Margarites is a small village hidden in the mountains, and more precisely at the foot of the highest peak on the island, Psiloritis. When driving here, you have to bear in mind the "interesting" road, full of serpentine and steep climbs. There is no bank, post office, and even less a shopping mall here. There is one street and lots of pottery shops. It is difficult to say whether it is cheaper here, but the products made here are certainly a traditional method, which is as far as possible referring to the times when the products sold were in common use. Many shops, which are also workshops, display a potter's wheel on which craftsmen work wonders for tourists.
Pottery makers at Margarites do not appreciate the highly shimmering and unusually colorful vases bought in stalls, cities, or where there are optional tours.
All because they are mass-produced and fired in an electric furnace. Thanks to that they have a shiny and colorful texture. It was certainly not possible in ancient times. A jug referring to the times from BCE it must be made by hand and then fired in a traditional kiln. It is smoky, not very colorful but realistic for the time of use. Rounded shapes refer to destiny. Women holding their ear carried a vessel of water over their shoulder, often several kilometers. So the bottom could not have sharp edges because it would cut the collarbones. Such a jug had to have a stand on which the vessel stood firmly.
The citadel was built on the Paleokastro hill. Originally, in antiquity, there was an acropolis here with the sanctuary of Artemis. The numerous sculptures found testify to its existence. The settlement with houses was probably closer to today's port. However, no information about the building has survived to this day.
Between the 10th and 13th centuries, the Byzantines established a fortified settlement, but not on the hill itself, but slightly to the east. The walls had square towers and two gates.
When Crete was bought by the Venetians, the city was quickly settled by the bourgeoisie. In 1540, the construction of a new defensive wall began. The constant Turkish attacks and the destruction they left behind forced us to undertake a new investment - a Venetian fortress on a hill that can be visited today. Construction began in 1573. Initially, it was planned to enclose the inhabitants' houses with walls, but the extensive construction was abandoned. The works were completed in 1580. There were Venetian guards and public buildings in the citadel. In the event of a Turkish invasion, it was to be a refuge for the population.
Rethymno was quickly captured by the Turks. The defense lasted only 23 days. The fortress was not a good defense, especially due to the lack of a trench around the wall. It turns out, however, that the layout of the building inside has been well thought out. For example, the ammunition depots were on the north side, the buildings needed for the siege on the south side. There were buildings for the population in the central part. On November 13, 1646, during the Fifth Ottoman Turks Invasion, Rethymno was captured. People who took refuge in the citadel were exhausted by disease, lack of food and ammunition.
While visiting the fortress, you may feel unsatisfied, as there is not much left to see. The earthquake and World War II destroyed a lot. The ruins of the building were pulled down.
Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which the Turks converted into the mosque of the Sultan Ibrahim. Opposite is a building that was probably a prison.
During the summer, cultural events take place in the restored buildings.
During the Venetian occupation, the loggia was a meeting place for the nobility and important figures of cultural, commercial, political and economic life. It was always located in the city center, had a roof and walls with arched openings. All this to protect against the sun in the great summer heat and to provide the opportunity to cool down thanks to the increasing gusts of wind, but also to protect against rain in the colder seasons of the year.Loggia ufundowana przez weneckiego architekta Michela Sanmicheliego, powstała w XVI w.
In 1646, after the city was conquered by the Turks, it was converted into a mosque. Later, in 1924, the National Bank had its seat here. From 1950 to the present day, the object was in the collection of the Archaeological Museum. It is possible to purchase a certified copy of the monument in the Archaeological Resource Fund.
From myself privately;
I try to bring back a souvenir of a given place from each trip. Zeus is associated with Crete; here he was born and raised. The figurines that I saw in the stalls did not satisfy me - they were cheesy. In Heraklion, in one of the shops on the main avenue, I saw a beautiful, small figure of the serpent goddess, a copy of the one found in the famous Knossos Palace, owned by the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. It cost almost 100, - €, which for me, when sightseeing by car is quite expensive, was quite a challenge. And here I must admit that I accidentally found a thematic place. Today, Loggia is actually a shop recommended by the Archaeological Museum. You can watch, read where the exhibit is coming from and choose the one you like and which you can buy within your budget. And I did it. I bought a copy numbered 1407 which cost 40, - € and got a certificate from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. After returning home, I found a description of my exhibit without any problems. Today it is for me the most important and the greatest souvenir that I brought from my holidays. I had a little problem at the airport but the receipt with the museum stamp did the trick.
