3 Plakias - Damnoni - Amoudi - Preveli - Kourtaliotis Gorge

Our trip have begun along the mountain road eastwards. In Seliá village we turned to the right to the direction of Plakiás settlement. Further our way passed along the coast with the various beaches. First we have stopped to bathe in one of them with the gray sand, pebble and with the large stones, which stick out from the sea, then began the sufficiently long sandy beach of Plakias.

Click the images to enlarge them.

Further, after going around a rocky cape, we have come to the Damnóni beach, behind it a rocky cliff formed the row of small picturesque coves, which we wanted to look. The good road ended there and we like everybody else, have left our car and have passed to the cliff on foot.

In the first cove is located a small nudist beach, equipped with umbrellas and chairs (for the first time I have seen that, usually nudists dwell in the wild places). Further is located a quite small cove with the beach of 12 metres long (the smallest beach!). Still further there is one more small cove, but now without a beach. And finally after going down from the cliff, we have come to the one more beach, Amoúdi, with many-colored water close to a coast. Bathing in the see and in the sun there some time, we have returned to the car and have gone further.

To the Préveli Monastery we have past along the short way through Gianioú village which lies on the hill, where the asphalt road has changed to the broken-stone one and the descent to the monastery have begun. But at this time there was a break in the reception of visitors till 15.30, and we have decided to go first to the famous palm-tree beach not far away.

We have passed to the parking, which, apparently, was paid, and we had to stop near the kiosk at the entrance and to pay (or just to register and to pay when leaving), but we have slowly passed by, no one has stopped us and no one have come up. Probably, because of siesta time.

Then the steep and hard foot descent have begun (not the descent was hard, but a thought about the inevitable ascent), at the beginning of this descent an observation point was located. Below we have found ourselves on a little sandy beach; a small river, making zigzag, falls here in the sea. Upstream the banks of the river are surrounded by high grass and palms, one can take a paddle boat and to float there.

The people on the beach have an alternative, to bathe in the fresh or in the salt water; though the river water is noticeably colder. Both the river and the sea teem with fish, if in the river fish shoals are timid and swim away into algae when a human approaches, then in the sea I have gone through a real attack. Standing waist-deep in the water, I have felt a sharp prick in the place of abrasion on my knee. Then again. After being inclined, I have seen the pair of small fries are attacking my leg, attempting to tear off the pieces of flesh. I have rapidly left to the coast, thereby escaping the lot to be eaten alive.

The time have come to return to the monastery. Two fellows, that sat at the entrance and sold tickets, have let us pass free of charge, somehow identifying us as Russians, although we did not pronounce not a word. I just asked in English about the tickets. - "Russians? You pass "...

In the monastery we have walked around the church, have visited a museum, have looked to the poultry and livestock in the monastic farm, among which a deer was distinguished. The music was heard from some room, after coming there, we have seen the spacious hall, from the opposite end of which the fascinating sounds of monastic singing were heard. Similar was happend in the Hrisokalitissa Monastery, but in this place it was performed solo. A monk has gone out of the church and has walked around it, beating with a wooden mallet upon a small board, which he bore with him, thereby, apparently, calling all to the service.

The Preveli Monastery consists of two building complexes: the Rear (Piso) Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, where we were in; and the Lower (Kato) Monastery of Saint John the Baptist (old monastery), located further beside the river and now neglected. The monastery participated both in the anti-Turkish uprisings and in World War II, when monks hid here the soldiers of allies remaining after evacuation, whereupon the monastery was destroyed several times, and then was rebuilt anew.

Along the way after making a short stop near the ruins of old monastery behind the fence, we have gone to Kourtaliótis Gorge.

After arriving in the place, we have parked on the roadside near the stairs, which leads downward to the Church of Saint Nicholas, and have walked on the bottom of the gorge. This was the second long descent in the day, however, the previous descents and ascents hardened us and the fatigue of the rise has already been taken for granted. Moreover the refreshing wind constantly blew in the gorge.

Along the road downward we have found ourselves before a furcation. To the church the road goes straightly, but we first turned to the right and have gone down to the river which flows over the bottom of the gorge elsewhere. There were located a pump and the pipes, through slots of which the water flew away, and the river by the rapid stream flowed over the stones. We have risen to the furcation and have gone down to the church. The river flowed in the cleft there, in one place fell from the ledge and, together with the streams falling into it from the cliffs, formed the small picturesque waterfall. The place is beautiful, appeasing and refreshing (from the river it blows by coolness), and apart from the high ascent, it would be ideal for leisure and for a shelter from hot day.

However, time has come to return, we have climbed upward and have gone home.

     

4 Kotsifos Gorge - Spili - Agia Galini - Vrontissi Monastery - Votomos Lake - Kaliviani Convent - Festos - Matala

Our way passed to the east again. Driving along a narrow street of Áno Rodákino village, we have stopped to give a lift to an old man with a wooden crutch, who hitched on the road. Along the way he has told us that he is "very big (it means old), 89 years old"; has shown where Africa is located; has found out that we are from Russia, "also orthodox"; and has got out at his "future house" - the cemetery in the adjacent village Káto Rodákino.

