The mountain village of Koustoyerako, high above and 10 km north-east of Sougia, has a long and proud history of resistance to foreign occupation, and so was destroyed by the Venetians, Turks, and most recently (in 1943) by the Germans.

Koustoyerako

The wild and forested area above, fringing the White Mountains, was a stronghold for Cretan fighters, assisted by Allied survivors of the Battle of Crete (1941).  A radio station, constantly moved, linked Crete with the outside world, but the supply route for equipment and ammunition, although sometimes by parachute drop, was more often across the Mediterranean Sea, from Egypt (Alexandria) to the south coast of Crete.

The ‘rendez-vous’ was initially at Tripiti, east of Sougia, at the foot of the gorge, but after a German post was established there, it moved 3 km west to the tiny inlet of Kaloyeros, more of which later.  From here a steep-sided ravine, Keratidias, often referred to as the Ochra Gorge, rises 725m through crags and pine forest to emerge above Koustoyerako.

The descent of the gorge to Kaloyeros, then a walk along the E4 path to Sougia, makes a memorable if demanding day out.  It’s 9 km, and a climb of 510m from Sougia to Koustoyerako, and with no bus service, two taxi firms will take you there (mobile 6977745160 & 6972370480).

Leave the taxi, or park at the memorial as you enter the village ; this commemorates the destruction of Koustoyerako, Livadas and Moni in October 1943 following a momentous incident in the village.

Memorial

On 25th September German troops surrounded Koustoyerako following an arms drop the previous week.  “Finding no men, the German patrol lined the women and children up in the square and demanded to know where they were hiding. Infuriated by the women’s silence they set up a machine gun for an execution.  The menfolk, notably Costas Paterakis, had in fact crept on to a bluff above the village, their rifles trained on the German firing party. At a range of 400 yards, Paterakis’ shot felled the machine gunner, and a fusillade from fellow villagers brought down several others.  The surviving Germans fled.” *   Reaction next week was swift ….

Walk on into the village ‘platea’ where there are several memorial plaques, and a fearsome looking statue of Giorgos Kandanoleon, leader of a doomed and unsuccessful revolt against the Venetians in the mid-16th century.

Take the road (east) out of the village, which climbs steadily to swing south and reach a distinctive concrete water cistern, which marks the start of the route down the Keratidias Gorge to the sea.  Keep initially left of a wire fence, then find the best way through and between boulders and pine trees, always downhill.  There’s no waymarking, but if things become steeper or more difficult, keep well to the left against the gorge wall, especially through oleander bushes lower down.

Keratidias gorge

Eventually (c. 1.5 hrs) you’ll meet the E4 coast path, slightly inland here.  Turn right for Sougia directly, but a 15-minute diversion to the caves/coast at Kaloyeros is recommended.  Walk a short distance east, then take a narrow path, past a threshing circle, and scramble down over rocks to the shoreline.

Gorge exit

Here is a small inlet where a launch would arrive from Egypt, under cover of darkness, guided in by torch signals.  Supplies of clothing, food and ammunition were stored in  two caves, at the rear of which was a passage/tunnel directly inland (though I’ve failed to find this.)  Sitting under blue skies beside a calm sea, it’s hard to imagine events here during those terrible times in Crete.

 

Return to the main path, passing  the exit of the Keratidias Gorge, and climb a steep ‘kalerimi’ to reach a col/saddle.  Descending, a path (blue/white marking) leaves the E4, climbing NW to the “Cyclops Cave” (see ‘Explore’ – March 2011.)

View East on E4

The way ahead towards Sougia is obvious, the route contouring high above the coast with splendid views in both directions.  A slight rise leads to a wide track, where you keep left, with Sougia now below you.

View to Sougia

Two easily-missable ‘short-cuts’ will save a few minutes, otherwise stay on the track, which will eventually take you across the riverbed into the village.

*    Extract from ‘Crete : the Battle and the Resistance’  – Antony Beevor

More about Koustoyerako and Kaloyeros can be found in the fascinating story :
“Vasili ; the Lion of Crete”  (Murray Elliott)   Both books available in “To Delfini”

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Two Towers for January

Two towers for you to explore this month…both within a short distance of Paleochora

It’s January, traditional time for ‘Bargain Prices’,  ‘Sales’ and ‘Special Offers’, and here’s one you can’t possibly refuse – enjoy one longish (5km) walk from Anidri, and get a shorter one from Vlithias absolutely free.

But first, some Cretan history.  When the Minoan civilisation ended c. 1450 BC, the island was occupied by the Mycenaeans, a war-like people intent on expansion, until c.1100 BC they were displaced by the Dorians, warriors from northern Greece.  During the Dorian period Crete was divided between rival groups, emerging as constantly warring city-states vying for power.  In western Crete were Aptera, Kydonia (Chania), Polyrenia, Yrtakina, Pikilassos, Kandanos, and the closest to Paleochora was above Kadros.

