the rebels of the area. Some of them were the chieftains Michael Korakas and Fragias Mastrahas, two very famous heroes throughout Crete. Inside the monastery you will see the statue and the tomb of Mastrahas, who was killed in 1868 while fighting against the Turks in Asites.
The monastery reserves the authenticity of the past, as the monks do not use electrical equipment during liturgy. The temple is dedicated to Saint George and is equipped with an artful iconostasis. Despite the fact that the temple is very old, the surrounding monks’ cells are quite new. You will get impressed with the old Venetian fountain, which till 1990 was equipped with an imposing marble lion, which was then stolen.

Source : Voyager

Foto: Stefanakis

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Fourni forest

What to do in…Heraklion reagion (Malia, Stalis, Hersonissos, Piskopiano, Koutoulofari, Anissaras, Gouves, Analisi, Heraklion)

Fourni is a large lush hill next to the picturesque Arhanes village, about 12km south of Heraklion. It takes its name after the local homonym preminoan cemetery, next to Knossano Gorge. Fourni can be accessed through Kato Arhanes, where you’ll meet signs leading there.
On the hill of Fourni there is a small pine grove. Although it is artificial, Fourni is really beautiful and is worth visiting. There are plenty of pine and cypress trees that stand next large rocks. As expected, spring is the best time to visit the place. The woods in Fourni is ideal for hiking and its numerous paths have made that popular for mountain biking. Moreover, there is a beautiful stone theater, where the views to Archanes and to Dia Island are amazing.


A little further from the theater, you’ll find the archaeological site of the pre-Minoan cemetery (2400AD-2200AD), which is the largest prehistoric cemetery in the Aegean Sea. Fourni is still under excavations, which have revealed several important objects, mainly from graves. The objects found, indicate clearly that Archanes had close relations with the Aegean, Egypt and the Middle East. The most important finding was the unlooted sarcophagus of the “Queen”, where jewelry (over 140 pieces) and other items were found, but also remnants of sacrificing an ox and a horse. Many of the findings are exhibited in the archaeological museums of Archanes and Heraklion.


In the middle of the last century, Fourni was a dry rocky mountain that belonged to the community of Kato Archanes. The community had offered the land for the building of the University of Crete. Fortunately, it was rejected and the hill has turned to this small oasis.

Source: Voyger

 

Matala – the free spirit paradise

Matala and hippie

Matala is one of the most popular towns not only of the southern coast but also of the whole of Crete. Currently, it is one of the most recognizable places in Crete. On its eastern side is the Messara plain, which is one of the largest agricultural areas of Crete, and on the southern side the Asterousia range begins. The town itself is located at the bay of Messara, closed from the south and north. Beach of Matala is a 300-meter. It is worth mentioning here, however, that there is no loose sand on it, but rather fine gravel. After all, for a Cretan standard, the beach is good anyway. Its northern part is covered by tamarisk trees, and the picturesque landscape is complemented by crystal clear water and the previously mentioned gently sloping rock with caves. The seabed is quite rocky in places, while the often-blowing western winds cause that there are high waves.

Like the neighboring Kommos and Red Beach, this beach has been protected under the Natura 2000 program. Its aim is to preserve the local nature to ensure long-term survival of the most valuable and endangered species and habitats in Europe.

In 2018, after a year’s break, the beach was again awarded the Blue Flag award. In the evenings, both taverns at the beach and those in the interior of the town are full of people. In Matala you will find a lot of different private guest houses and a campsite. However, if you are going to be here on the Matala Beach Festival date , you must book places just after the date of the festival ….

Free spirrit of Matala

For several years, Matala Beach Festival has been organized here, which attracts fans of good music and entertainment for one June weekend. It is all left after Matala’s glorious hippy past.

In the 1960s and 1970s, this small fishing village became a Mecca for hippies.

