Guide to Chania

 

Chania: The city is not only the capital of its Prefecture but the commercial centre of western Crete and it has all the activity befitting its position.

Chania is the descendant of ancient Kydonia-home of the Kydonians, one of the early pre-Greek peoples of Crete. Since the 1960s excavations in Chania itself-specifically in the Kastelli Quarter-have made it clear that the city has been inhabited for some time: continuously, in fact from the Neolithic through the Minoan and post-Minoan times. After the Romans took over, and into the Byzantine period, Kydonia continued to be of some importance, but by the 7th century A.D. it has declined along with the rest of the island. When the Venetians chose to rebuilt the city, naming it La Canea in 1252, a new era of prosperity began. La Canea briefly enjoyed the reputation of being “the Venice of the East”. But after a two-month siege it fell to the Turkish in 1645.

Principal sights

The Archaeological museum is installed in the former Church of St Francis, itself of some historical interest. Although it can hardly rival the great Minoan collection of Heraklion, the Chania museum has an interesting collection of art and artifacts from western Crete, including vases, terracotta’s, seal stones, mosaics, glassware, jewelry, coins, utensils, armaments, inscriptions and sculpture.

The Naval museum: This was opened in 1973 in the renovated Firka structure on the old harbour; it has a small collection of items and mementoes associated with the maritime history of Crete.

Kastelli Quarter: This name is applied to the actual Venetian fortifications above the harbour as well as to the quarter of the city. Not much has survived of the fortress proper except for fragments of the bastions.

Meanwhile, the remains of ancient Kydonia that have been excavated since the 1960s are within the Kastelli Quarter; the most notable so far are those of late Minoan megaron with paved floors and parts of storage rooms.

Splanzia Quarter: The church of St Nicholas built under the Venetians, it served as a Dominican monastery and took its name from the famed Bishop of Myra. The Turks converted it into the Imperial Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim, which it remained until 1912, when it became a Greek Orthodox Church.

Agia Triada: The monastery is situated in a sheltered position at the foot of limestone hills, founded in the 17th century. Agia Triada shows a strong Venetian influence in its architecture.

Frangokastello: The Venetians thought they could subdue the Sfakians, and so in the 14th century they erected this impressive fort, using, in part, stone from some ancient site. It is a sizable, square fortress, with four corner towers-and still fairly well preserved, with the Lion St Mark on guard.

Samaria Gorge: One of the largest in Europe is 18 kilometers long and varies in width from 3 to 40 meters. The steep walls rise from 300 to 600 meters, at some points so sheer that there is barely any sunlight. Thousands of years of torrents have eaten the rocks, creating such a gorge.

Falasarna: The site was first explored early in the 20th century. It probably served as a port of Polyrinia. With the gradual shifting of Crete, Falasarna’s port installations were left high and dry and are now some meters inland.

Chissoskalitissa: The nunnery sits on a rocky promontory above the sea; if you have come as far as this you can count on the usual Cretan hospitality, and there is a beach near by.