These were heavily defended, and with regard to Kadros, Tony Fennymore wrote :

“Especially noteworthy in the Selino region are the remains of the system of defences.  Four fortified towers built in the polygonal style – one above the modern Anidri, one near Azogires, one near Spaniakos and one near Vlithias – controlled all the likely entrances to the valley.  These works must have been especially useful during the Hellenistic years, (323BC – 67BC) when Crete  suffered continually from civil wars, and there existed as well, danger from pirates at sea.”

The four towers Tony mentions were to protect the Dorian city of Kadros (see ‘Explore’ September 2009, or Walk 5 in my “Ten Walks around Paleohora.”)  Our first walk is to visit the tower above Anidri.

From the village centre, walk on north along the road towards Prodromi, and after ½ km or so, turn left, signed “Ancient Tower of Anydroi.”  The road soon becomes unsurfaced, rising steadily through the Anidri “housing estate”, a development over the last fifteen years, to reach a similar sign confirming you are on the correct route.

Several bends later, you’ll reach the ‘tower’ itself, with an information board giving details of its history.

The four towers, at Vlithias, Spaniakos, Azogires and here above Anidri “compose a network of watch/beacon towers located on hill-tops that surveyed the valley.  They constituted an organised tele-communications network that transmitted coded messages previously agreed, at a distance up to 130 km. Contact by means of visual signals was especially useful in emergency cases and warfare.”

Anidri tower view

At a height of 300m, the Anidri tower, which “might also have housed a small army force”,  held a commanding view over the Azogires valley and down to the coast.  The tower to the west, at Azogires – Loutra – was (directly) just 940m away, and above that another, where the ruined ‘Turkish Fort’ stands.  Perhaps less than impressive, the “cyclopian masonry” of large polygonal blocks is well preserved to the east and south.  The view over the Anidri (road) gorge down to Paleochora is compensation … and the best is yet to come.

The second walk leaves the main Chania road just north of Vlithias, again sign-posted, and it will take you just five minutes to reach the tower.

Vlithias Infomation board

Robert Pashley came here in 1833, describing the site in “Travels in Crete” (pub. 1837) but considered it to be a ‘burial mound’.

Vlithias tower 1832

At 265m, it overlooks the lower Kakodikianos valley, and Pashley’s sketch is remarkably similar to the scene today.   High above (but out of sight) is the Turkish Fort (see Explore November 2013), where once stood the next ‘contact’ tower, just 1.717 km away in a direct line.

Vlithias tower

Vlithias tower is the best preserved of the four ancient fortifications, its entrance still visible at the SW,  with a lower wall ending above a small ravine.  From the main road just below, it’s unnoticable, and I must have passed it thousands of times completely unaware of its existence.

Vlithias tower

The tower at Azogires, more accurately at Loutra, merits a further “Explore” ;  its position is known only to few, and difficult to locate  –  watch this space for a fascinating walk from Azogires village.

Paleochora in My View – Christmas competition
A record number of entries, from many different countries, confirms that Paleochora is indeed a special place.  Judged by Markella Perraki, the winner was Liselott Sjoqvist,  who chose Photo 9 (the view from our “stony beach”) because :  “ I can hear the waves and feel peace.  In my mind, when I need to calm myself, I often go there and it helps. I simply love this place.”

Markella comments :  “ Close your eyes and imagine, dream, breathe the sun, people around, some boats, children, the sunrise  … or silence to calm down ; this unique combination for all kinds of travellers. “

A close 2nd was Anne Stewart’s choice of Photo 2 :  “ It is like welcoming arms welcoming me back home – I so much feel I have arrived in my favourite place as I drive under the trees.”
Markella : “The entrance, with the trees welcoming you, is the beginning of an unforgettable journey full of experiences.”

I must mention the entries from my two grand-nephews : Joseph (8) chose Photo 1 because “It is  my favourite view because I love the whole of Paleochora,” and Alex (6) prefered Photo 12 as
“I loved playing football on this (‘sandy’) beach, and it is where I built my sand-barrier.”

Both Liselott and Anne win ‘To Delfini’ 10-euro vouchers, and the boys win a very large ice-cream on their next visit.

Thanks to all who entered the competition. Here is the winning photo again….

“ I can hear the waves and feel peace. In my mind, when I need to calm myself, I often go there and it helps. I simply love this place.” – Liselott Sjoqvist

Hellenistic yrs :  323 BC – 67 BC (Roman invasion)

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