South Crete

South Crete
Click at the route on the map to jump to its description.

Going along the road to the south from Retimno to the direction of Agia Galini, we have turned to the right to Kourtaliotis Gorge. Suddenly the almost plumb walls of red stone grew from both sides - here the road passes along the slope of the deep gorge little higher than its bottom. We have stopped for a short while on a wide area beside the road in order to admire the splendid view. After the gorge it began the serpentine road along the southern shore of Crete, extremely long and tiresome, but with the remarkable sea views. The road has descended and has evened only before the entrance to Frangokastello.

The apartments "Monachus Monachus" are located in the middle of the vacant land in 500 metres from the fortress and a little further from the sea, and they are the 3 two-story houses with 8 rooms in each. The hotel is new and appears not completed - in the center of territory the unfinished glazed veranda is located, the pool with the bar are surrounded by incomprehensible fence from mesh. The greenery is well-groomed and various, but bushes and trees are small and imperceptible because of their age.

We had a room on the first floor of the middle house. After the spacious rooms of the Alkionis this room seemed rather small; especially this concerns the bathroom without a bath, with a shower which is very close to a toilet. After use of the shower it is necessary to drive away the water by a mop, farsightedly left there. Although, of course, the furniture is new and everything is furnished in the modern manner: there is a cooker with a stove on the kitchen and a 19-inch television set in the bedroom. The view of the vacant land and the fortress in the distance is opened from the balcony. This place attracts by its silence, a certain isolation from the world. Apart from our house there were populated two rooms in another house, and in the third one the young affable couple of hotel managers inhabited. So in our house we were the only guests.

Frangokástello is the small fortress in the form of rectangle with the towers in the corners. The structure is permanently opened and it is not guarded. Inside there are walls, empty towers, ruined constructions and a small scene. It was built by Venetians in the 1371 and since then it suffered several battles, at the entrance stand the busts of local heroes - participants in these battles.

In May 1928 during the War of Independence occurred the "Battle of Frangokastello". 600 rebels under the leadership of Hadzimihális Daliánis took position in the fortress and 7 days they held the siege of 8000 Turkish troops under the command of Mustafa Bey. Dalianis and 335 of his soldiers died. Meanwhile the locals cut off to Turks way to retreat, which forced them to end the siege and to let the remained defenders to exit the fortress under the condition of retaining their guns and the wounded. Then Turks demolished two towers of the fortress, proceeded towards northeast, were attacked by the licals in the gorges and mostly were slaughtered.

Since then each year, on the anniversary of the battle (at the end of May and the beginning of June) when the dawn breaks, from the ruined Church of Agios Charalambos towards the fortress moves the procession of spectres of the killed fortress' defenders - Drosoulítes, it reaches the sea and disappears. The appearance of the visions is so real, that in 1890 a transient Turkish army opened fire on them, the similar incident occurred with a German patrol during the Second World War.

Click the images to enlarge them.

Once we have come there in the evening. At the darkness the walls of the fortress are illuminated both outside and inside. Populous in the daytime, the place becomes empty in the evenings, so we were there only two, we photographed on the scene, near the walls. It was very romantic!

Next to the fortress is located the remarkable beach from gray sand. The sea was quiet here (and also in all places, where we have visited later at the south coast), which differed a lot from the stormy northern shore. However, according to the local residents, storms happen here too.

To the east of Frangokastello are located wild beaches with the steep high shores. Here above are visible the consequences of fires, the burnt vegetation. To the west from the fortress along the road are located the majority of hotels, tavernas, stores of the settlement called Parádisos. Here are beaches too, but we did not walked there.

Behind our hotel is located the large olive field, further at a distance rise the White Mountains (Lefka Ori). In the foot of the mountain are visible the white houses of the two small villages, which lie near each other and at the distance of two kilometres from us: Patsianós and Kapsodásos. Once in the evening the music from their direction was heard, shots was fired - this means that in one of the villages a holiday began, maybe wedding. We have decided to take a look at this, have got into the car and have gone.