In 1580, the Venetians built the fortress described in point 1. Previously, however, they surrounded the city with walls. They were supposed to protect against the invasion of the Ottoman Turks. They proved unsuccessful, so they decided to build the Fortress on the Hill, which today is a tourist attraction in Rethimno. Nevertheless, few remains of the walls surrounding the settlement. One of the few memories is the gate called Megali Porta (Big Door) or Porta Guora from the then city of Jocopo Guoro.
The remaining part of the wall is integrated into new buildings and may be a further part as internal walls. The gate itself doesn't look very attractive either, but it used to be one of the three main gates leading into the city.
When I first visited Crete in 2010, the Archaeological Museum was located in a small building at the entrance to the Fort. However, due to the instability of the ground, the exhibits were temporarily moved to the church of St. Francis. Although the building is historic and very interesting, there is no room for all the exhibits. On the website of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, you can read that there are plans to build a new Archaeological Museum. Nevertheless, the building itself is historically and architecturally very interesting. It was founded in the 16th century as the cathedral of a Franciscan monastery. It was also the burial place of the richest families and important officials. When the Turks captured the city in 1654, the church was incorporated into the mosque complex of Nerantz.
The entrance to the building is noteworthy, richly decorated in the Renaissance style. The outer walls with arched passages and suddenly torn off decorations prove that today's layout of streets and buildings is far from that of the Venetian or Ottoman times. The oldest exhibits come from the Paleolithic period, i.e. 2 million years BC. In the next, dating back to the pre-palace period, i.e. around 2000 BCE, it is worth noting that the perfume industry was developing in Crete at that time. During the geometric period, iron began to be produced and used. The youngest exhibits come from the end of the Arab conquest. Everything is arranged chronologically and described in an interesting way.
The minaret of the Neratze Mosque, also known as the Gazi Sussein Mosque, towers over the city's buildings. Originally there was St. Mary's Church here, later transformed into an Augustinian monastery. When the Turks captured the city, they gradually converted churches into mosques, introducing a new religion. Thus, in 1657, the temple was turned into a mosque, which was named after the Ottoman conqueror of Rethimno, Gazi Hussein Pasha. The entire roof structure was removed and covered with three domes. The construction of the minaret took a bit longer, as it was not completed until 1890. However, it is impressively high, 27 meters. There are two balconies for prayer.
When the Turks left Crete in 1925, the mosque was re-converted into a church, but it never performed this function again. Currently, the patronage is assumed by the Association for the Promotion of the Art of Rethymno. Concerts and music lessons are held here.
In what was still the center of the Venetian city in the 17th century, there is a historic fountain. It was founded in 1626 by the rector of the city, A. Rimondi. At that time, it was one of the main sources of drinking water in the city. On the one hand, the object refers to Venetian culture, because through three water outlets, each in the shape of a lion's head, it also refers to Greek culture, thanks to four columns with heads made in the Corinthian style. Today it is a place frequently visited by tourists, hidden among taverns, shops and beautiful greenery.
The old port, northwest of the new one, was built in the 10th century but was expanded in the 13th century. The beautiful lighthouse was built by the Egyptians when they took over Crete in 1830. In its place, it was previously built by the Venetians.
The history of the port is very interestingly described by Pandelis Prevelakis in the book "Chronicle of a certain city". Well, for years, there has been a fight here with huge siltation, which made it difficult to moor safely. The dredger was removed, thanks to which the diver, in addition to the enormous amount of iron, caught more valuable items every day; A bronze dagger, a mortar, a brass tray, and even a huge cannon that, when cleaned, turned out to be Venetian because an engraved lion was found. Eventually the dredger found wood and stones. It turned out that ships were sunk here. The cost of cleaning the bottom was rising day by day. Additionally, new ships arriving in the city are stuck. When they influenced the sunken stones, the damaged ones sank.
