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Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos 5241 hits
Agios Nikolaos or Aghios Nikolaos (Greek: Άγιος Νικόλαος) is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island's capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2011, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed 27,074 inhabitants. The town is a municipality of Crete region, and sits partially upon the ruins of the ancient city of Lato pros Kamara.
 
History
Agios Nikolaos was settled in the late Bronze Age by Dorian occupants of Lato, at a time when the security of the Lato hillfort became a lesser concern and easy access to the harbour at Agios Nikolaos became more important.
The name Agios Nikolaos means Saint Nicholas. Its stress lies on the second syllable of the word "Nikolaos". Agios Nikolaos or Ayios Nikolaos (alternative romanizations of the Greek Άγιος Νικόλαος) is a common placename in Greece and Cyprus, since Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors and of all of Greece.
Archaeology
Near the town there's an archaeological site of ancient Priniatikos Pyrgos. It appears to have been first settled in the Final Neolithic, circa 3000 BC. Activity on the site continued throughout the Minoan Bronze Age and the Classical Greek and Roman periods, spanning a total of up to 4,000 years. Since 2007, Priniatikos Pyrgos has been undergoing excavation by an international team under the auspices of the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens.
Modern Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos is probably best known as a tourist town that serves as a hub to the twenty or so small villages and farms that make up that part of Lassithi. Tourist attractions include the small lagoon Lake Voulismeni, small beaches in the town, the tiny island Agioi Pantes, the archaeological museum, the local flora exhibition “Iris” and numerous fairs.
Just a short ferry ride away from Agios Nikolaos is the island of Spinalonga, an old Venetian fortress turned ex-leper colony in the beginning of the 20th century.
Tourism is mainly West European with Greek tourism concentrated in mid August, though there are a considerable amount of Russian vacationers in East Crete. The lagoon features a small park with a trail, traditional fishing boats, ducks, pigeons, an amphitheatre and many cafès. The modern city of Agios Nikolaos became internationally well-known during the 60's, when it was "discovered" by famous cinema directors (Jules Dassin, Walt Disney etc.), BBC producers and many others. It was then that the rapid tourist development of the area started.
Daphne du Maurier's short story Not After Midnight was set in and around the town.
Municipality
The municipality Agios Nikolaos was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 3 former municipalities, that became municipal units:
Agios Nikolaos
Neapoli
Vrachasi
Transportation
Agios Nikolaos is accessible from the mainland and the whole of Europe through Nikos Kazantzakis airport, and the many daily ferry services in Heraklion (64 km). You can also travel through Sitia airport boarding onto a domestic or charter flight or through its harbour (67 km). Recently the town became host to a department of a Technological Educational Institute (TEI), offering tourism-related courses.
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Agios Nikolaos, with over forty years of experience in the tourism industry, is an international and cosmopolitan resort that welcomes thousands of visitors annually.

The lake is its most charming feature. Legend suggests that Athena and Armetis bathed in its waters. This lake is connected to the sea by a straight channel, while its natural surroundings of red rock and trees attract the visitor magnetically. 

At a small open-air theatre by the lake, locals and visitors alike can enjoy interesting artistic and cultural presentations. A walk around the shops of Agios Nikolaos is an enjoyable experience. In the many stores the visitor can find a wide selection of traditional Cretan artwork, copies of pieces from different archaeological museums, jewelry, and embroidery. There are also many examples of woven goods and Byzantine icons.There are bustling cafeterias, charming coffeehouses and taverns serving traditional Cretan “mesedes” or tidbits of local food.

Agios Nikolaos Agios Nikolaos Agios Nikolaos 

You can find innumerable opportunities for night-time entertainment at a variety of cafes and restaurants. Visit the outdoor summer cinema ”Christina” where the surrounding walls are covered by honeysuckle, or find other places of entertainment where genuine Cretan feasts are always accompanied by local wine or strong raki.

A high quality and range of athletic facilities provides professional athletes and sports fans, and local and visiting amateur athletes with the opportunity to get involved in any sports. There is a football pitch, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, beach volley facilities, mini-golf and swimming pools, all providing the opportunity for exercise and fun. 
Agios Nikolaos Archaiological Museum
Agios Nikolaos Archaiological Museum 4047 hits

Temporarily Closed due to restoration works in progress.

http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/1/gh151.jsp?obj_id=3523

Archeological Museum of Heraclion
Archeological Museum of Heraclion 3437 hits
 
The Herakleion Archaeological Museum is one of the largest and most important museums in Greece, and among the most important museums in Europe. It houses representative artefacts from all the periods of Cretan prehistory and history, covering a chronological span of over 5,500 years from the Neolithic period to Roman times. The singularly important Minoan collection contains unique examples of Minoan art, many of them true masterpieces. The Herakleion Museum is rightly considered as the museum of Minoan culture par excellence worldwide. 
 
