Crete has an area of 8,303 sq. Km and 623,065 inhabitants in 2011 while the de facto population is 682,928. Its coastline is 1046 km and has an altitude above 2450 meters. It is 260 km long and 12 km wide in the Ierapetra isthmus up to 60 km from Cape Lithino to Cape Dion. It has three large massifs named Plateau of Omalos in the White Mountains, Nida in Psiloritis (where there is the Ideal Man in which Zeus was nourished by Amalthia goat), and Lasithi and Kathar in the Network (where Dictai Antros) Theos Rea, Saturn’s wife, hid Zeus when he gave birth to him to save Saturn from eating his children) to the east. It is the fifth largest Mediterranean island and is 140 miles south of Piraeus and about 200 miles north of Libya, a climate and cultural supremacy having over 300 days of sunshine and being at the crossroads of its major civilizations since its inception. History, Crete has been the cradle of Minoan civilization that flourished since 4000 BC. until 1400 BC. and has been recorded as Europe’s first civilization.
Excavations have revealed findings that prove Crete is inhabited by around 8000 BC. by natives who are not related to any of the peoples of the Mediterranean coast and the view that it was inhabited by settlers who may have come from the East and the South seems to be untenable (https://www.bbc.com/news/science- environment-22527821). These around 4000 BC. they created the Minoan civilization that reached a high level of development and in spite of the natural disasters that occurred and destroyed all the buildings there are found specimens of high standard houses and pottery, 5000 years old paintings and paintings still alive and well fine-grained seals in rings that create admiration for processing fineness and imaging accuracy.
During this period more than 100 cities that Homer said were probably developed on the Island, or perhaps more than 150 that Archaeologists have discovered.
After the destruction of 1400 BC, the Mycenaean Achaeans settled in Crete, who mixed with the remaining Minoans and created new cultural and social development. Outside this new situation were the rescued Minoans of a Lassithi area who called themselves Eteocrites (Eteos = True) and continued to create their own way and their language while imprinted with Linear A, not yet deciphered.
Following the destruction and fall , the Dorians came after conquering the Mycenaeans and the Peloponnese around 1100 BC they restored the island and, in admixture with the remaining natives, the recovery and creation of the new Cretaceous civilization began again with new structures of administrative division into castes that reached its climax around 700 BC when it began to lose its rise to Athens and the Macedonians. In these years the Cretans and the Eteocretans, as they called themselves, had quarrels and wars with each other, but to invaders they reacted united and repelled each invader until 69 BC when they submitted to the Romans and followed the course of the Eastern Roman Empire. In 824 AD the Saracens occupied Crete and held it until 961 AD. It was Emperor Ioannis Tsimiski’s General Nikiforos Phocas who liberated Crete and incorporated it into the Eastern Roman Empire.
It was then that Phocas forcibly converted to Christianity and the “Barbarians” – the Saracens – were confined to a village named after the Barbarians (now MYRTIA, where Kazantzakis came from), and the Cretans who refused to abdicate the 12-Gods Fathers’ Religion, reported number of 42,000 (forty-two thousand) men were executed. He then asked Tsimiskis and he sent a male population from Pontos and 10 Princes to whom he divided Crete into 10 feuds.
Crete became the target of Genoa and Venice, which eventually won it in 1212 and organized it according to its own standards, building castles and harbors supporting its then powerful fleet. Many of these monuments are preserved to this day and, together with the older monuments, are a pole of attraction for Greek and foreign visitors. The Venetians were suppressing extremely the local population, therefore the Cretans were continually revolting against them and assisted the Turks in their struggle to take the island from the Venetians.
The Ottoman domination of the Eastern Mediterranean brought them to Crete in 1645 and after an expensive and bloody 24-year war with Venice they occupied it in 1669, but it was in only in 1715 when they occupied the last part of it. The Ottoman occupation lasted until 1886 when the Sultan was forced by the then Great Powers to grant independence to Crete which eventually led to the founding of the Cretan State in 1898 and the Union with Greece in 1913.
Following the Asia Minor catastrophe and the exchange of populations, Greeks from Asia Minor settled in Crete, who were accepted by the local Greek-speaking population and brought progressive ideas and ways of cultivation and life to impart modernization of their lives.
The 1940 World War II found Crete unarmed but residents resisted invaders causing huge losses to them but the blood tax they paid and the material damage they suffered was disproportionately large and these wounds have not yet healed.
After the end of the war, the fight for healing the war wounds began and the Cretans soon followed the path of reconstruction and modernization, with Crete having one of the highest per capita incomes in Greece and a multicultural society favoring tourism and investment in property of EU and third countries’ citizens.
https://candia.wordpress.com/culture/history-crete-gr/ (Summary History of Crete)
NATURE AND MONUMENTS.