In order to prevent further misfortunes, underwater dynamite explosions began. Everything didn't help much ... I don't want to give you all the facts, but I honestly recommend the book, it's better than any guidebook.
The origins of the city date back to the Minoan period, that is 2000 BC. However, there are no monuments from this period in the city. The later period also did not leave any monuments. Memories were left only by the Venetian occupation, i.e. from the 13th century. Especially the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, that is, the end of their reign in Crete, brought glory. It was a time when Rethimno was one of the main cultural centers of the island. A fortress and port were built with a beautiful and atmospheric lighthouse and an easy-to-pass Rimondi fountain, the last one referring to ancient times.
When Rethymno was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1645, the inhabitants were forced to take refuge in the fortress. It didn't help much, because 23 days later the city was captured by a new invader who ruled here until 1897. The Turks not only introduced new governments, but also a new religion and turned churches into mosques. These were terrible times for the extremely pious inhabitants of Crete. It was difficult to adapt to new habits, but time and new generations have wiped out grief and pain.
The year 1898 brought new governments. Crete became an autonomous state with its own constitution and government. Fifteen years later, the island was incorporated into Greece. After another ten years, the Turks and all the Islamists were deported. They were replaced by refugees from Asia Minor who profess Orthodoxy, which is still in force throughout the country.
Today Rethymno is a very charming city. I recommend visiting the historical places described below, but above all, a walk, i.e. getting lost in these very atmospheric streets.
It is the third largest city in Crete, right after Heraklion and Chania. It has approximately 40,000 inhabitants. It is located in the northern part of the island, halfway between Heraklion and Chania. It is here that you should head south of the island to spend the day on the palm beach of Preveli. On the way, it is worth visiting the Minoan cemetery in Armeni, and then driving along the charming Kourtaliotiko or Kotsifou gorge (they are parallel, so you should take a different route both ways), it is worth stopping at the Moni Kato Preveli monastery. But all this is next to the city of Rethymno, which is atmospheric, full of charming tavernas, shops and flowers, streets and several sights worth seeing. Recently, in the summer of 2019, when I visited Crete again, I read the "Chronicle of the City" by the author of Pandelis Prevelakis. The book, of course also translated into Polish, was written by a professor of art history at the Academy of Fine Arts in Athens. The opinion that talking about important matters in a simple and accessible way is a great art is confirmed here. Well, Prevelakis transmits the history of the city through events from its own memories. In a very individual and accessible way, so much that you fall in love with this city much more than with any other in Crete. Personally, I recommend it with all my heart.
In the 4th millennium BC, according to Greek mythology, Cydon, son of the god Hermes, founded a Minoan settlement called Kydonia on the Kastelli hill. The location is perfect; the area adjacent to the sea, surrounded by a plain rich in fertile soil, meets all the conditions necessary for the development of agriculture and fisheries.
The period around the 2nd millennium BC is a very good time for Chania. Trade and shipping are flourishing. The development of pottery brings many benefits. It was one of the most important resorts on the island. Although little is known after this period, it is known that the buildings had a palace character with luxurious houses and construction solutions that are still amazing today.
All architecture burned down in a great fire in 1450 BC.
The city quickly recovered from the catastrophe. The following years, until around the 11th century BC, were characterized by impressive prosperity. You can see the strong influence of Mycenae both on architecture and ceramics.
In 524 B.C.E. the inhabitants of the island of Samos, who fled from the tyrant Polycrates, settled here.
Roman rule began in the 3rd century CE.
In 823 the city was conquered by the Saracens, who ruled Crete until 1252. It was then that the Venetians, who bought the island in 1211 as part of the Fourth Crusade, also took over Chania. In 1537, they surrounded the city with a wall. Unfortunately, it didn't help much. When the Turks massively attacked individual regions of Crete, in 1645 they conquered Chania as the first city. All churches and monasteries were converted into mosques. All attempts at fighting and uprising were quickly suppressed. Only the revolution in 1897 brought the island partial autonomy, and in 1913 Crete was annexed to Greece.
World War II is a very difficult time for the Greeks. Numerous bombings destroyed many monuments.