The museum, located in the town centre, was built between 1937 and 1940 by architect Patroklos Karantinos on a site previously occupied by the Roman Catholic monastery of Saint-Francis which was destroyed by earthquake in 1856. The museum's antiseismic building is an important example of modernist architecture and was awarded a Bauhaus commendation. Karantinos applied the principles of modern architecture to the specific needs of a museum by providing good lighting from the skylights above and along the top of the walls, and facilitating the easy flow of large groups of people. He also anticipated future extensions to the museum. The colours and construction materials, such as the veined polychrome marbles, recall certain Minoan wall-paintings which imitate marble revetment. The two-storeyed building has large exhibition spaces, laboratories, a drawing room, a library, offices and a special department, the so-called Scientific Collection, where numerous finds are stored and studied. The museum shop, run by the Archaeological Receipts Fund, sells museum copies, books, postcards and slides. There is also a cafe. 
 
The Herakleion Archaeological Museum is a Special Regional Service of the Ministry of Culture and its purpose is to acquire, safeguard, conserve, record, study, publish, display and promote Cretan artefacts from the Prehistoric to the Late Roman periods. The museum organizes temporary exhibitions in Greece and abroad, collaborates with scientific and scholarly institutions, and houses a variety of cultural events.
 
History
The first archaeological collection of the town of Herakleion was constituted in 1883 with the initiative of the local Philekpaideutikos Syllogos (Association of Friends of Education), which was headed by the doctor and antiquarian Joseph Chatzidakis. Chatzidakis also obtained permission from the Ottoman authorities to establish the first 'archaeological service'. The collection was housed inside two rooms in the courtyard of the cathedral of Agios Minas, and by 1900 was enriched with private donations, new acquisitions and finds from the first small excavations and surface surveys. After large-scale excavations began on the island in 1900, the archaeological collection came to include the first important finds from these. Around that time the museum was ceded to the newly established Cretan state and was subsequently moved to the barracks building of the modern nome of Herakleion under the first Keepers of Antiquities Joseph Chatzidakis and Stephanos Xanthoudidis. 
 
The first display room was built in 1904-1907 over the remains of the famous Venetian monastery of Saint Francis, next to the Hounkiar Djami. The antiquities' collection was moved there after the addition of a second room in 1908. In 1912, this small building was given a Neoclassical appearance with the construction of a west wing designed by architect Wilhelm D?rpfeld and Panagis Kavvadias, Secretary of the Athens Archaeological Society. The collection continued to be enriched by the finds from the great excavations by Greek and foreign archaeologists. 
 
The construction of the current museum began in 1937 on plans by architect Patroklos Karantinos. During the Second World War the museum's antiquities were at great risk, but they were saved thanks to the exertions of Professor Nikolaos Platon. Platon supervised the re-exhibition of the museum's treasures and the museum opened its doors to the public in 1952. The display illustrated the chronological development of Minoan civilization, the history of archaeological research and of the great discoveries on Crete during the early twentieth century (Knossos, Phaistos and Malia palaces etc), and the prevalent theories on Aegean Prehistory. In 1962 the museum bought the collection of the Cretan doctor Stylianos Giamalakis, which was displayed on the first floor. In 1964 the new wing was added to the building and the museum's director Stylianos Alexiou subsequently completed the exhibition. In 2000 the museum acquired the Nikos Metaxas collection, part of which will soon go on display. 
 
In 1987 the building received new electricity, air conditioning and fire protection installations, and the skylights in the display rooms were replaced with false ceilings and artificial lighting. A new refurbishment based on plans by architect Alexandros Tombazis began in 2002; it will include the re-opening of the original skylights, new electro-mechanical installations (air conditioning, lighting, security, fire protection etc) and a new wing of storerooms to the north of the building. It will also highlight the remains of the Venetian church of Saint Francis on the east side of the atrium.
 
 
Exhibitions
The permanent exhibition of the Herakleion Archaeological Museum
The collections of the Herakleion Archaeological Museum include unique works of Cretan art, found in excavations across the central and eastern part of the island and which cover a chronological span of roughly 7000 years, from the Neolithic (7000 BC) to the Roman period (3rd century AD). Most objects date to prehistoric times and to the so-called Minoan period, named after the island's mythical king, Minos. They include pottery, carved stone objects, seals, small sculpture, metal objects and wall-paintings, which were discovered in palaces, mansions, settlements, funerary monuments, sanctuaries and caves. 
 
After the completion of the new exhibition project in April 2014, the exhibition occupies a total of twenty seven rooms. Several important themes, such as Minoan wall-paintings are presented separately from the overall chronological sequence. The objects give a complete image of Cretan civilization, as it developed in different regions and important centres. Social, ideological and economic aspects form the core of the display, with a strong focus on religious and ceremonial practices, mortuary habits, bureaucratic administration and daily life. Explanatory texts, photographs, drawings and models of monuments supplement the exhibition.
 