At the end of the 1950s, Matala was a small fishing village consisting of about ten modest homes. They were built away from the sea shore in the depths of the ravine located on the extension of the bay. It was during this period that this place was discovered by the first rebels seeking freedom. For the most part, they were well-off people who could afford a carefree life in Matala. Among the regulars at the time, Matala even found a British lord. They took care of excellent relations with local residents. They never walked in too scant clothes, and women who were swimming in the sea used old-fashioned one-piece costumes. Times, however, changed and in the following years, the first foreign residents of Matala were here only during the holiday season and their place was taken by more liberated youth. In 1965, battles appeared here, representatives of the then popular nonconformist movement rejecting consumerism. In seeking the truth, alcohol and drugs were to help them. Two years later, this place was discovered by representatives of the hippie movement who settled in Matala for longer. They also protested against what they thought was meaningless with their lifestyle. Although the life they lead here can be described as quite simple and primitive, it is worth remembering that most of them were people with very good education. A large part of the hippies living here were then Americans who decided to live in unity with nature. They deliberately decided to give up life in a consumer society. Seeking the meaning of life and harmony, they spent lazy days and nights under the starry Cretan sky. A sense of freedom, a beautiful beach, hospitable bay and azure waters have created the perfect hippie scenery. In 1970, shots were even made here for the Greek film ” My hippie aunt ” directed by Alekos Sakellarios.


The first person who opposed the presence of hippies in Matala was Michalis Vamvoukas, who started sending letters to the Cretan newspaper ” PATRIS ” with a request to remove them. According to Michalis, the lifestyle of hippies posed a threat to the local society and Orthodoxy practiced here. These letters initiated further events. The local bishop Timotheos (later archbishop of Crete) decided to drive wild natives out of the rock. He also wrote a magazine in which he called the caves “the home of a moral disintegration.” These words hit the front pages of Athenian newspapers. And after paradise The final solution to the problem of hippies in Matala occurred in the summer of 1969, when the Cretan newspaper ” Mediterranean ” described people who camped here as a “bummer”. In the most delicate translation it can mean a menel or a tramp. There were also suspicions of homosexuality. After such publications, the prosecutor of Heraklion Michalis Tsevas commissioned a special investigation in the Matala caves. The purpose of the police raids lasting day and night was to search for the famous orgies. And although no evidence of such sexual orgies or spreading homosexuality has been found, cannabis was discovered during police checks. Ultimately, therefore, the investigation ended with seventeen convictions for possession of drugs. The actions of the authorities and the church led to the fact that the community of flowering children left this place and moved to other parts of the island. They found shelter near the beaches of Vai , Plakias , Preveli or Lentas , as well as on other Greek islands. The archaeologists took over the caves and closed them for a long time.

Road to Kourtaliotiko gorge under constraction

Updated 24/03/2019

Reconstructions on the damaged roads of Crete : Road to Kourtaliotiko gorge

photo now

There is good news for all those who have planned the holiday sightseeing in the Western part of Crete, in the area of Rethimno, Plakias, Georgioupolil and so on.  Certainly some of you are worried about the lack of convenient access through the Kourtaliotiko gorge. Recent news coming from the local media indicate, however, that already in May the road there destroyed by the winter heavy rains should be passable. We keep our fingers crossed so that the companies that carry out the renovation work keep their deadlines. According to the authorities the road to Kourtaliotiko will cost about 450, 000 eur

photo before

Samaria gorge 2019

Availability of the Samaria Gorge in 2019

24/03/2019

Probably some of you are planning or even have already planned your trips to Crete this year. Certainly, some on the list of attractions they want to see during their stay on the island were also added to the passage of the Samaria Gorge . However, if your trip to Crete falls in the spring period, then you should approach these plans with a large reserve this year. There are a lot of reasons that suggest that this year’s opening of the Samaria Gorge entrance may be significantly delayed.

The winter the weather in Crete was the main influence on this situation. Ms. Maria Koziraki, who is involved in, inter alia, coordinating the operation of the Samaria National Park in an interview given yesterday for the neakriti.gr portal, said that one of the biggest problems is a complete lack of knowledge about the condition of the trail led through the gorge. One can only guess that damages to the park’s infrastructure are likely to be significant after this year’s heavy rains. Restoring the full functionality of the route and, above all, restoring the required level of security may take much longer than in previous years.
Ms Maria Koziraki also underlined that it is very difficult to identify the damage caused during heavy rains in the road network leading to the Omalos plateau. The situation is so difficult that at the moment “alternative routes are being sought, to get there at all and check for damage”. In many places the road looks like in the picture illustrating this article. Restoration of traffic will require long-term work with the use of heavy equipment. The Omalos plateau is currently a region that is practically cut off from the rest of Crete. Not only is there no means of access, but also power supplies are stopped and telecommunications infrastructure is not working. The above-mentioned problems also need to be added to the fact that this year more snow is in the upper parts of the White Mountains than in previous years. It can be expected that it will dissolve much longer, affecting the rise of the water level of the stream flowing through the gorge. All this makes determining the date when it will be possible to enter the ravine is very difficult. It is certainly unrealistic to maintain the traditional official opening date falling on May 1. Maria Koziraki is even more restrained in her assessments, who claims that the first question is whether the Samaria gorge will be available to tourists this year.