Although there are not as many monuments here as in Rethymno or Heraklion, this city is considered the most beautiful and the most attractive tourist destination in Crete. In fact, it has its own atmosphere. It is worth coming, especially in the evening, because then Chania literally comes alive, maybe because it is not tired of the summer heat. Unfortunately, communication is a big problem. The small number of parking lots and their small space mean that tourists have to work hard to find a place. If I can advise; park, even if there is still work to be done - it can only get harder afterwards. For those who come by general transport - do not come back with the last bus. Literally Dantesque scenes can take place at the station, the stronger one wins. Chania is wonderful in the evening, but coming back may be a nightmare. My family, literally miraculously managed to get on the bus and only because I was forcing my way to the entrance. In summer, there are a lot of tourists in this city and everyone wants to return to the hotel for the night ...
The Romans were the first to build walls when they occupied Crete in 330 - 828. There is little left of that time, scraps between houses that are hard to find today.
When the Saracens conquered the island in 824, they erected a new wall surrounded by a trench on the outside.
The next century brought new governments. The Byzantines, unable to accept the loss, because the location of Crete is exceptionally convenient, after several attempts they again conquered the island in 961. They completely demolished the Arab fortifications and built new ones.
In 1204, as a result of the Fourth Crusade, the Venetians bought Crete. They saw the port as important for security. Nevertheless, they strengthened the existing walls, creating Heraklion as one of the most fortified cities in the Mediterranean. When Constantinople fell in 1453 and, seeing further conquests of the Ottoman Empire, in 1462 the construction of new walls began.
Construction took over 100 years. How important they were for the city's defense is evidenced by the fact that when the Turks invaded Crete in 1645, Heraklion fought for 21 years. This fight became famous as the longest siege in history. After conquering the city, the invaders repaired the walls without introducing new solutions.
All of Crete was heavily bombed during World War II. After independence was regained, there were proposals to demolish the walls so that new buildings could be erected in this place, but the demolition was not carried out. The damage was repaired, making it one of the best-preserved Venetian fortifications in Europe today.
The walls are 4.5 km long and have seven bastions; st. Andrew, Pantocrator, Bethlehem, Martinengo, Jesus, Vitouri, Sambionara and the four city gates.
From the 13th century, Venice ruled practically all areas belonging to the Mediterranean Sea. To maintain the position of invincible invader, warships and merchants had to be ready at all times for safe and rapid navigation. They also needed to be constantly modernized. In this way, shipyards were built in every major port. In Heraklion in the period from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, 19 were built, grouped into three complexes. It's a lot. It proves that it was a strategically important place. Also because after the fall of Constantinople, Heraklion was the cultural center of Europe.
The shipyards are called Neoria. The word comes from the ancient Greek "neorion" or arsenal. The buildings had strong stone walls with arched openings and a barrel vault. To this day, two shipyards remain, partially demolished during the construction of the route along the seashore.
Prince with lilies. One of the rooms is dedicated to frescoes found in the Palace of Knossos, or rather their fragments. After extensive restoration, they show what was found in the palace and what was fine-tuned during the archaeological research. The prince with lilies is considered the most famous fresco. It depicts a young man on a red background. A wide belt, a necklace and an elaborate headdress adorned with lilies and peacock feathers suggest that the depicted figure is a king or high-ranking priest living in a palace.
Ryton with a bull's head is an example of a stone sculpture. It dates from the fifteenth century BC. He was found, of course, at the Palace of Knossos. The bull was the most important animal in the Minoan religion. The horns that were not found were probably wooden and covered with gold. The eyes were made of rock crystal with painted pupils. The incisions are designed to imitate hair and mane. The sculpture was actually a vase. Two openings, one at the top of the neck was used to pour the liquid and the bottom one to empty it. The bull is partially preserved, only the left side of the bull is original.
The Agia Triada sarcophagus comes from the Agia Triada tomb from 1400 BC. This is the only Minoan stone sarcophagus. It was plastered and richly painted. The frescoes depict scenes that have proved important to archaeologists as they show burial customs from the Minoan era.
