Places near Church
A village of chieftains, a large village, the seat of the former Municipality of Mournies, along with the villages Gdohia, Kato Pano Symi, Mythoi, Myrto, Riza, Parsas and Christos, which in 1881 numbered 2,213 residents along with the settlements Karydi and Minos.
It is a beautiful, historical, picturesque, traditional village with coffee houses, a square and a memorial for the fallen fighters, the old fountain, old narrow streets branching away of the village’s central road. It probably took its name from the mulberry tree (Mouria), although it is not abundant in the region.
The present settlement of Mournies perhaps does not give away its old glory, however during all the years of the revolts against the Turks it has been an important revolutionary and administrational center of the East Province of Viannos, of which it was a part until 1929, since the time of Captain Syggelis Hatzianagnostis or Symiakos, his son Emmanouil Hatzakis and his descendants, who were renowned as national fighters. The Hatzakis family, with their great financial power, armed and sustained guerilla corps and took part in most battles in the Eastern Crete. As they were personal friends with the national leader Eleftherios Venizelos, he often was their guest at their home in Mournies that had 24 rooms.
The village was burnt down during the German Occupation and paid the price of its struggles having 17 of its residents executed.
The now abandoned settlement of Pano Symi, in the north-west of the village, at an altitude of 900 m, on the borders with the Prefecture of Heraklion, belongs to the Local Department of Mournies, of the Municipality of Ierapetra. The largest village, the summer seat of the Municipality of Mournies, numbered 527 residents in 1583. It was a fortified position and a wonderful landscape. The hideout of revolutionaries, it was repeatedly burnt down by the Turks and was blown up to its foundations during the German Occupation. An aerie, wrecked houses, old churches; admiration and a mixture of happiness and sorrow, touring in the abandoned Pano Symi with the legend of the hidden treasure.
The village Mournies, in the north of Myrtos, at 25 km away from Ierapetra, at an altitude of 275 m, is built in an amphitheatric way in the south-east parts of the Lasithi mountains, with a beautiful view to the Libyan Sea and the plain of Ierapetra. Its climate is good, mild, without extremes, ideal for permanent inhabitation and for holidays. It is a semi-mountainous landscape without glasshouses, with olive groves that are sufficiently watered from drills. In 2001,
83 residents were registered in the census. During the 60s it suffered, like all villages, from urbanization, emigration and during the 70s it obtained the elementary infrastructures. However, today, the residents of Mouries come back, renovate the houses of their ancestors, take care of their olive cultivations and revive their village. The village’s distinguished emigrants are the ambassadors of its history, its civilization and its tradition. The old manors, the picturesque churches, the coffee houses with the friendly and hospitable residents and visitors create a picturesque, traditional Cretan environment in Mournies of Ierapetra.
Deep inside the valley of the river Sarantapihos is built the village Mythoi. It is 22 km away from Ierapetra, it is a small village, in a verdurous landscape, with a beautiful square under the shade of age-old planes. It is said that the village took its name from the plant “Minthi”, or mint, which is abundant there.
However, it may have been named thus because of its many legends, traditions, and myths (mythoi), the most prevalent one being the Sarantapihos’ one. A mythical giant, forty ells tall, like another Talos or Akritas Digenis, he protected the residents from raids. There are the place names “Tou Sarantapihou i Patounia” (Sarantapihos’ footprint) and “Tou Sarantapihou to Mnima” (Sarantapihos’ grave).
There is evidence of ancient inhabitation at the site “Leniko” where traces of walls can be seen. Also, in an excavation, the head of a woman of the Roman period has been found. At the sites Kastelou Haraki and Orfanou to Spiliari clay pots, oil lamps, e.t.c. have been found. The site called Sarakina above Mythoi was a fortress, a hideout of Saracen pirates. The village’s modern history is rich in contributions to the struggles against the conquerors. It nurtured the chieftains Emmanouil Xenikakis, Ioannis Hatzakis, Emmanouil Christakis and others. During the German Occupation, residents of Mythoi took part in the guerilla corpses of the United Resistance of Captain Bantouvas. In the battle of Symi, one of the most heroic figures was lost, Apostolos Vagionakis, who stood up to the enemy’s bullets for the ideals of our unsubdued Crete. They paid the price of their participation to the struggles during the German Occupation, as 4 persons were executed, including the old and bedridden Nikolaos Ioannou Christakis.
The community of Mythoi is today a Local Department of the Municipality of Ierapetra, in 1900 it had 360 Christian residents, in 1951 it had 423 and in 2001 it had 287. In the north of Mythoi, around 6 km away, there is the settlement Karydi with the famous Monastery of Panagia (Our Lady) Karydiani and now abandoned summer residences. The mountainous settlement “Minos”, which is situated in a verdurous small plateau below the Afentis peak of the Lasithi mountains, also belongs to the Community of Mythoi.
The village Mythoi is a lively village with a rich social and cultural life. It has a cultural association, a football team and field, and a modern olive press. The village’s square with its old plane trees, the mulberry trees, the old fountain, the traditional coffee-houses with the raki and the local dishes, is a place of reference for the residents of Mythoi. The sights, the wild natural landscapes in the north of the village, the famous gorge of Sarakina, a monument of natural beauty, attract a lot of local and foreign visitors. The gorge of Sarakina is on of the most beautiful in Crete. Its steep, vertical sides cause awe, and reach a height of up to 250 m. Its widest opening is no more than 15 m while in some places it’s so narrow that its sides seem joined. Its rich flora and fauna, dittany, the wild birds that nest there and the route inside the gorge are breath-taking.
Its promotion is a foremost goal of the Local Department and the Municipality of Ierapetra, of the residents of the village, who head to the future with optimism and anticipation for the development of their place.
Sarakina is located a few meters outside and on the northern side from Mythoi Ierapetra’s village and in a small distance from the beach village Myrtos where the river flows. Its name comes from Saracen conquerors, place name that you can see in many places of Crete.
It is considered as one of the most beautiful walking gorges of Crete. Its length is only one kilometer long but in this small route each visitor can see a sculpture created by the water in millions of years that corrodes the rock in its path.
According to Greek Mythology, giant Sarantapihos who was son of Zeus, was thirsty and crouched in order to drink water from river Krygios or Myrtos. His long beard ripped the mount rock in half and that’s how Saracen gorge was created.