Paleochora
Paleochora 3300 hits

Paleochora is a big village in south-west Crete. Located on a small peninsula it has been a popular place for many many years because of its good beaches and pleasant surroundings. Getting there: Paleochora is 75 km from Chania on a good road. There are several buses per day. The village also has a ferryboat connection to other villages in south-west Crete. Atmosphere: It is a "real" village with a constant population of about 2000. Paleochora is lively and sometimes a little crowded in the high season but it is very easy to get away from the bustle. In summer months, the main road crossing the village as well as the road along the eastern sea front get closed to the traffic in the evening. This is wonderful if you have children as they can run around without danger. Accommodation: Huge choice of rooms, studios and self-catering apartments. Most of the time it is very easy to find something on the spot in Paleochora. Restaurants: Many restaurants of all kinds. Shopping: Good shopping for basic needs . Nightlife: Several bars and a discotheque. So there is a nightlife but it is not a loud place at night. Beach: Beautiful long sandy beach, a little exposed to the west wind which often blows here. There are several other more protected (but pebble) beaches nearby. There are more beaches further west at Konduras and Krios.

 

 


Your sightseeing around the wider area of Paleochora and one day trips to the colourful villages that are spread all over Selino province, will offer you a unique chance to visit and admire the Christian temples of our region. 

The icon-paints and murals that adorn the old churches of Selino, remain in good condition, with images that, apart from the admiration for the technique, they submit the visitor-pilgrim to an introspection experience and spiritual awakening…

The riches of the area in muraled temples, cannot be found in any other region of Crete! Plenty Byzantine churches, most of them constructed in 14th and 15th century, in every village you visit in Selino. The spread of the population in small isolated settlements and the normal outcome of constructing temples on each of these areas, have bequeathed our land a long and importand “list” with Byzantine and Early Christian churches!
The muraled temples of the region are above 100 and we mention sign of places where a large number of churches are gathered and you are able to visit. Starting from 
Paleochora
and with direction to the west villages of Selino, you will meet many churches in Voutas area, in Sklavopoula, Sarakina and the wider area of Koundoura. On the east part of our province, your sightseeing at villages like 
Anidri, Azogires, Prodromi, Rodovani, Koustogerakocan be combined with visits to byzantine churches of the area. Going north to Vlithias, Kadros, Plemenianaand the wider area of Kandanos, you will have the chance to admire more indications of Christian worship and Byzantine icon-painting. 

 

Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge 3102 hits

Samaria or the Samaria Gorge is one of the main sights of Crete. Every tourist who visits Crete will have heard of this beautiful gorge or soon will. 

Samaria Gorge is found in the White Mountains of south-west Crete in the district of Chania. They are called the White Mountains because the sun shining on the limestone rock of their peaks make them appear that colour.

