History of Crete

August 14, 2008

A story about how Aptera Beach became ruins

We recently had an interesting comment on our Lemon Tree piece about the abandoned Aptera Beach resort that is near us.



Daniel from Malmo recently stayed near there, and he heard a story about what happened from the locals. This is what he posted on the site:

"I was of course curious what had happened to the hotel which, in my opinion (and some others i read) is perfectly located close to a beautiful beach. And as I searched for answers I came across an answer not so shocking in these days when it comes to people. Money!

The two male owners of the hotel resort had secretly stolen money from the profits, without either one knowing the other one also did so. Of course this couldn't go on forever and somehow they were exposed. The fighting between them resulted in more disappearance of cash and finally they both left the resort.

The staff struggled against the authorities to run the place and kept the resort going for another 4-5 months after the disappearance of the owners. But they couldn't afford to pay rent for none of these months. If you have something on the beach a monthly beach-license-fee must also be paid and they couldn't afford this either.

Finally the Police had to throw them out! A deadline was given for the staff and guests and then the place was left quiet and empty.

But the contract for the resort, rent paid or not, stretched over 10 years and in Greek law this means the resort cannot be demolished. The spooky empty resort must stand its ground for the entire period of its contract!

Only after a couple of days of emptiness people started to loot and trash whatever was left and the place slowly turned into the ruins they are today.

A very sad story I must say and I visuallized myself starting it up again. A very costly and risky business to get oneself into, but as the contract period expires, which was any time now, I'm sure someone with solid finances will start something again. Hopefully something as beautiful as you describe Aptera was in its time of glory.

This information I gathered from locals living there and it seem logical, but of course one can't be sure its 100 % true."



It is an interesting tale, but like Daniel, I have to express some caution. It is always difficult to separate rumour, fact, and stories that sounds good for tourists - I've myself heard three different versions of how the bird was removed from the top of the Germaniko Pouli war memorial!

Incidentally, our photos of Aptera Beach Resort recently featured on a website which listed 16 abandoned hotel complexes - some of the others look really intriguing too.

July 21, 2008

The Crete Historical Museum in Iraklio

For our latest trip to the UK we flew for the first time with EasyJet from Heraklion. We blew whatever money we had saved by spending the night before staying in the Lato Boutique hotel near the harbour of Crete's capital. Apart from a comedy trip up-and-down the wheelchair access ramp, the stay was very nice indeed. They do an excellent buffet breakfast, and there is hi-speed wired internet access in the rooms. The view from our balcony covered most of Iraklio's harbour front.


We got the bus from Chania on the Saturday morning, and arrived at around lunchtime. Our room wasn't quite ready yet, so we dumped our luggage and went off for a first bit of sight-seeing, after a cooling frappe at Four Lion Square.

We'd been to Iraklio for a couple of days in 2006, so had different sights to see this time. The first of these was Crete's Historical Museum. This stands near the waterfront, and is on three levels, covering Crete from Byzantine times to the present day.


The ground floor houses the Byzantine and Venetian eras, and there are also small paintings by El Greco, and a large exhibition of Cretan folk craft.

When we were there, two temporary exhibitions featured. One was based on the life of Nikos Kazantzakis, with a multimedia installation in one room, and a timeline of his life and travels in the other. The second exhibition was called 'Fragments' and covered Crete during the difficult war years.


There was some sensational footage of German troops in action on the island, and some harrowing excerpts from the last letters and speeches of the Cretan martyrs murdered for opposing the excesses of the Nazi army in Greece.

In a particularly moving room, a slide projector looped through portraits of more than 60 Greeks killed by the Nazis in Heraklion as retaliation for acts of sabotage. Underneath the images, a glass case that appeared permanently lit with candles held some of the disparate anonymous personal effects of Greek nationals retrieved from the mass graves left in the wake of the German occupation.

The museum cost &euor;5, and was well worth it. There was also a nice little cafe on the second level, with a great view out over the sea, which would be worth remembering for days when you wanted the view, but didn't want to be out in the wind.

July 18, 2008

Chania's German War Memorial - then and now

I've been looking for some time for an original photograph of the German War Memorial that stands near our house. We spotted some in the Naval Museum in the Old Chania Harbour, but I've just found a very clear photograph in a book.


The book in question is 'Documents From The Battle And The Resistance Of Crete' by George I. Panagiotakis. Apart from the Germaniko Pouli picture, there is lots of documentary evidence of the terrible time that the people of Crete endured during World War II. There are some brutal pictures of Nazi massacres and executions, as well as pictures of the military hardware, innocent Cretan by-standers, and German, Greek and Allied soldiers who fought on the island.

This isn't a romanticised story of what went on during the island, or one person's recollection, but a valuable archive of historical source material. It was published in Heraklion last year, and I'm pleased to see it on the book shelves in Crete.

I've tried to take a picture of the monument as it stands today from a similar angle so that you can see the difference after over half-a-century.


Incidentally, our site has had a couple of comments left by Piper Bill Jenkins, who, at the age of 74, will be visiting the island later this year to pay his respects to both fallen soldiers and the brave civilians of the island.

July 11, 2008

The ghosts of Frangokastello

One of the things that had attracted us to stay at Frangokastello last year was the ghost story attached to the castle. The Hora Sfakian region has always been a thorn in the side to whoever was trying to conquer and occupy Crete, and the fort was originally built by the Venetians in the 14th century, and later used by the Turks.


The most famous rebellion occurred in 1828, when Hadzi Mihalis Dalanis and his 400-strong band of Cretan rebels lost a bloody pitched battle at the fort, but took twice as many Turks with them. On the anniversary of the their deaths - 17th May - the Cretan rebels are said to appear at dawn as misty shapes around the fort, and march into the sea.

Those who don't believe in the superstition believe that the visual effect is caused by atmospheric conditions specific to that time of year, and that the figures that appear are some sort of reflection from the Libyan desert which is across the water from southern Crete.

When we visited it in 2007, we stayed the night of the 15th of May, 2 days before the anniversary. Well, we decided it seemed churlish not to try and spot this effect - which if it was just down to the vague time of year might not be restricted to the 17th itself.

We were staying in the Flisvos apartments, with the sea literally lapping at the foot of our chalet door. Some of the rooms are in a converted old windmill, and we had a room in one of the old out-houses.


We got up at 5am, and sat on the rocks outside our room to watch dawn come up over the Eastern mountains of Crete. And hopefully spot some ghosts.


We did get a little spooked at one point by a small animal running across the rocks near us, which could have been a rat or a weasel, but needless to say, we didn't see any visions. Dawn was, nevertheless, as spectacular as you'd imagine as we huddled together with our little flask of coffee.


A lemon tree of our own

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