source http://www.neakriti.gr

Santorini = Atlantis?

The legend and the written sources

The antique sources from the ancient world that seem to be connected with the Atlantis myth are mostly from Egypt and Crete (listed in Luce, 1969). A serious investigation of the myth should rely on them, but they are few and not always very clear. The texts where the Name Atlantis itself occurs came to us by Plato (427-347 BC). He tells us in his dialogues Kritias and Timaios in great detail the story of a high-standing, flourishing civilization with divine origins that lived on an island or a small continent outside the columns of Hercules (mostly interpreted as the Straits of Gibraltar). The race of the Atlantians was strong and healthy, had all the virtues and lived in peace as long the portion of their divine nature still was strong. But with time it faded and was more and more diluted. “When the human nature got the upper hand” (Plato, Critias 121b), they became sinful and invaded by crimes. As a consequence, they were bound to loose their paradise. Towards the outer world, they started to fight wars and subjected other races to their cruel power. Only the Athenians, by virtue of their own military and moral power, were able to stop and defeat Atlantis from subduing the world. By then, the Gods’ anger against Atlantis was so strong, that they destroyed it in a single day and night, by earthquakes, and sunk it into the sea, leaving only a mass of mud behind.
As to the support the authenticy of his account, Plato – through the words of Kritias – sustains that he used an old Egyptian report that he had obtained from his grandfather, who had got it from a friend who in turn got it from the Great Solon who lived around 640-560 BC. Solon was told the story during one of his travels by Egyptian priests at Sais, but also got a copy of it with written in old Egyptian, that he later translated.

Did Plato invented the whole story of Atlantis?

One thing is very clear: invented or not, the major purpose of Platon’s dialogues was not to tell a historic story or a fascinating science fiction, but to educate people and glorify Athens and its virtues. In this, the decadence of Atlantis from its divine origins and its prosperity to decadence and total destruction acts as both as a counterpoint to Athens and as a warning. It is also important to note, that the connection between gods, humans and nature is always present and naturally embedded in Plato’s and the Ancient world. So to say, there are several levels within Plato’s story: the Ancient world where gods and humans are connected and natural phenomena, especially if exceptionally powerful, are acts of gods, the educational and moral aspects of the tale, and finally, the story in terms of actual or fictional events. Today, we tend to see only this last aspect, but for Plato it was surely the least important one. This makes it even more difficult to judge whether Plato was telling pure fiction, pure reality or a mixture of both. Most likely, the latter is true. The story is rich in details, some of which seem invented and some appear surprisingly real. It is very improbable, in fact, that he based his story on nothing, and it is also unlikely, that he had such a detailed report (the translation of the old Egyptian report). Even if he had, it is natural to assume, that he modified it according to the purposes of his tale, which as has been said, certainly were not the telling of facts.
So, it is fair to assume, that there is a historic core of Plato’s legend. Until this point, most people agree. But then…

The name
Most people think that the name ‘Atlantis’ is derived from the Atlantic Ocean (and therefore put it automatically somewhere into the Atlantic Ocean), but this reflects just our modern geographic view-point. Both the ocean’s and the island’s name are derived from the mythical giant Atlas, who held the sky upon his shoulders. Later, as Greek geographical knowledge grew, it gave also name to the high Moroccean mountain range. To locate Atlantis by using its name is not possible.

