6. KISSAMOS - GRAMVOUSSA (see Map
You take the road going west and after Trachilos you turn toward
Kaliviani. The asphalt stops and a sign (Gr/E) directs you to
“Balos / Gramvoussa Peninsula” in the north.
The Gramvoussa peninsula is a
large piece of rock that sticks out into the sea and is covered
with thorny bushes, marjoram, sage, thyme and thousands of wild
A dry and barren place with steep rocky shores,
it hides at its northwestern part one of the last paradise lands
of Crete. In cape Tigani there is a very wide beach with fine
white sand, which is known as Balos Beach. Behind it is the
steep slope of Mount Geroskinos (762m), while in front of it
lie two desert islands, Agria and Imeri Gramvoussa, which look
like two pirate ships turned into stone. The water is shallow
and warm, and the sea floor is covered with the same white sand,
which gives the sea an emerald green colour like that of the
tropical Pacific Islands...
This place is ideal for camping, provided of course you have
taken with you everything you need. At the one end of the beach
there are two fishermen huts. Every summer their owners turn
them into tavern-bars that serve a few basic dishes and soft
drinks. However, it is best not to have to rely on them, because
it is an amateur set up and they may close for days without
The dirtroad (D1) going to this place was built recently on
the track of an earlier path. It starts from Kaliviani and follows
the eastern slope of Mount Geroskinos, offering a great view
of the steep Gramvoussa shoreline and of the Rodopos peninsula
just opposite to it. About two kilometres before the beach the
road suddenly stops - thank God - and it doesn’t look
like they are planning to continue it. Then a path starts, easy
to see and follow, which takes you all the way to the beach.
If you want to enjoy an enchanting view of the entire northwestern
side of the peninsula, do not follow this path but climb the
smooth mountain slope west of the point where the road stops.
keep going northwest you will eventually get back on the path.
There is also a side path that goes north. This takes you to
the chapel of Aghios Sostis, which is built among the ruins
of Agnion, an ancient Roman town, where according to the ancient
writers there was once a temple of Apollo. Finally, another
historical chapel, dedicated to Aghia Irini, is at the east
side of the dirtroad, just before it ends.
Some of the most beautiful places of Crete can
be reached neither by bike nor on foot. One such place is the
desert island of Imeri Gramvoussa, which can only be reached
by boat from Kasteli.
Imeri Gramvoussa (Tame Gramvoussa) is anything
but what its name implies. In reality, it was a site of hard
battles and a pirate nest. The story starts in 1579, when the
Venetians, rulers of Crete, decided to build a fort to protect
their ships which sailed these waters on their way to and from
Venice. Three years later, on the top of the steep rock stood
a well-built fort that was unassailable indeed. Its water supply
came from two wells and five large cisterns and it was soon
filled with weapons and ammunition; in 1630 the list included
24 cannons of different bore, 4000 cannon-balls and 40,000 pounds
When Crete was conquered by the Turks, the Morozini Treaty
provided that this fort, together with the forts of Souda and
Spinaloga, would remain under
Venetian control. But the Turks had other designs, and they
used the only effective means they had to conquer it. They bribed
the officer in charge, who opened the door for them, turned
over the keys, said “Welcome to Gramvoussa,” and
then boarded a Turkish vessel for Constantinople where he lived
to be a very old man, dishonest but rich!
The Turks stayed in the fort for 130 years during which there
was no need to fire a single cannon shot! They simply sat in
this desolate place and watched the seagulls flying by...
Then one day, in 1821, the Greek Revolution broke out and the
Cretans decided that they needed a safe base of operations.
They chose the fort in Gramvoussa because it was exceptionally
strong, there was a harbour for their ships, and it was close
to the Peloponnese where the people had also rebelled against
the Turks. In December of 1823 the Turkish garrison numbered
only fifty soldiers. One night a body of five hundred men came
quietly ashore. Their leader, Bouzomarkos, climbed up the wall,
jumped in, went straight to the gate guard post, and stabbed
the guard who was innocently sleeping in the arms of his sweetheart.
Gallant as he was, though, he pitied the woman and spared her
life. This, of course, turned out to be his fatal mistake. The
woman escaped, woke up the guards with her screams, and Bouzomarkos
was killed before he had a chance to open the door. (Moral:
Never underestimate the power of a woman!)
The Cretans left the fort alone for a few years, until the
Turks forgot the episode and returned to their usual deep sleep.
Then one afternoon, in July of 1825, seven hundred men, determined
and fearless, rowed their boats to the east shore of the Gramvoussa
peninsula and hid themselves in the chapels of Aghios Sostis
and Aghia Irini. Three of them, who knew the Turkish language,
disguised themselves as
Turks, lit their pipes, and fired two shots in the air (a signal
that they wanted the boatman to come from the fort and take
them to the island). This was standard procedure and the boatman
did as asked without ever suspecting them. The sentry at the
fort, equally unsuspecting, opened the gate, received a grateful
“thank you,” and was promptly stabbed in the heart.
Thus, our brave lads took the fort without ever spilling a drop
of Greek blood!
The rebels took hold of the fort and made it a base of operations
in their war of independence. Soon, though, it became a base
for a... different kind of operations, by which we mean “a
pirates’ lair.” The pirates treated all ships passing
in the area with equal fairness, although they did show a distinct
preference for the British and French merchant ships. You see,
there were three thousand souls in the fort and they had to
be sustained. They did so well in piracy, though, that they
soon had far more than their daily bread; they gathered fabulous
riches and hid them in secret caves in Gramvoussa. Finally,
the situation became unbearable and the victims decided they
had to do something about it. One day the British and the French
joined forces and a naval squadron appeared suddenly before
the island. The attackers seized all the ships in the harbour,
bombarded the fort, and finally took it. Then they forced everyone
to leave the island (empty-handed, of course), and they tore
down the houses and a part of the wall.
If during your walks you happen to come upon the mouth of a
dark and narrow cave, take your flashlight and walk right in.
For all you know, when you come out you may have a chest of
gold with you...
|Source of the
information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”,
Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of
Greece, click here.