Crete is administratively one of the 13 Regions of Greece and is divided into four Prefectures which differ among almost all sectors so we will present them separately starting from Western Crete.
NATURE-Flora and Fauna
The Prefecture of Chania is located in the West of Rethymnon Prefecture and lies to the north and west from the Cretan Sea and to the South from the Libyan Sea. It has an area of 2375 km2 with the massif of the White Mountains (Madares) having an altitude of 2454 m and an area of 800 km 2. From the water runoff these mountains two lakes are formed, the one of Kournas and that of Ayia which host various species of birds. It has a lively 416 km coastline with excellent natural coves, inlets, and beaches. This massif mountain volume divides the Prefecture into mountainous and lowland with the Apokoronas, Chania and Kissamos plains dominating.
The White Mountains flora in the peaks and canyons in the south, includes thousands of plants, including 100 of the 180 rare herbs that grow only in Crete.
These mountains are home to the unique on the planet Cretan goat (Kri-Kri), the Cretan wild goat that tends to evolve due to the destruction of its habitats, the Cretan badger, Akantopontikas, Nifitsa, and Kounavi. The Rhodopos Peninsula and Mount Koutroulis are important habitats for poultry, and Lake Agias hosts migratory birds such as herons, brooding reeds and so on.
At the White Mountains, there is the plateau of Omalos (1100m altitude) from where the Samaria Gorge begins to the south, which is 17km from the Smooth Gorge to the beach of Agia Roumeli. This gorge has been characterized as Protected “NATIONAL PARK”, west of this is the second great canyon of Nimbros or Imbros. Further east is the Askyphos Plateau, famous for battles fought there for Crete’s independence.
The northern coastal zone is almost flat, richer in high agricultural production and more densely populated, having developed enormous infrastructures of the tourism industry with direct communication with most European major cities.
HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL MONUMENTS.
The prefecture of Chania is full of monuments from prehistoric times. The oldest is that of Kydonia in the old town in Kanevaro Street, founded by the Kydonians around 8,000 BC inhabited for about 10,000 years continuously. The ruins of Minoan Lissos are found in the southern part of the Prefecture near Sougia, while the ruins of the newer city of Aptera, found in the north close to Souda bay, with great remains of Hellenistic and Roman buildings that still cause admiration.
In the city of Chania beyond Kydonia there are monuments of the Byzantine and Venetian period as well as those of the Ottoman period. We will find here Byzantine walls, Venetian walls, Faro and Neoria in the Venetian harbor and Arsenal port, Firka The Yali Mosque in the Port and the Church of St. Nicholas in Splantzia with its belfry and minaret remind of the Ottoman period
The fortress of Gramvousa in the homonymous islet and the ruins of ancient Falassarni, are located on the westernmost cape of Crete.
In the South near Sfakia is Frangokastellos Castle with strange stories about the Drosulites.
Near Chania at the entrance to Souda Bay is the Izedin Fortress, which until recently was a prison and now a Historical Museum of Crete.
In the Prefecture and in the massif White Mountains there are beautiful canyons with the most beautiful being the Farangas =Great Canyon (the Samaria Canyon as the locals name it, all others are just canyons). Near it, is the canyon of Nimbros or Imbros and towards the Anopolis that of Aradena while the canyon of the Vorion is near Karanos and that of Agia Irini is near Sougia.
The coastline of the Prefecture offers many beaches, including some beyond the EU Blue Flags, are considered unique on the planet. Balos lagoon with turquoise waters, the long beach of Falassarni with golden sand, Elafonisi with pink sand with apparently thawed corals, Gialiskari and Pahia ammos in Paleochora, Frangokastello Beach, Loutro, Sougia and Trypiti in Gavdos. On the north coast, we find the beaches of Kissamos Bay, the beach of Kolymvari and Maleme, Gerani, Platanias with great tourist traffic, Agia Marina, Agioi Apostoloi, Hrisi Akti and Nea Chora. To the East of the city of Chania, in Akrotiri, there are the beaches of Agios Onoufrios, Kalathas, Tarsanas, Stavros, Seitan Limani, Marathi, and Loutro while further East in Apokoronas, there are Kiani Akti, Kalives, Almyrida, Ombros Gialos, Georgioupolis beach and Lake Kournas.
Monasteries worth visiting.
The Holy Trinity founded by Jangarola Brothers and the Gouverneto Monastery in Akrotiri. The Chrysoskalitissa Monastery near Elafonisi and the monastery of Asi Gonia.
LIST OF INTERESTING SITES TO VISIT IN CHANIA PREFECTURE
(from the site: http://www.chania.eu/index.php/el/useful-information-el/list-of-sights-el)