history

Paleochora

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A brief history


The earliest inhabitants appear to have lived in the area to the east of the present day village. During Classical and Roman times, numerous small ‘cities’ were to be found in the surrounding area; Paleochora is built near the ruins of one such ancient city - Kalamydi, but was only first recorded under that name in the twentieth century.  

Up until then the whole province, previously called Orina, was named Selino- Kastelli (kastelli=Castle) taken from the name of the first Venetian fort built in 1278 on the southern tip of the peninsula, and still goes under the name of Selino.

The Venetian fort and the settlement that grew around it were destroyed several times, either by pirates or by Cretans in revolt against the Venetians, but were rebuilt each time until eventually in 1645, the Ottomans took over the area and remodelled the fort. In spite of the presence of an Ottoman garrison, the village remained tiny and in 1834 an English traveller found the fort completely destroyed and the whole area without any inhabitants and with only a granary and one or two small buildings left.

The village was a centre of attention again in the 1897 Cretan revolt when European troops were landed here to evacuate Cretan Muslims and with the advent of Cretan autonomy in 1898 and eventual union with Greece in 1913, Paleochora started to expand as the civic and economic centre of the surrounding area. In 1941 it was occupied by the Germans, who, as others before them, made use of the fort.

Agriculture, in particular the production of tomatoes, and tourism grew in the mid 1970s, the result being that Paleochora is now a thriving village, occupied and working throughout the year.

Paleochora, on the southwest coast of Crete, occupies a small peninsula 400m wide and  700m long and includes within its boundaries some 11 km of the coastline of the Libyan Sea. It is the capital town of the municipality of Kandanos/Selino and is home to about about 2200 permanent residents. The beauty of the region attracts many visitors every year and tourism provides the main income of the area, next to olives and the greenhouses from the surrounding villages.

Text @ by Mick McTiernan, January 2012
Read more history on Mick‘s blog on Cretan History

 

 

A Prince departs

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Prince George of Greece (later titled ‘Prince of Crete’), the second son of King George of Greece, was appointed High Commissioner of the Autonomous State of Greece in 1898; a position which, although accepted by the Porte, was totally dependent on the approval and support of the European Powers (Great Britain, France, Italy and Russia … continue reading... 

 

Text and photo @ by Mick McTiernan, March 2013
Read more history on Mick‘s blog on Cretan History

The Battle of Paleochora

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In March 1897 troops from the Royal Navy, along with men from the French, Austrian Russian, and Italian Navies, were landed at Paleochora and advanced in an armed column up the valley to Kandanos to raise the siege of that village. The following day the column returned to Paleochora where they came under fire from Cretan rebels: not necessarily a good idea given the number of European warships in the bays around Paleochora.

Further details of the events leading up to the battle can be seen here.  

 

Text and photo @ by Mick McTiernan, June 2012
Read more history on Mick‘s blog on Cretan History

Yannis Vlachos-Daskalogiannis

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Chania Airport and the revolt of 1770

 

Visitors to Crete landing at Chania airport, arrive at an airport named after ‘Daskalogiannis’, the leader of the first Cretan rebellions against the Ottomans. Daskalogiannis, ‘Teacher John’ was not in fact a teacher, but rather a wealthy Cretan ship owner from Anopolis in Sphakia who, in 1770, in the expectation of the arrival of a Russian fleet receiving equipped with arms ammunition and men, commenced an uprising against the Ottomans who had taken Crete from the Venetians some 100 years previously. 

Prior to a Russian instigated uprising in mainland Greece, Daskalogiannis, whose real name was Yannis Vlachos, had apparently been in contact with the Russian agents who had persuaded him that a simultaneous revolt in Crete would be supported by them. As a result, Daskalogiannis started planning and organising the fighters of Sphakia and in April 1770, at Daskalogiannis’ instigation, the villagers of Sphakia refused to pay a new poll tax and rose in revolt. Initially their revolution met with some success and the Ottoman troops withdrew from the Sphakian region. However, the anticipated Russian aid did not materialise and by May, 15,000 Ottoman troops invaded Sphakia, forcing the fighters to abandon their villages and flee to the mountains.

The Sphakians fought valiantly against great odds but the perils of the winter in the mountains and the Ottoman scorched earth policy of burning all the Sphakian villages they captured, resulted in the Sphakian leaders seeking terms of surrender in the spring of 1771. The terms were very harsh and in an attempt to mitigate them and apparently on the promise of safe conduct delivered to him by his uncle, a priest, Daskalogiannis surrendered. However, Daskalogiannis’ former position as a leader of the Sphakian community and official interpreter for the Ottoman Pasha meant that the victors were disposed to make an example of him. As a result, on 17 June 1771, Daskalogiannis was flayed alive at Candida (Iraklion): the execution was carried out in front of his brother who, according to legend, subsequently went mad.

Daskalogiannis’ revolt, though unsuccessful, was the first organised rebellion against Ottoman rule of Crete and his efforts are commemorated not only at the airport at Chania, but also as the name of the ferry that runs between Chora Sphakia and Sougia.

Text and photo @ by Mick McTiernan, June 2012
Read more history on Mick‘s blog on Cretan History

Souda bay

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About 8 Km from Chania airport, travellers taking the most direct route  to Paleochora will be greeted with an awe inspiring view of Souda Bay stretched out before them. Bounded on the north by the Akrotiri peninsula and the south by Cape Drapano, the 15Km long, 2 to 4Km wide bay forms a natural deep water port and as has been used as such for thousands of years.

The entrance to the bay is guarded by the Venetian castle on Souda Island; a fortress built in the late sixteenth century to protect the region from both pirates and Ottoman incursions and the last Venetian possession on Crete - falling to the Ottoman invaders in 1715, some 30 years after the rest of the island had succumbed.  As well as being the last Venetian stronghold on Crete, Souda Fortress was the last place on Crete to fly the Ottoman flag; the flag being hauled down on 13th February 1913 by the crew of HMS Yarmouth, the last European warship to leave Suda before the unification of Crete and Greece. 

The northern shoreline of the bay is home to an American/NATO naval base while the southern shore houses a Hellenic navy base and the civilian ferry depot, the terminus of the regular ferries to Pireaus on mainland Greece. Not surprisingly, given its strategic importance and deep water facility, the bay was the scene of fierce fighting during the German invasion of Crete in 1941. 

At the bottom of the hill, on the western shore of the bay, the point nearest Chania, is located the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery. The site was chosen after the Second World War as the resting place of British and Commonwealth troops who died on Crete and the graves were moved there from the four burial grounds that had been established by the German occupying forces, as well as from isolated sites and civilian cemeteries. It now contains the remains of 1500 troops, 776 of whom remain unidentified. The cemetery also contains the remains of British and Commonwealth personnel from the First World War, British seamen and soldiers who died in Crete during the British occupation of the island in 1898 and a small number of civilians and other nationalities, including one German soldier whose body was originally misidentified.

 

Text and photo @ by Mick McTiernan, June 2012
Read more history on Mick‘s blog on Cretan History