The capital of the district of Chania is the town of that name. It`s a very popular tourist destination on the north coast of the island. If you look at a map of Crete you will find the Samaria gorge directly south of the town but on the opposite coast.The White Mountains contain over forty gorges of various sizes. The best known are Imbros Gorge, The Gorge of Agia Irini and the Samaria Gorge which is definitely the most famous of them all. Even though these gorges are all to be found on the same part of the island of Crete, they all have different characteristics.Samaria Gorge is named after a village of that name which is found about halfway down the gorge. The village in turn gets its name from a small 14th century church sited close by. This is the church of the Holy Mary, in the Greek language, "Osia Maria." So it is easy to see where the name Samaria comes from!The village has been deserted since 1962. The last inhabitants had to leave when the whole area was designated as a National Park. Although many of the old houses still remain, they only act as accommodation for the Park wardens. The old church of Osia Maria is still there, a little way out of the village.All the gorges in the Crete Mountains in Chania were formed by the same geological process. Water ate away the soft limestone rocks over thousands of years after the land had been uplifted by seismic activity. This water erosion has also led to huge numbers of caves being formed. There are as many as 3,000 over the island. A lot of these caves are archaeologically and religiously significant. Over a 100 of the caves have churches in them.The Samaria Gorge starts near the small town of Xyloskalo on a level area in the White Mountains called the Omalos Plateau. The name Xyloskalo can be translated as "wooden stairway." This is because the locals had built just that thing to help them enter down the steep opening into the gorge.The Omalos Plateau is over 1,200 feet above sea level and the gorge runs in a southerly direction from there down to the south coast of Crete near the village of Agia Roumeli.Of all the things to do in Crete visiting the Gorge of Samaria is a must for many tourists, especially those on Crete walking holidays. Mnay Crete excursions are based around this great hike.Coaches will collect you early in the morning and take you to your starting point at Xyloskalo in the Crete mountains. Once you have completed the hike and reached Agia Roumeli on the coast, you catch a ferry boat to the nearby port of Hora Sfakion where your coach will collect you once more.The locals call the gorge "Farangas" which means "great gorge." They also like to claim that it is the longest gorge in Europe, but that is debatable.What is certain is that in some places it can definitely be counted amongst the narrowest!The most dramitic part is a a place known as "Sideroportes" or the "Iron Gates." Here the Samaria gorge is so narrow, being about four metres wide, that you feel as though you can reach out and touch both walls at the same time.If you look up at the cliffs, which rise almost vertically above you for 350 metres, you feel totally overawed!The journey down the gorge, from Xyloskalo to Agia Roumeli on the coast, is about 18 kilometres and although the hike is not an easy one, it is extremly beautiful. The path follows a clear stream which goes through heavily scented pine forests of tall Cypress trees. There are many olive trees and some small fields with low stone walls.The Samaria Gorge is only open to visitors between the beginning of May and the middle of October. There a charge for entering the gorge, at the moment it is 5 Euros. This goes towards the maintenance of the National Park. You must keep your ticket and hand it to the warden as you leave the park, this ensures that no-one is left in the gorge overnight.During the winter months you are unable to go down the gorge.This ban can even occur in the summer season if there has been rain. This is because the pretty stream you cross many times on your hike down the gorge can turn into a raging torrent. Rain or melting snow in the Crete mountains can raise the height of the water considerably.In fact the Village of Agia Roumeli, at the bottom of the gorge, was badly flooded in the 1950`s. There are still some ruined houses which are only now being rebuilt.High winds can also cause problems. Although you may not be aware of them when you are down in the gorge they have been known to cause stones to fall from the 350 metre high cliffs. In fact there are signs warning of this danger.Any walk down the gorge usually becomes a competition to spot the rare Kri-Kri.This is a Cretan Wild Ibex with distinctive curved horns. It was introduced into Samaria gorge as a refuge for it. In fact this is only one of two places it is to be found.If you are very lucky you may spot some rare birds such as the Griffon Vulture, Bonelli`s Eagle and the Golden Eagle.One thing about Samaria Gorge you should be aware of is its popularity. During the tourist season there will be lots of people hiking through it every day.The beauty and dramatic quality of Samaria Gorge make it one of the most popular gorges to visit in the world.

 

Lassithi Plateu
Lassithi Plateu 3082 hits
The Lasithi Plateau (Greek: Οροπέδιο Λασιθίου, Oropedio Lasithiou) is high endorheic plateau, and a municipality, located in the Lasithi regional unit in eastern Crete, Greece. The seat of the municipality is the village Tzermiado.[2]
Contents   
 
Geography
The Lasithi Plateau stretches (11 km (6.8 mi) in the E-W direction and 6 km (3.7 mi) in the N-S direction. It is approximately 70 km (43 mi) east from Heraklion and lies at an average altitude of 840 m (2,760 ft). Winters can be harsh and snow on the plain and surrounding mountains can persist until mid-spring. The plateau is famous for its white-sailed windmills, (more accurately, wind-pumps), a local invention that have been used for two centuries to irrigate the land. Despite their vast number (some 10,000) in the past, most of them have been abandoned nowadays in favour of modern diesel and electrical pumps. Because the water table is close to the surface of the ground, all burials in cemeteries are above ground, in a stone mausoleum, or a stone box with decorations. This is because the plateau is endorheic, and there is impermeable rock just below the surface of the ground.
History
 
