Saturday, 14 September 2013


Today we drove west along the coast of Crete to Chania the capital of the Prefecture of the same name and the second largest town in Crete, with a population of 60,000 inhabitants.

Since the ancient times, the city of Chania has faced many conquerors and the influences of many civilizations through time, evident on the city monuments. The beautiful city of Chania managed to preserve its original colours and historical character, despite the fast-growing tourist industry. It is considered as one of the most beautiful cities of Greece and the most picturesque city of Crete. The old city  leads at the harbour and has preserved to a great extent the distinctive atmosphere and charm of the Venetian and Turkish periods. Entire Venetian, Turkish and Jewish quarters are saved, with well preserved buildings in the narrow picturesque streets.

Driving the coast to Chania

Heraklion City

Chania Old Town
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral Church of Chania, also referred to as the Church of the Trimartyri, is one of Chania’s most recognizable landmarks situated in front of the Plateia Mitropoleos. It is a three-aisled basilica with a pointed-barrel roof, a campanile in its northwest corner and a facade composed of dressed pillars, cornices and door and window frames. This modest Neoclassical church is dedicated to the Virgin of the Three Martyrs, the patron saint of Chania and was constructed between 1857 and 1860 on the site of a Venetian church which the Ottoman Turks later converted into a soap factory.

This square is situated in front of the Church of the Trimartyri and was built in the 1950s on the former site of a complex of dilapidated wooden houses occupied by the city’s Christian community, many of which had been destroyed by fire in 1897 and the rubble not removed until some fifty years later. The square is now lined by cafes on its south side and features several statues of prominent figures in Crete’s history including Anaghnostis Mantakas, the nineteenth century liberation fighter.

Opposite the Firkas fort, is the magnificent lighthouse ("Pháros"), built on the 16th century and restored by the Egyptians. The harbour is protected by a Venetian breakwater, built of huge stones. At the centre of the breakwater are the ruins of a fortress.

Along the dock from Firkas to the east "Neoria" - Venizelos Square, Akti Tombazi and Akti Enoseos - there are some historical buildings such as: The Kioutsouk Hassan Mosque or Giali Tzamissi, The Great Arsenal, Venetian shipyards that today house the 'Mediterranean Centre of Architecture' and The Venetian Shipyards (Neoria).

Harbour Square, Sintrivani Square is encircled by cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops with the harbour, itself, opening up immediately to the north. The focal point of the square is an unremarkable marble fountain that replaced its Venetian predecessor that brought water from the Perivolia Springs five km away, and which is now housed in the garden of the Archaeological Museum. The term “Sintrivani” sounds Italian, but it is an apparently Turkish word meaning “fountain”.

Kioutsouk Hassan Mosque

On 20-5-1941 this area was devastated by the German Airplanes bombing of the Old Town

Chania lighthouse, the jewel of the city, is one of the oldest light houses, not only in Greece and the Mediterranean, but also in the world. The lighthouse is a major attraction in the old port of Chania especially at night when it's lit up. The tower is 21m high and is built on a stone base, located at the end of the old harbour's pier opposite to the fortress of "Firkas". Chania lighthouse was first constructed by the Venetians around 1595 - 1601, and it took its final form, in the shape of a minaret, during the Egyptian Period (1831 - 1841) in around 1839. After the latest restoration, completed in 2006, it was given the formation of the Venetian period. The minaret look is still evident however.

The Harbour Wall and San Nicolo Bastion extending westwards from the Moro Docks is the harbour wall or jetty that the Venetians initially began building between 1320 and 1356 on the existing rocks and reefs in the sea to provide protection for the harbour from the strong north winds and from approaching enemy ships. In the middle of this harbour wall is the Agios Nikolaos or San Nicolo bastion that was added to the harbour wall in 1515 to guard the entrance of the harbour along with the Firkas Fortress opposite. This small bastion or tower was named after the aisleless, barrel-vaulted church of the same name that is still apparently preserved beneath the earth despots. In 1645, the Turks used the bastion as a repository for cannons and cannon balls, as well as a place of execution or gallows. In 1945, the building was converted into a shipyard for traditional wooden boats and since the 1980s as a restaurant now closed.

Centre of Mediterranean Architecture (formerly the Venetian Great Arsenal) A large two-story building originally forming the end unit of a terrace of Venetian-built arsenali or dry-docks. This edifice is known as the Great Arsenal, the largest of the Venetian dry-docks and has been extensively altered many times since its construction in the sixteenth century. Like many Venetian buildings in Chania, it was modified firstly by the Turks who cut off its barrel-vaulted roof, and then again in the late nineteenth century when an upper storey was added after which the building became a Christian school and then the Town Hall from 1928 to 1941. The Grand Arsenal was partly destroyed by the aerial bombardment in 1941 and it has only been completely restored as the Centre of Mediterranean Architecture since 1997.

The tower is divided in three diverse parts: the base is octagonal, the middle part has sixteen sides, and the third part is circular. The construction material of the base is of the same origin and quality of the material used for the fortification of the city of Chania by the Venetians.

In 1864, the lighthouse was assigned to the French Company of Ottoman Lighthouses, and during the final years of the Turkish occupation, the staircase of the east side was constructed, in the entrance of the lighthouse tower. Recent renovations include the octagonal watch house with the small dome, and the water pipes under the base of the lighthouse. The lighthouse is not operational today.

Restaurants are created within the bombed ruins of the old buildings giving a true feeling of Cretan romanticism 

Overlooking the Old Town

View from the mountains on our way to see the Olive Tree 
World’s oldest olive tree. Estimated by the scientists from the University of Crete to be between 3,500 and 4,000 years old, the Olive Tree of Vouves is 15 feet thick at the base. It is located in the village of Ano Vouves, Crete. It still bears delicious prized Olives.
The wonders of this grand and vibrant olive tree can only be imagined. She stands strong and proud at the centre of the village.

An Olive Press and Grinding Stone Mill

The view over the mountains from the Village

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