Could Santorini have been Atlantis?
Many serious investigators think that the source of the legend is actually the Minoan eruption of Santorini.
Why? There are some fairly convincing arguments:

  1. Plato tells about a circular island with concentric structures. Santorini today does have an impressive concentric geographic setting and had it also before the Minoan eruption. This has come out as a result of detailed geologic studies during the past 20 years, see the chapter of the reconstruction of the ring-shaped pre-Minoan island with a central shield. Furthermore Heiken and McCoy (1990) indicated that the famous picture in the West House from the Akrotiri excavations most likely represents a relatively naturalistic portrait of Thera. It shows an inhabited and flowering island landscape and the departing Therean fleet, and actually some concentric water-land ring structures are visible, too.

  2. Plato writes that Atlantis was situated in the ocean, beyond the “Pillars of Hercules”. The “Pillars of Hercules” were at Platon’s time the Straigts of Gibraltar and this would put Atlantis into the Atlantic Ocean. Further, Plato tells that Atlantis was bigger than Libya and Asia together. If one believes Plato literally, Atlantis was then outside of the Mediterranean region. But it is also possible that Solon or Plato either were misinterpreting their old sources or that Plato put it willingly far beyond the Greek-influenced world..

    – The first possibility could be explained by the fact that the original text was much older and the Pillars of Hercules had not necessarily always been associated with the Straigts of Gibraltar; it could very well have meant a place within the Aegean Sea. The association of pillars could even be an allusion to the giant eruption cloud from the Minoan eruption (almost 40 km high) that undoubtedly was visible in the whole Eastern Mediterranean and virtually reached the sky. How could such a sight be forgotten? Then, there is the connection to the mythical titan Atlas who held the sky upon the shoulders. The idea is temptating.

    – Putting Atlantis and its civilisation far away from the ancient world would also suit Plato’s intention of providing a antitheses to the Greek society and its values that he defends. This is clearly Plato’s major purpose in his account. – The same is true for Plato’s words, “bigger than Libya and Asia together”. Also it has been interpreted that Plato or someone before him in the chain of the oral or written tradition of the report accidentially changed the very similar Greek words for “bigger than” (“meson”) and “between” (“mezon”). If this was the case, Atlantis could be identical with Santorin (Luce, 1969). Besides, it is geologically not possible that a large continent could disappear in a dramatic event, i.e. in a very short time span. There is nowhere on earth such evidence.

  3. Galanopoulos and Bacon (1969) argue that the date for the destruction of Atlantis Plato gives as 9000 years before his time should be read as 900 years and that there was an erroneous translation by Solon from the old Egyptian number system. Plato lived ca. 300 BC and Solon’s journey to Egypt had taken place about 300 years earlier. Adding the figures, the Atlantis event should have taken place around 1500 BC, in good agreement to the recent datings of the Minoa eruption 1640BC. It is also imaginable, that 900 years looked not far enough in time for Platon (or Solon etc.). Putting it far into the past adds weight to the historic self-conception of the Athenians. Also, as far as Archeologists know (and they know a lot about the past of Athens…), there is no trace of a highly advanced Athenian culture at around 9000BC. From our knowledge’s point of view, 9000 years must be wrong, or invented. Almost certainly.

  4. The exiting archaeological findings on Thera (near Akrotiri) clearly demonstrate that before the Minoan eruption there was a developed, rich, and probably oligarchic marine community whose flourishing economy was provided by intensive trade, shipping, and probably vine, too, – like at present (Doumas, 1983). We do not know what happened to these people. So far, no human body has been found killed by the eruption. It seems that they had been warned in time to evacuate the island. That means even if Platos completely invented the story, it is still true. Something like he describes has happened on Santorini 1640BC.

An event of that size must have had enormous impressions on the people living at that time. It is difficult to imagine that the eruption, which was much bigger than the 79 AD Vesuvius eruption, was completely forgotten in history. But strangely, no unambiguous sources seem to refer directly to the event. On the other hand, there are several ancient myths and hints that could allude to it including the plagues reported in the bible, but the most evident one, the one that fits best to the event is Plato’s Atlantis legend.

  1. Probably, there were no close eyewitnesses of the eruption that could survive and give a direct report. What the ancient people experienced, must have been terrifying. If one compares the Minoan with the much smaller 79AD Vesuvius and the 1883 Krakatau eruptions one gets an idea of the circumstances of the eruption. The 30-40 km high eruption cloud was seen from hundreds of km and the thundering noise from the explosions must have been heard in almost the whole known world. Ash and pumice was falling throughout the Easter Mediterranean and lasted for several days or weeks (see Figure). East of Santorini, the sky could have been completely dark for hours or days. Probably, tsunamis were generated (like in the Krakatau eruption) and likely devastated the coasts of Crete and other surrounding islands. On a global scale, even the climate might have changed for some years, causing colder weather and failed crops.

