Our final day in Crete began with us departing for Margarites village. This village is known for the production of beautiful ceramics due to the high quality of clay that is found nearby. We visited one particular ceramics shop for a demonstration on creating works on a potter’s wheel as well as showing us some “trick pottery” that has been created for many centuries in this town. The town is filled with many ceramic shops, a dangerous thing for those of us who were supposed to be traveling light. We had time to walk around and explore many of the shops before heading to our next destination, the Arkadi Monastery.
The Askadi Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox monastery located in central Crete. I enjoyed this monastery with its Venetian baroque church that was different from the many Byzantine style churches that are scattered around Greece. This particular monastery played an active role in the Cretan resistance of Ottoman rule in the mid 19th century. Unfortunately, due to the overwhelming Ottoman forces, the Cretan blew up barrels of gunpowder choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender. Due to the large amount of women and children that would have sought refuge in the monastery, this event gave us an eery feeling at the otherwise bright and sunny day at Askadi. Apparently sacrifices such as these were common throughout Crete and parts of Greece during the arrival of the Ottomans, but due to the large amount of deaths that occurred here (943) it attracted the attention of the rest of the world. We then traveled to the town of Rethymno, one of the northern port cities, for lunch where we got a gyro and walked by the water.
Our final site tour was at the WWII Allies Cemetery in Souda. The cemetery is beautifully upkept with a peaceful view of the water. About 1500 graves of British, Australian, and New Zealanders soldiers and officers exist at the site. Most notably is that of John D. Pedlebury, a British archaeologist who was the archaeological commissioner of Knossos and played an important part in counter-intelligence in WWII. We ended the day with a walk around the port town of Chania before taking the overnight ferry back to Athens.
Overall, Crete was more beautiful that I expected. There was significantly less modern architecture and a fair amount of beautiful neoclassical buildings in many of the towns we visited, compared to the polykatoikia filled Athens. I enjoyed visiting all the seaside towns on the northern part of the island as well as traveling through the mountainous interior. It was also great to check of the ancient site of Knossos off my bucket list. If we had more time I would have loved to hike some of the Cretan gorges and ravines, but perhaps that will happen at some other time in the future.