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Kissamos - Gramvoussa


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 flowers.

Map  Kissamos to Gramvoussa

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 prior warning.

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. If you

Gramvoussa, Balos

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 of gunpowder.

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

Gramvoussa, Balos

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...


THE ROUTES THE ROUTES

Routes starting from Hania

Hania
1. Hania - Akrotiri
2. Hania - Paleochora
3. Hania - Sameria
4. Hania - Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
5. Hania - Kissamos (Kasteli)

Routes starting from Kissamos
Kissamos (Kasteli)
6. Kissamos - Gramvoussa
7. Kissamos - Elafonissos
8. Kissamos - Paleochora (through the Topolian Gorge)
9. Kissamos - Paleochora (through Episkopi)
10. Kissamos - Sirikari

Routes starting from Hora Sfakion (Sfakia)
11. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (travelling inland)
12. Hora Sfakion - Rethimno (Rethymnon) (following the coast)

Routes starting from Rethimno (Rethymnon)
Rethimno (Rethymnon)
13. Rethimno - Ierapetra (following the south coast)
14. Rethimno - Ierapetra (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Ierapetra
Ierapetra
15. Ierapetra - Zakros (coastal road)
16. Ierapetra - Zakros (inland route)

Routes starting from Iraklio (Heraklion)
Iraklio (Heraklion)
17. Heraklion - Rethymnon (coastal road)
18. Heraklion - Rethymnon (travelling inland)
19.Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (coastal road)
20. Heraklioon - Agios Nikolaos (travelling inland)

Routes starting from Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos
21. Agios Nikolaos - Zakros


Source of the information on this page : “Unexplored Crete”, Road Editions. For more guidebooks and maps of Greece, click here.

 

 

 

Tip of the day

Syros. This is the island where Greek tradition and western influence come to a harmonious marriage. Ermoúpoli(meaning “the city of Hermes”) is the island’s capital town and has been the first important trade and industrial centre of the country in the 19th century. Evidence of this glorious past can be seen on public buildings (the City Hall, the Customs Office, “Apollo” theatre), on the neoclassical houses and at the beautiful squares. Due to its economic activity, Ermoúpoli has been called “Manchester of Greece” and the history of its years of blossom is exhibited in the Industrial Museum.
The Orthodox community has contributed some outstanding religious monuments to the architecture of Ermoúpoli such as the churches of Metamórphossi tou Sotíros (Transfiguration of Jesus Christ), St Nicolas the Rich (Áyios Nikólaos Ploússios), Dormition of the Mother of God (Koímissis tis Theotókou).

 

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