Monument commemorating the battle and desctruction of Lassithi by Ottoman and Egyptian forces in May 1867.
The fertile soil of the plateau, due to alluvial run-off from melting snow, has attracted inhabitants since Neolithic times (6000 BC). Minoans and Dorians followed and the plateau has been continuously inhabited since then, except a period that started in 1293 and lasted for over two centuries during the Venetian occupation of Crete. During that time and due to frequent rebellions and strong resistance, villages were demolished, cultivation prohibited, and natives were forced to leave and forbidden to return under a penalty of death. A Venetian manuscript of the thirteenth century describes the troublesome plateau of Lasithi as spina nel cuore (di Venezia) - a thorn in the heart of Venice. Later, in the early 15th century, Venetian rulers allowed refugees from the Greek mainland (eastern Peloponnese) to settle in the plain and cultivate the land again. To ensure good crops, Venetians designed a large system of drainage ditches (linies) that were constructed between 1514 - 1560 and are still in use. The ditches transfer the water to Honos (Greek: Χώνος), a sinkhole in the west edge of the plateau, that feeds the river Aposelemis.
During the Greek War of Independence in January 1823, Hassan Pasha led an army of Ottoman and Egyptian forces sent by Muhammad Ali that seized the plateau killing most residents who had not fled to the mountains. In May 1867 during the great Cretan revolt, Ottoman and Egyptian forces under the command of Pashas Omar and Ismail Selim marched towards the Lasithi plateau. Their aim was to strike a decisive blow on the revolutionaries who used it as their hideout. After fierce fighting, the outnumbered rebels were defeated and forced to retreat to the slopes of Dikti. Between 21 and 29 of May, many village dwellers were slaughtered or taken slaves, their homes were set ablaze after being looted and livestock and crops were destroyed.[4] The monastery of Kroustalenia that was the seat of the revolutionary committee was also demolished.
During the Axis occupation of Greece in 1941–1944, the peaks surrounding the plateau were used as hideouts by local resistance fighters.
Archaeological sites
There are several caves of archaeological interest in the surrounding countryside, of which Diktaion Andron (Greek: Δικταίον Άντρον, also Diktaean / Diktaian Cave) near the village of Psychro (Greek: Ψυχρό) is the birthplace of Zeus according to Greek Mythology. Zeus is also said to have used Diktaion Andron as his hiding place after abducting Europa. The archeological site of Karfi, believed to be the last outpost of the Minoan civilization is located on the mountains immediately north of the plateau.
Milatos Beach
Milatos Beach 3048 hits

Milatos Beach is a by-the-sea development with many very good fish tavernas, a fishing port and a nice small beach in it. There are other beach areas, but they are very rocky. The beach inside the village is not so special though and if you want to find better beaches you have to make a short walk towards the village of Sisi. In between Sisi and Milatos there is a choice of three different beaches (Avlaki Sissi beach, Boufos and Harbor Sissi Beach). Milatos is located a few km east of Sissi and Malia, approximately 30 km west of Agios Nikolaos and 45 km east of Heraklion.

Milatos Beach is a by-the-sea development with many very good fish tavernas, a fishing port and a nice small beach in it. There are other beach areas, but they are very rocky. The beach inside the village is not so special though and if you want to find better beaches you have to make a short walk towards the village of Sissi. In between Sisi and Milatos there is a choice of three different beaches.

Apart from swimming and relaxing at the beach, the area is very good for sightseeing. Archaeological survey has shown that the actual scenic village with the cute small, whitewashed houses has been built on the place of the ancient homonymous Minoan city. According to tradition, Minoan people from this area had settled in Asia Minor in the mid-2 nd millennium b.C., and established the famous city of Milatos, which flourished for a long time in the Archaic and Classical periods. Several burials of the Late Minoan period have been found here.

Lake of Aghios Nickolaos
Lake of Aghios Nickolaos 2950 hits

Lake Voulismeni  is a former sweetwater lake, later connected to the sea, located at the centre of the town of Agios Nikolaos. It has a circular shape of a diameter of 137 m and depth 64 m. The locals refer to it as just "the lake". The lake connects to the harbour of the town by a channel dug in 1870. A panoramic view of the lake can be seen from a small park situated above it. According to legend, the goddess Athena and Artemis bathed in it. Every year at midnight turning to Orthodox Christian Easter day, the majority of the population of the town gathers around the lake to celebrate with fireworks, and firecrackers thrown by the people attending that highlight event.It was reported that the German army during their withdrawal from the area at WW2, disposed parts of their weaponry and/or vehicles into the deep lake.A local urban legend has it that the lake is bottomless. Based primarily on locals noticing disturbances at the surface of the water during the Santorini earthquake of 1956, many assume a possible geological relation of the two locations.

Knossos Palace
Knossos Palace 2698 hits

Crete  is still pushing for Knossos (8km south from Iraklion) to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is now preparing a new folder titled Minoan civilization, which will include the most important monuments on the island, such as Phaistos, Zakros and the archaeological site of Malia, with Knossos dominating the list.

 

Competent authorities who are editing the file with the code name Minoan civilization, estimate that this project could pave the way for including Knossos on the UNESCO world heritage list. The construction problems identified around the area of the Minoan palace that impede the monument’s inclusion might be minor matters since the file will not focus only on the palace, but also on all the monuments of the Minoan civilization.

The unification of the wider archaeological site of Knossos and Messara is a pilot program for the creation of a Cretan archaeological sites network which is also the first step to promote the claim to be included in the World Heritage of UNESCO. This was noted during a meeting between the local governor, Stavros Arnaoutakis  and deputy governor of Heraklion, Euripides Koukiadakis. The men signed two major contracts on studying the process concerning the inclusion of the broader archaeological sites of Knossos and Messara.

The first contract refers to Unification of Archaeological sites of Knossos, Karteros, Archanes, and the second one refers to the study, Unification of Archaeological Sites Messara – Phaistos, Gortyna, Agia Triada, Kommos etc.

