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Hania - Paleochora


2. HANIA - Paleochora (see Map )

2.1 Hania to Argiles 2.2 Rodovani to Sougia 2.3 Rodovani to Paleochora 2.4 Paleochora

From Hania you head to the south, taking the road (A2) to Omalos, and after 13 kilometres you turn to the west (toward Alikianos). If you happen to be a beautiful Italian girl (especially from Venice) on the lookout for a suitable husband, you couldn’t have come to a worse place on earth.

Map  Hania Paleochora

About four centuries ago the beautiful Venetian princess Sofia, daughter of the local feudal lord Francesco Da Molin, was engaged to wed Petros, son of the Cretan rebel Giorgos Kantanoleos. This wedding took place at the initiative of the Kantanoleos family and was intended to reconcile the two enemy sides.

But Francesco Da Molin considered this to be his best opportunity to get rid of his opponents once and for all. During the great feast following the wedding, he made sure that Kantanoleos and his three hundred men were so drunk with wine that they finally fell asleep. Then he gave a sign for a two-thousand-men Venetian army force to come unexpectedly from Hania. They caught the rebels and during the next few days they hanged them in the streets as a warning and a threat to the local people. After that the Cretans learned their lesson well: if you want to be a rebel, better forget about marriages and stay in hiding in the forests!

This tragic affair is the theme of a 17th century chronicle (the Trivan chronicle) and a 19th century novel (Cretan Marriages by Sp. Zambelios),

Da Molin castle

and it seems to be based on historical facts. In the orchards outside Alikianos you can still find the ruins of the Da Molin castle. You can touch them but you cannot make them speak. Still, one of the stones, once found at the main entrance lintel, has an inscription with the moral of this story, a moral that may easily apply to any state of affairs: OMNIA MUNDI FUMUS ET UMBRA
(Everything in the world is smoke and shadow)

This great truth was probably unknown to the young German parachutists who left the warmth of their wives and their grandmothers’ delicious “Apfelkuchen” to land on this valley on the 21st of May, 1941, armed to the teeth. This was the only form of sightseeing round the island that made them entirely unwelcome, when they could have simply come as tourists, archaeologists or merchants at any time they chose (and even bring the family along). The local people became furious and stormed the valley with knives, rakes, old guns, relics of the revolution, whatever they could find. Still, the German Mausers proved to be superior. Most of the population of Alikianos was killed during the fighting, and those that survived were later executed... A monument has been erected in their memory just outside the village, close to the intersection with the main road.

Today Alikianos is again the lively country village it once was. Nested in the middle of a fertile valley, which is irrigated by Keritis - the ancient river Iardanos - and covered with orange and lemon trees, the village stands proud, pleasing the eye with its beautiful orchards. In the middle of these orchards, opposite the Da Molin castle, stands a Byzantine

Church of Ai Kyrgianni

church, built in 1243 and dedicated to Aghios Georgios, which is worth visiting. Inside, the icons of the saints, painted by Pavlos Provatas in 1430, have been very well kept. Another Byzantine church with impressive arched gates and beautiful wall paintings undergoing maintenance is the church of Ai-Kyrgianni, to the north of Alikianos, five hundred metres before the village of Koufos.

After Alikianos you continue to the south, taking the road that crosses the Keritis valley with its vast orange tree plantations. You pass a large village called Skines, and you start climbing the smooth northwestern side of the White Mountains (Lefkà Ori). The vegetation of the area consists of olive, chestnut, and oak trees, and the villages are often small and half-ruined.

If you wish to enjoy a dazzling mountain route in the remote areas of Kidonia and Kissamos, turn to the west at the intersection with the Gr/E sign leading to Sembronas (you will see the intersection about two kilometres after Prasses). This route (D3/7km) will lead you one kilometre outside Kakopetros, while a sideroad (D3/11km) will take you to the north, to the village of Voukolies. Whichever way you choose, you can later continue southward and head for Paleochora, if you follow Route 9.

About three kilometres to the south of this intersection (and three kilometres before the village of Aghia Irini) there is another junction, allowing you to reach the Omalos plateau and the Samaria gorge. This road is asphalt-paved during the first kilometre (A2) and then becomes a passable country road (D1/8km). It takes you through the western side of peak Tourli (1458m), at an altitude of about one thousand metres, and it offers a startling view of the Hania Gulf, the Libyan sea and the White Mountain tops.

If walking the Samaria gorge seems too much for you, you have another opportunity to try your hiking abilities and to enjoy the savage beauty of the Cretan gorges. Just after the village of Aghia Irini you will find a fairly easy path, which is hard to miss. Stretching for about seven kilometres, this path goes through the fairly smooth Aghia Irini gorge and ends just north of Koustogerako. The hikers of the group could perhaps start their walk from Aghia Irini and the rest could continue on bike and wait for them at Koustogerako.

Finally, if you decide to forget about the gorges of Samaria and Aghia Irini - two very interesting side trips - and if you continue southwest instead, you will arrive at Agriles, a village 500m above sea level. Until recently, this village offered a great view of the White Mountains. Unfortunately, though, a great forest fire, which broke out in August of 1994, destroyed the entire area south of Agriles (and all the way to Sougia) and nearly threatened to burn the Aghia Irini gorge. One kilometre to the south of Agriles, at a village called Rodovani, the road splits.


THE ROUTES THE ROUTES

Routes starting from Hania

Hania
1. Hania - Akrotiri
2. Hania - Paleochora
3. Hania - Sameria
4. Hania - Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
5. Hania - Kissamos (Kasteli)

Routes starting from Kissamos
Kissamos (Kasteli)
6. Kissamos - Gramvoussa
7. Kissamos - Elafonissos
8. Kissamos - Paleochora (through the Topolian Gorge)
9. Kissamos - Paleochora (through Episkopi)
10. Kissamos - Sirikari

Routes starting from Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
11. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (travelling inland)
12. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (following the coast)

Routes starting from Rethimno (Rethymnon)
Rethimno (Rethymnon)
13. Rethimno - Ierapetra (following the south coast)
14. Rethimno - Ierapetra (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Ierapetra
Ierapetra
15. Ierapetra - Zakros (coastal road)
16. Ierapetra - Zakros (inland route)

Routes starting from Iraklio (Heraklion)
Iraklio (Heraklion)
17. Heraklion - Rethymnon (coastal road)
18. Heraklion - Rethymnon (travelling inland)
19.Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (coastal road)
20. Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos
21. Agios Nikolaos - Zakros


Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”, Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.


 

 

Tip of the day

Numerous thematic museums show Crete’s glorious past and modern cultural life:
• Heráklion Archaeological Museum exhibits significant findings of the Minoan Civilisation and is considered to be one of the most important museums of its kind in the world. Thousands excavation finds, from the Disc of Phaestos to the gold pendant of Mália and the clay dancers from Kamilári reveal an ancient-old illustrious past.
• Heráklion Historical Museum presents the evolution of the city during the centuries; among the exhibits stand out three paintings by El Greco and manuscripts of the famous author Nikos Kazantzakis.
• Cretan Ethnology Museum at Vóri reveals the island’s folk life.
• Natural History Museum at Dermatás Bay promotes the unique habitats in Crete and the Mediterranean.
Traditional settlements and historic villages built on mountain slopes and valleys are often surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Discover the local architecture and spirit of Crete at Arhánes, where neoclassic nobility coexists with rural simplicity, or visit Episkopí with its Byzantine churches. Áno Hersónissos is a picturesque hamlet with Byzantine churches, old wells and stone ovens.

 

 

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