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.”
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.
Robert Pashley came here in 1833, describing the site in “Travels in Crete” (pub. 1837) but considered it to be a ‘burial mound’.
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 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.
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….
Hellenistic yrs : 323 BC – 67 BC (Roman invasion)