The holyday took place in Kapsodasos. Hardly finding a place in a row of parked cars, we have got out and have passed along the street past the central square of the village, where the festival took place. All the square was filled by tables with food and drinks, at which many people sat. Near the taverna, a small house at the square sat a group of musicians and played cheerful folk music, several people danced. On the whole, it was a usual wedding, except that we have not seen the bridegroom with the bride. After looking to this not long and after making a pair of photographs, which were failed because of darkness, we have returned to the hotel.

     

1 Hora Sfakion - Aradena

Our way passed to the west, the serpentine road began again, it led us to the small port settlement, the district center Hóra Sfakíon (Sfakiá). I wanted to purchase the ship tickets to Gavdos there, but they sold the tickets only during the day of sailing. After being strolled on the port and the settlement, we have gone further westwards.

The road went upward with zigzags. At this time there was realizing the work for the road broadening, so when a dump truck or a concrete mixer drove up to the place of the work, the traffic blocked for some minutes. Moreover the road was poured a lot by water, which being mixed up with the dust, formed mud, which precipitated on the automobile.

Soon we have driven up to a narrow bridge over Arádena Gorge. It is laid with the planks with large gaps, which thundered by every fast passage over them. The bridge gave the unforgettable sensation of flight above the precipice. On the way back we passed on it very slowly and noiseless, prolonging the pleasure.

The kiosk is located beyond the bridge, one can stop and have a bite there. Also there are the dilapidated houses of the neglected village Aradena with the Byzantine Church of Archangel Michael of XIV century. After wandering among the ruins, we have gone further.

The road passed through the coniferous forest with small pines and high fir trees, which grow on the red-gray rocks whose surface was devoid of any vegetation and was covered only with the layer of fallen needles. Half-wild goats wander there. And many wasps, that create background buzzing. On the dried pine branches one can see the dried chitin shells of dead wasps. It is the beautiful and strange place.

After arriving at Ágios Ioánis village where the road have ended, we have turned back.

After Sfakia on the bifurcation we have selected the road, which leads to the north. We have turned to the right after Ímbros village and further we went along the empty road among the splendid mountain views. After reaching Kalikrátis, we have turned to the right, and it has begun that, for what, mainly, this detour along the way home was made.

It has begun the steepest road, the serpentine of serpentines, the almost perpendicular sleep slope from the height of approximately 650 metres almost to the sea level! By the advance in the horizontal direction only at 1 kilometre, the road makes 27 U-turns.

Having satisfactorily gone down to the familiar Kapsodasos, we have arrived in Frangokastello, and the time which remained till the evening we spent on the beach.

     

2 Gavdos

This time I have gone alone. The prolonged foot passages are not the favourite pastime of my spouse, not that of mine too, but the wish to visit this island and the most southern point of Europe was insurmountable.

Along the familiar road I have arrived and have parked in the central square of Sfakia, have bought the tickets back and forth for 24 euros in the ticket kiosk which is located here. It was on Thursday, the only day in the week, when a ship lingers in Gavdos, giving an opportunity to reach the required place of the island and to return in one day. The complete timetable you can see here.

The ship, which goes along the southwestern shore of Crete, was situated next, the majority of passengers took tickets to it. To pass at the ship to Gávdos, I had to walk along the moorage about 700 metres to the left. According to the timetable our ship "Selino" departed at 10.30. I have arrived at the last moment and hurried, but in vain as it has turned out - half an hour I had to await for departure at the moorage. There were not many of those, who wished to visit Gavdos, although, according to the local residents, during the busy season even the additional voyages to the island are organized because of the increase of the quantity of tourists.

After an hour of the pleasant trip over the sea, which is accompanied by remarkable view of the White Mountains, we have reached the island and have landed on the moorage in the place called Karavé (local settlements, which consist of three or four houses, they cant be named even villages).