 

 

 The Labyrinth

IF THE WORD ‘labyrinth’ does not lead us eventually back to the very earliest human communities, it has a good try. The Greek labyrinthos appears to be a linguistic echo from Egypt and Asia Minor. It is possible that it relates to labrys, a double-edged axe, emblem of the Cretan royal family. No one is certain, since tracing the origin of the word ‘labyrinth’ is itself an etymological labyrinth. It creeps into something like modern English as laboryntus in Chaucer’s House of Fame and has become by the early fifteenth century laberynthe, a maze. Except for specialised usages the terms ‘maze’ and ‘labyrinth’ then become almost indistinguishable in English. Fanshawe’s seventeenth-century Horatian translations talk about clews and mazes, so we are back with the Cretan labyrinth and Ariadne’s bobbined thread, which permitted Theseus to find his way out of the maze after he had executed his monster. Such a thread was a clew, or ball of yarn, providing us with our modern word ‘clue’.THE SENSE INITIALLY was of a structure designed to baffle and disorientate; to prevent curiosity; to hide that which must not be found, either because it was sacred or because it was shameful. It may not always be a minotaur in there (and see below), but there will be something whose immediate disclosure is either undesirable or forbidden. It could be a monster, a priest or a crocodile. The secondary sense is of any structure or series of structures which, whatever their primary purpose, have the effect of baffling us as we try to find our bearings. Instead of finding our route, we stand amazed. ‘Amazed’ caught on quickly and stayed; ‘labyrinthed’ was introduced, but never won through – it sounds too clumsy. ‘Amazement’ worked well, though in modern usage we are more likely to say ‘labyrinthine’ than ‘mazy’; three centuries back, it would have been the other way around. And then there are the mazes and labyrinths whose function is purely ludic and recreational, whether in Versailles or Hampton Court. These are structures designed for those with time on their hands, time to get lost during luxurious and lengthy afternoons.What are the earliest known sightings? The first structure known to be entitled labyrinth was a vast building in Northern Egypt, constructed some time around 2000 BCE. Herodotus was astounded by it. It had been built at a vast expense of human labour, just above Lake Moeris, opposite Crocodipolis. There were fifteen hundred rooms on the top floor, according to Herodotus, and fifteen hundred below. The lower ones he was not permitted to visit, since they contained the tombs of kings and sacred crocodiles. A later traveller, Strabo, appears to confirm much of what the frequently unreliable Herodotus says, and describes the Egyptian labyrinth as a work equal in scope to the pyramids. There was a sacred crocodile in the lake, which was tame and came whenever called. It was fed flesh, honey and wine. Pliny too confirms that Egyptian labyrinths were the ‘most stupendous’ works ever constructed.The Romans built a village over the site, using the labyrinth itself as a quarry for the purpose. Others, including Louis XIV’s Antiquary, came much later and noted the sad state of the ruins that remained. Flinders Petrie identified the actual site with accuracy in 1888. It appeared that it might well have been intended, like so many other grand buildings in Egypt, as a sepulchral monument, probably for King Amenemhat III, whose mummified remains, together with those of his daughter Sebekneferu, were entombed in a nearby pyramid.BUT THE LABYRINTH which has come to us in legend and myth, and from which we take the name, is of course the Cretan one. King Minos had a son named Androgeos who went travelling in Attica, and was treacherously slain by the inhabitants of that region. Minos imposed a dire penalty. The Athenians had to send seven youths and seven maidens every nine years to Knossos. These would then be inserted, one by one, into the labyrinth, the bafflingly complex structure erected by that technological genius, Daedalus. He had built this fearsome edifice, not for pleasure or even wonder, but for incarceration. The wife of Minos, Queen Pasiphae, had copulated with a beautiful white bull and brought forth the miscegenated hybrid, the minotaur, which had a man’s body but a bull’s head, and which was characterised by fearful strength and even more fearful appetites.Theseus was the son of the King of Athens, Aegeus, and offered to become one of the fourteen votive offerings to the minotaur on the next marine consignment. He would then devise a means of killing the troublesome and ravenous therianthrope. Reluctantly, the King complied, insisting that Theseus should show that he was victorious on his return journey by changing the black sail on his boat to white.On his arrival in Crete, Theseus was helped by Ariadne to kill her half-brother. She had fallen in love with this foreign prince at first glance; a goddess was imposing her curse here, as so often. The thread she supplied let him find his way out of the labyrinth after the killing. She had asked only that he take her away with him after his heroic deeds were completed. She had, after all, just arranged the assassination of her half-brother. He did take her away, but abandoned her on Naxos, the first island the sailors came to after Crete. At Delos the sailors performed a notable dance called the Crane Dance, in which they re-threaded their way through the labyrinth in ritual form. This dance was performed by the islanders for thousands of years after Theseus’s departure. There seems to have been a fair amount of revelry on board – and presumably