Serpent goddesses, two to be exact. They were found in the treasury of the main temple in the Palace of Knossos. It is assumed that they date back to 1650-1550 BC. These two little figures represent the mother goddess and her daughter from the Minoan period. The name is not accidental as the smaller figure holds snakes in both hands. The intricate Minoan robe testifies to the divinity of the figure. Exposed breasts strongly refer to the attributes of femininity. The figurine was found with a similar, slightly larger one. Everything was surrounded by valuable items.
The clay disk from Festos dates back to the 17th century BC. The etched hieroglyphs are arranged in a spiral from the edge to the center of the disc on both sides. The exhibit is important because it is the oldest testimony to the existence of the magazine in the world. The text cannot be read. However, it is known that there are 45 different characters, repeated and grouped together to form separate words.
A golden pendant with bees shows two insects joined by their heads and abdomens to form a ring-shaped ornament. Its outstretched wings inform that bees are depicted in flight, carrying drops of honey. The pendant is small, maybe the more it impresses with its precision. He got kicked out in Malia. It comes from the 18th century BC.
although it is located in an uninteresting building, it is one of the largest in Europe and the second in Greece, right after the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. All this is due to the nearby, but very famous Knossos Palace, which dates back to 2000 BC. For this reason, I suggest you come to the museum after visiting Knossos. Complete the knowledge. The archaeological sites in the palace contain copies and the originals are kept in museums.
There are two historic fountains on the triangular Kornarou Square. Each one is important for a different reason.
The first - Membo, was funded by the Venetian governor of Heraklion, Gianmatteo Bembo. It was founded in the years 1552 - 1554. During this period it was so important that it provided access to running water for tired merchants, tourists and newcomers. For today's visitors, the fountain is a valuable monument, as it refers to ancient times. The central place is occupied by a figure of a Roman official from the area of Ierapetra in Crete. The whole is decorated with Venetian family coats of arms.
As for the monuments, it must be admitted that the Bembo Fountain stands in the shadow of a much larger Turkish Pumphouse, funded by an eminent Turk. Today, in a world of shops, bars and taverns, we underestimate the importance of fountains. However, for travelers centuries ago, any access to drinking water was a godsend.
This was also the case of two fountains standing next to each other, founded in subsequent periods and during subsequent occupations in Greece.
Its original shape was created in 1239. Its great importance is evidenced by the fact that it was the seat of the Roman archbishop and the burial place of the princes of Crete. Unfortunately, the earthquake in 1303 and later in 1508 destroyed the building. When the Turks occupied the city in 1669, they established a Turkish temple here, known as the Defter Mosque. After restoration in 1960, it still serves as an exhibition and conference room.
As the name suggests, the building was built during the Venetian occupation. More precisely, thanks to the same donor as the nearby fountain - Morosini. It was an important place for today's Italians; meetings of rulers and nobility. The most important topics of politics, trade and economy are covered here. It was also a place of social meetings, where the wealthiest, and therefore the most outstanding, spent a good time, also dancing. The architecture of the building was well thought out, on the one hand it protected from the scorching sun, on the other it created space for the wind, which in turn reduced the feeling of heat. The Venetians appreciated antiquity and also kept the ancient architectural style here. The ground floor consists of Doric columns and the first floor is made of Ionic columns.
When the Turks took the city in 1669, they introduced their customs. And since they felt no need to meet in this building, they neglected it greatly. Loggia has lost its former splendor and splendor. The following years, and even centuries, caused the building to fall into more and more ruin. A few years after the end of World War II, work was undertaken to restore it to its former glory. Today it is actually a nice place where various celebrations are held, but also the weekly meetings of the City Council.
The location of the fountain in the city center, where the main promenades intersect and where there are many atmospheric cafes and tavernas, proves that it is the main point of relaxation. The fountain was built in 1628 thanks to the Venetian governor Francesco Morosini. The four stone lions date from the 14th century. The semicircle of the water reservoir refers to Greek mythology.
An example is a photo showing the moment when Zeus in the form of a white bull brought Princess Europe to Crete, more specifically to the beach of Matala.
