2. HANIA - Paleochora (see Map
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.
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.
wedding took place at the initiative of the Kantanoleos family
and was intended to reconcile the two enemy sides.
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
This tragic affair is the theme of a 17th century chronicle
(the Trivan chronicle) and a 19th century novel (Cretan Marriages
by Sp. Zambelios),
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, 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
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
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
|Source of the
information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”,
Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of
Greece, click here.