a few jokes about the lovelorn Ariadne whom the skipper had so casually dumped  –  and on their approach to the mainland Theseus forgot to change the black sail to white. His father Aegeus, watching from the cliff, assumed he had lost his beloved son to the monster, and threw himself into the sea, thereby giving it the name it still holds: the Aegean.This is the legend. From the beginning there were alternative accounts. Philochorus insisted the labyrinth was no more than a run-of-the-mill dungeon. The youths were kept there until they could be awarded to victors in the sports held in honour of Minos’s murdered son. The minotaur was neither more nor less than a fanatical and brutal military officer, who happened to bear the name Tauros. So he was, then, Minos’s Tauros; thus do we elide our way towards a minotaur. Plutarch quotes a work of Aristotle which has not survived: in that the youths were not slaughtered but instead employed as slaves, a routine transaction for those days. Plutarch points out that Minos was a noble ruler, famed for his justice, who in no way deserved the calumnies Greek tradition had inflicted upon him. But rationality was condemned to the margin and the footnote: there was after all a better story to be told. In the Darwinian scheme of narratives, it is the strongest tales that survive their telling.And this particular tale has continued to be told. The labyrinth, like Bluebeard’s chamber, is of just as much interest whether it arose from some vestiges of historical occurrence, or expresses instead a psychological necessity to tell and re-tell such narratives. What the imagination chooses and retains is not necessarily that which is vouchsafed by history, and yet we continue to hunt down whatever history might offer us as collateral in the form of archaeology, as if still determined to prove the legend true. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort explored the cavern at Gortyna, long thought to be the original labyrinth. Some said it was merely a quarry used to build the local settlements, but Tournefort thought it too inaccessible for such a purpose. It was certainly an easy place to get lost in, and the locals finally sealed off most of the passages, for fear of losing their children in there. Tournefort’s book about his travels and his excavations, A Voyage into the Levant, was translated by John Ozell and published in London in 1718. It contains this vivid account of the labyrinthine experience to be had there: ‘If a man strikes into any other Path, after he has gone a good way, he is so bewildered among a thousand Twistings, Twinings, Sinuosities, Crinkle-Crankles and Turn-again Lanes, that he could scarce ever get out again without the utmost danger of being lost.’STILL, KNOSSOS ITSELF remained to be explored; ruined walls made of enormous blocks of gypsum, which still bore elaborate engraved marks. Arthur Evans (not yet Sir) finally got there in 1900, and started to excavate. He found what he believed was a large palace, and the objects discovered within it were of such significance that Evans decided they were the products of an ancient civilization of sufficient import that it deserved a name of its own. That name, Evans ruled, was ‘Minoan’. Here he found pictographic inscriptions, which he concluded had existed prior to the Phoenician, and therefore offered an alternative system of foundations for our written language. He also found a large area for dancing, an orchestra in the original sense, which is to say a place for the chorus of dancers. Images showing bull-leaping were numerous. This seems to have been a highly dangerous sport which consisted of a young man catching the horn of a charging bull and leaping over him. Evans speculates that this lethal activity might well have involved training up young captives (rather like gladiators) to provide a sport that might have had a ritual significance too.And so we could have arrived, by a sequence of crinkle-crankles, at the origin of the story of the Cretan labyrinth, and the sacrificial death of the young, particularly since some centuries elapsed between the destruction of these buildings and the first written accounts of the legend. Evans himself concluded that a mighty earthquake had ruined Knossos around 1600 BCE; modern archaeology tends to disagree.He did find one other thing that gave him pause. Thirty feet down from the palace floor there was an artificial cave, with three big steps leading into it. It gave the impression of being the rough dwelling of some formidable beast.LABYRINTHS APPEAR ON Egyptian seals and amulets. And around 500 BCE there are Knossian silver coins, some of which bear an image of the minotaur on one side and on the other a symmetrical meander pattern, a labyrinth. One shows the minotaur dancing on the obverse; on the reverse is a swastika labyrinth. The minotaur, the labyrinth and Theseus and his weapon, then become recurrent motifs in western art. They appear as a graffito at Pompeii, and mosaics in Caerleon, Salzburg and Cormerod in Switzerland. Each image registers a complicated structure which at its heart houses the minotaur. Theseus is duly making his way there, or has already arrived, and is clubbing the monster to death. The motif begins to appear in pottery: Greek kylices show Theseus and his many exploits, including the killing of the minotaur. Smaller versions appear on ancient gems. There is a series of drawings called the Florentine Picture Chronicle, ascribed to Baccio Baldini. In one of them, all aspects of the minotaur story are seen simultaneously. The collection was once owned by John Ruskin, and is now in the collection of the British Museum.