The permanent population of the island forms 98 people (according to the census of the 2001), the area is 32 square kilometres, it is located at a distance of 40 kilometres (22 nautical miles) to the south from Crete and it is the most southern island of Europe. To the northwest from it is located the small unpopulated Gavdopoúla islet. Gavdos has its website, and also the radio Gavdos-FM with the traditional music, which we frequently listened by evenings, sitting on the balcony of our accommodation in Frangokastello (at the east of Crete I couldnt pick it up).

At the moorage were: the large bus, which took away tourists to the beach Sarakíniko, which is located to the north from the moorage, majority of newcomers came on it; and the microbus, which passed to the place named Kórfos in the south - that's what I need.

Except me into the bus have got on 5 more people. After 10 minutes we have arrived to the place. Georgios, the driver of the bus, and also the owner of the taverna, to which we have driven up, offered us: a) to rent a room here and to stay; b) in the time remained to 16.30 (the return time) to have lunch in the taverna, to rest on the beach; c) to order a fresh fish here, that will be ready to the return time and which can be taken away with oneself. It was also mentioned about the possibility to reach the most southern point of island - the Tripití cape, he has shown the way, but he did not advise to go: "one hour there, one hour back, road is hard, you don't have too much time, you will get tired only". But we do not search for easy ways and we do not listen advices.

Of the entire company of the newly arrived tourists to the most southern point of Europe just I have gone! I have come down to the pebble beach, here the road ended and the path began, with the length of 4 kilometres, laid with stone and well visible. In three places on the way the tables with benches for leisure are located, every 500 metres stand the stones with the indication of the remained distance. The path passes among small pine trees and bushes of juniper. Two times the pathway intersects the small gorges, where one have to descend and ascend. At a distance of a kilometre to the end of the way I have come to some ruins, a furcation of the road there was also located. Straightly the road leads to the most southern settlement of Europe named Vatsianá with a permanent population of 2 people! The road to Tripiti turned to the left.

I have to say that it is necessary to follow strictly according to the sign there, the paths is not visible there and I have turned aside a little, so then I had to make my way to the path, jumping between the thorns as a local goat. By the way, many of these creatures were there, in one place the fence of the wire mesh with a gate blocks up the path, apparently, for the limitation of goat movement.

Further the path gets down and ends with a straight and flat section. Further, after passing through the broad sandy zone, I have come to a stony beach. To the right on the not high cliff has become visible a chair the reference point, which indicated the final goal of my hike.

After approaching the cliff, which was low but sufficiently steep, I have lost the wish to climb on it. Apparently, the road was actually hard and harassing and, by the way, have taken not an hour, but one-and-a-half hour. Finally, overcoming the fatigue, I have climbed up to the cliff and have got near the chair, which is wooden, approximately 3 metres high, standing by one foot in the center of the stone circle with the four corners of the earth signed on it. This is the most southern point of Europe!


All-round panorama from the Tripiti Cape, Gavdos island - the most southern point of Europe

After making the required photographs, I have come down from the cliff, have approached the beach, have completely undressed and have bathed in the transparent and refreshing water of the Libyan Sea. And no one was all around, it was great!

With a feeling of the performed duty and full of strength after bathing, I have gone for the return route. Along the way I have met the group of Germans, which I have left behind before, when they sat at the table beside the road; then the Greek couple with the large knapsacks passed, apparently, with the aim of accommodating in Tripiti as in a campsite.

I have returned in the Georgios taverna not long before 16.30, have ordered a bottle of water, have paid off for the transfer (3 euros) and for the water and sat there till departure. Only four of us went to the moorage - one couple has rented a room in Korfos.

The ship, which has sailed according to the timetable at 17.00, has safely reached Sfakia, and then I have safely reached the hotel by the car.    Further...

     
Attribution-No Derivative Works (CC-BY-ND) by Andrey K.