    It is a matter of speculation how long it took until the first curious visitors arrived again by ship and visited Thera. Considering the possible destructive effects of the eruption and the fact that the sea due to rafting pumice must have been innavigatable for months (as was the case for the much  smaller historic 726AD eruption of Palea Kameni), at least some time (years, decades ?) could have passed before a human being first saw the changed island. Was among these people somebody who knew the island before the eruption?  Would he or she have recognised it? Probably not. When Vesuvius erupted in 1631, some villages were completely buried beneath ash, and people could not find their houses and fields any more. Santorini erupted 3000 years earlier and 100 times stronger.

    Thera itself would have presented to these people a picture of complete destruction and profound change and there would have been visible no trace at all of what existed before, everything being covered with white and unstable masses of ash subject to frequent landslides and other forms of erosion. Furthermore, the shape of the island was largely changed. Some steep slopes had been smoothed and new coastal plains created by the ash flows, the isolated rock of Monolithos, previously a small island, had been integrated. Most striking of all, parts of the former ring-shaped island had subsided and disappeared during caldera collapse. Probably it was not a very pleasant and inviting sight. That explains that no traces of resettlement occur on the island for many hundreds years after the eruption.

    Probably the first people who repopulated the island centuries later were the Phoenicians. A new part of history began then; antique legends refer to Thera, then also called ‘Callisti’ (gr. = the most beautiful one) as a present by the God Triton to the the Argonauts, as for example reported by Pindar (4th Pyth. Ode, Verse 10).

  2. Some details of Platon’s story are clearly describing volcanic phenomena. Such are the colours Platos describes of being typical of the rocks of Atlantis: black (lava), white (pumice and ash) and red (lava). These are the colours of Santorini. The warm and cold springs are typical of volcanic places and still found on Santorini today. Most obvious, the way the gods, i.e. nature for us, destroyed Atlantis: by earthquake, fire and lightning. Lightning is always accomanying huge eruption columns and probably the most impressive sign of a terrible event if observed from far. From close rage, nobody could have survived. Another hint is the mentioned mud that remained at the site of Atlantis. It is enough to translate mud with the enormous masses of pumice and ash from the eruption that floated on the sea.

Santorini = Atlantis?
Is Atlantis identical with Santorini? the theory that the volcanic disaster of Santorini is the source behind Plato’s story of Atlantis is quite supported, in my opinion more than any other theory. Details will remain unclear

Atlantis – the story about a prosperous land that disappeared without trace, sunk  into the sea by the anger of gods – has been one of the oldest myths of mankind. Atlantis stands for one of mankind’s oldest dreams and myths, the one of the lost paradise. In similar versions it occurs in many civilizations. The classical Atlantis story, however, the one where the name Atlantis is used, is the one told by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in two of his dialogues, Kritias and Timaeus. In Plato’s version it is not a objective report of events, but rather a moral tale that uses the story of – true or invented – events in the background. As a consequence, when it comes to interpreting the story as a report, it is not ambiguous. One of the most debated questions has always been the location of the place Plato might have referred to.
Now, Atlantis has been assigned to almost every  possible place on earth (even Antarctica…) which proofs that there are virtually no limits for the human fantasy. Everyone favours ‘his’ Atlantis.

What one can do in…

in…  Malia.

Malia mostly is known as non-stop party destination, but we would like to correct this opinion a little bit by starting new posts “What to do in…” + location, that people can see what kind of activities can be done near by in different towns or resorts. This time Malia

part I

Chamoprina wood

 

Chamoprina wood is a wood with low oak trees, located 4km south of Malia town. It can be accessed very easily from Malia, because it is located on the road connecting the old village of Malia with Krasi village Krasi village.
The forest covers a large area and is very dense, especially with low oak trees. It is protected and has been conserved by the local authorities (that have constructed benches, tables, trails, etc.). Also, from here begins one steep path to the Azilakodasos wood of Selena, near Krasi.