Further we went through the narrow Kotsifós Gorge, here, in contrast to Kourtaliotis, the road passed along the bottom of the gorge, and cliffs from the both sides hang directly above the road. We have stopped almost immediately, after seeing a small church in a deepening of the rock. This is is one more Church of Saint Nicholas. The walls inside are inclined and are linked above, giving to the space the form of triangle. The large icon of the Saint stands in sanctuary among others. Inexplicably, but after entering inside, our spirits have risen miraculously, we began to smile absolutely without any reason. Taking photographs, we have left that place glad and refreshed.

Behind the gorge, at Ágios Ioánis village is located the small coniferous forest, after which the landscape takes the common for Crete appearance: low hills with a church at the top, olive groves, small villages among them. Undoubtedly, this road is more comfortable and passes more rapidly than that serpentine road, which was laid in parallel in the south and which we used before.

After coming out to the road, which goes from Retymno to the south, we soon have arrived to Spíli, the picturesque settlement with the numerous souvenir stores and tavernas. The majestic complex of church constructions is located at the entrance - there is the center of eparchy here. We have walked along the streets of the settlement, have looked at the famous fountains, which flow from lion mouths, in a confectioner's shop we have purchased local sweets (hairy balls of pastry with honey and nuts) and have gone further.

The next short stop was happened at Agía Galíni settlement, the roads and the houses of which steeply get down to a picturesque harbour.

Further we have turned to the left inland and have made our way towards Zarós. On the way we have stopped at the entrance into the narrow gorge near Kamares village. Here a narrow path passes along the bottom, we havent got deeper into the gorge, just have passed further.

We have turned to a hill where is situated the Vrontíssi monastery, built in XIV century. An old platan grows at the entrance, also there is located a Venetian sculptural fountain. The Church of the ascetic architecture stands in the middle of the yard, it is all around completely empty and quietly.

After arriving at Zaros settlement, we have turned to the direction of Vótomos Lake. Trout are planting here, along the road and near the lake are located several tavernas, where these trout are cooked. Next to one of the tavernas is located a water mill, there is also the only in this region hotel. The lake is small, in the water could be seen a fish. The place is beautiful and popular with tourists.

Further we have arrived at Míres settlement, have turned to the right and have driven up soon at the gate of the Panagía Kalivianí Convent . Perhaps, this is the largest and most spruce cloister from those, where we were. An orphanage and a school are found in its territory, there is a museum and a store. All the space is filled with the blossoming verdure. Not far from the entrance stands a booth with the tap, from which flows cold and tasteful water. Further, behind a belfry, the church is located, its internal walls are completely covered with pictures about the biblical subjects, which look very uncommonly and beautifully.

The next stop was the Minoan Festós Palace, where was found the famous disk with still not deciphered hieroglyphs, which is located now in the Archaelogical Museum of Iraklion. We have parked near the pair of observation buses, then we have passed to the ruins, the admission was free. In contrast to its more famous mate in Knossos (the chapter about it will be further - here), the palace did not undergo the "restoration according to Evans"; therefore it looks less colorfully, but then one can be sure that the stones of ruins are genuine.

And finally, the end point of our route was the Mátala beach. Sandy-pebble, light grey color, the beach was very popular and to find place under the sun at the sea proved to be hard. To the right is raised the main place of interest - the large picturesque cliff, whose front is dotted by small caves. After spending here a couple of hours, we have gone back.

     

5 Gortis - Ano Vianos

The time have come for the passage to the east of the island. The beginning of our way passed along the familiar road through Kotsifos Gorge, Spili, past Agia Galini. Further the road went through the flat country, this the Messará Valley. We have passed the large "non-touristic" settlements such as Timbáki, Mires, Ágii Déka.

These settlements, which came across on the way from time to time, are sufficiently typical and are the rows of concrete boxes of several floors, intersected by the streets, which are sometimes wide, but because of the parked automobiles having at best only one traffic lane to each direction.

We have stopped again near the Panagia Kaliviani Convent to collect the local water, pleased us very much.

Further along the road we have turned to the ruins of the ancient city named Górtis (Górtina). It was found in the Minoan epoch, but it have reached the highest flourishing in the Roman times, when there was here the capital of province. Only the center section of the large city is dug out and opened for visits. Here one can see the sufficiently well preserved theater Odeon of V century B.C., on the wall of which is carved the code of laws, which is located now behind the fence from thick rods. Several classical sculptures are located behind the same fence. The basilica of Saint Titus of VI century is situated beside.

We have gone further, following road signs: Pírgos, Áno Viános. Here the road again comes to mountains, being changed to the serpentine.

After one of the turnings we stopped at the monument of the 820 local residents, executed by Nazis in 1943. At the side it lined up a row of marble plates with the forms, which resemble the silhouettes of people and with the names carved on them, and further is raised a stela with the odd sculpture. Next, as it is assumed, stands a small church. The monument is located on the edge of the precipice, from which is opened the remarkable view of the adjacent villages, which lie on the slope of the mountain. During our stop there it blew the extraordinary strong wind, on the point of picking us up and taking away.

The road, being dodged in the mountains, have come down to the sea and went further along the coast till Ierapetra, but this is already the east.    Further...

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