A long breakwater is ideal for a walk, on which the wind from the sea reduces the feeling of burning sun. The whole thing is finished with a lantern. Walking the entire promenade can be quite a challenge considering you still have to come back. However, it is worth trying to visit one of the most important monuments, which is the fortress. The first building, which today has nothing left, was from the Arab period, i.e. around the 9th century. A little later, a tower called Castellum Comunis was built at the entrance to the port. It was a tall stone structure. However, its importance declined significantly when gunpowder was invented in the 14th century. It turned out to be too weak, even useless. Venice, which at that time occupied all of Crete, considered Heraklion too weakly fortified. In 1523, the tower was demolished and replaced with the present building, then called Castello a Mare, i.e. a sea fortress. The shape and interior will not necessarily impress everyone. However, two facts about the structure of the structure should arouse interest. Well:
The fortress has an area of 3600 m². In order to create enough space for development, old, useless ships were filled with stones. After sinking, they increased the area of a small island and created a breakwater that is still used today.
The internal walls are 3 meters thick, but the external ... 9 meters! The weight of the building is therefore huge. The sea damaged the foundations several times, so repairs had to be made successively.
There were three entrances to the inside of the fortress. Over each of them there were plaques, inscriptions and bas-reliefs.
The building itself is two-story, with a total of 23 rooms. The ground floor is intended for cannons. However, it soon turned out that the shooting holes were too small for the cannon barrel. So they were led up the ramps.
The fortress failed during the Turkish siege. They took control of the port entrance very quickly. The new invader did not introduce any major modifications.
Today, it is a historic building, open from 8:00 to 19:00 (opening hours are not always the same in different seasons).
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other sights in Crete
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Although it is difficult to find monuments from the archaic period, i.e. between the 8th and 5th centuries BC, the oldest traces of settlement come from this time.
It is assumed, although it is supposed to be a hypothesis, that during the heyday of the Palace of Knossos, that is around 2000 - 1400 BCE, Heraklion was the port of today's Heraklion. This is due to its proximity to the sea, which has always been an important transport area.
There is a gap in all information up to 824, when the Saracens first settled here. They named the settlement Chandak, or the moat, because they dug a huge defensive ditch around it. They have created a stop here for pirates who are the terror of the Mediterranean entire.
The Eastern Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire, watched in horror as pirate ships were still lurking here with their enormous loot. In 961 they captured the settlement. They murdered all the Saracens and burned the city to the ground, of course after all the valuables were taken to Constantinople, allegedly on as many as 300 ships.
In 1204, as part of the Fourth Crusade, the city was bought by Venice for 1,000 pieces of silver. They changed the name of the city to Candia. Trade with the East flourished, which resulted in a significant development of the city. The Venetians built opulent villas, pushing the indigenous Cretans to the periphery. The conflict grew and resulted in numerous uprisings. As a result, the Venetians strengthened the fortifications, the walls of which are sometimes even 40 meters thick. Regardless of the conflict between the inhabitants and the occupant, Candia, as today's Heraklion was called, experienced a flourishing of art and culture. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 meant that artists and scholars settled here. A famous painting school was established. It is worth knowing that the famous sculptor and painter El Greco was born here.
The 17th century brought another challenge. The subsequent conquests of the Ottoman Turks, including Crete, also brought the invaders to Heraklion. It was a very difficult time. A different culture, a different religion, a lack of respect for human life ... Although the island quickly gave up statistically, because in four years Heraklion fought 22 years. 30,000 Cretans lost their lives. Although there are four times more Turks, it is on September 27. In 1669, the occupiers captured a city they called Megalo Kasto, or Great Castle, and all Christians had to go beyond its borders.
The constant uprisings of the local population, as well as the Greek-Turkish war on the continent, after more than 200 years, in 1889, contributed to the departure of the invader. The city became part of the liberated Crete again. It got a new name - Heraklion, as the city of Hercules.
The period of the Second World War was a time of numerous bombings.
Since 1971, the city has been the administrative center of Crete.
also called Iraklion or Iraklio. Currently, it is the largest city on the island and serves as the capital of Crete. It is considered ugly, without expression and the climate of narrow streets that we appreciate so much in Greece. It is certainly a place full of contrasts, as the monuments stand next to modern buildings. Despite the shameful opinion, I believe that it is worth coming here, everyone will find some interesting places. You can stay here returning from the obligatory Palace of Knossos, which is just 6 km south.
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