 

Voulisma Beach
Voulisma Beach 2436 hits
The second bay of Istron village is located 500m east of the village very close to the main road from Agios Nikolaos city to Sitia - Ierapetra area. Here is one of the most beautiful beaches of Greece, which is featured in many card postals of Crete.It is a beautiful sandy beach with blue-green crystal clear sea. The beach offers full facilities for swimming, sunbathing (umbrellas, sunbeds etc.), and sea sport. It is very popular.
 
The small town of Istron - some 10km south of Agios Nikolaos - lays claim to a number of cove beaches, each separated by large land peninsulas jutting out into the bay of Mirabello .The area - which is unique in natural beauty - is surrounded by sea, creating beaches of special beauty, some of which are small voes while others are big ones. There are beaches of different kind, some have pebbles, some other have sands, some are completely organized while others are not. The diversity of beaches gives the visitor the opporunity to choose where to go according to his preference.
 
Voulisma or Golden Beach is a beautiful beach with white sand and amazing turquoise waters. The few times that it is wavy, you can move to the smaller beach in the west part of the bay, which is very well protected from winds and less organized.
 
Voulisma, or ‘Golden Beach’, a gorgeous narrow stretch of white sand backing onto relatively low, olive-clad cliffs. With a blue flag award to its name, Voulisma beach is a great all-rounder. It’s not uniquely different to many other beaches in Greece, but it does provide everything you need for a family-orientated beach holiday – soft sand with few pebbles, crystal waters, gentle shelving, and a couple of places to buy an ice cream. For these reasons, Voulisma Beach can get pretty packed in the height of summer.
 
If you need relief from the crowds, head to the nearby ‘Agios Panteleimonas Beach’, which offers more beach space, even if it is slightly less beautiful than its rival a kilometre to the east. Unfortunately, Voulisma Beach is only reached by steep stairs, so disabled access is extremely limited.
 
Richtis Gorge
Richtis Gorge 2315 hits

Richtis Gorge  is a state protected park near Exo Mouliana, Sitia, eastern Crete (Greece) that starts at the traditional village Exo Mouliana, which is located on the national road between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia and ends at the secluded Richtis beach, just east of the village Kalavros. The hiking trail is about 4 km in length of easy (spring/summer/autumn) to moderate (winter) difficulty. Rich vegetation (mainly platanus trees, wild berries and local flowers and herbs) and animal life (mainly local species of butterflies, small reptiles, birds and small mammals) can be observed along the way, as well as old stone bridges and water mills before it culminates with the Richtis Waterfall and beach, making Richtis gorge trail one of the moThe Canyon of Rihtis

The entrance is just before the village Exo Mouliana and it ends up at the beach of  Rihtis in the Cretan Sea. The path is well-preserved and it goes along the river which has constant flow during almost the whole year. Vegetation is astonishing because of its diversity in such an arid place as the East Crete.
 
The plane trees Platanus orientalis are dominant. Oleander Nerium oleander, ivy which climb up the tall trees and wild vines along with lots of annual plants and herbs made up the flora of the region. There are also lots of orchards full of different kinds of fruit trees.
 
An elaborate architectural arch bridge (Lahanas) connects the river banks and helps – until today – those who want to go to the other side. The canyon is also known for its twenty metres in length waterfalls. At its end there is a small lake as well.
 
 

http://biodiversitysitia.gr/st diversified hiking experiences in Crete

Kardamoutsa Monastery
Kardamoutsa Monastery 2151 hits

The monastery of the Holy Cross in Kardamoutsa is currently not manned, but was in the years of Venetian and Ottoman domination, a major male monastery. According to archival sources (Chronaki 1997, 251-254) and the inscription on the belfry which states the names of its founders and the funerary inscription on a founder’s gravestone, the foundation of the monastery by brothers Katzaras, monks Makarios, Manasses and Xenophon can be placed between the years 1570 and 1580 (Iliakis 1989). 

The catholicon is a single-nave barrel-vaulted church with corners of carefully carved stonemasonry, decorative glazed plates in the east pediment and at the sanctuary niche a stone-carved ‘agiothyrido’ (agiothyrido stands for ‘gate of the saints’, and it is the name given to the east-facing sanctuary window of Greek Orthodox churches). The monastic complex developed around the church, and was constructed in several construction phases. The catholicon and the core of the northern complex, which probably housed the kitchens, belong to the first construction phase from 1580 to 1590. In the second phase of the early 17th century warehouses were added, a two-storey building serving as abbot’s quarters, and a two-storey vaulted refectory. The olive press was probably made in the third construction phase of the mid-17th century. Apart from the above-mentioned areas and the cells, the abbey also had a cheese-dairy, a guest-house and a vordonareio (stable). The buildings on the south side of the monastery date back to the 18th and 19th centuries.