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June 27, 2006

The Venizelos Graves and ΚΟΥΚΟΥΒΑΓΙΑ

On Saturday morning we took an excursion to the east of Hania to visit the El Venizelos Graves, which are high up on the hill that forms the Akrotiri peninsula between Hania and Souda.

Eletherios Venizelos was born near Hania, and was a crucial figue in Cretan and Greek history at the turn of the twentieth century, helping to get Cretan union with Greece formally recognised by 1913's Treaty of Bucharest, and leading the Greek nation as prime minister several times up until his death in exile in Paris in 1936.

We got a bus from outside the main market in Hania. We think it was the number 18, but it might have been the number 12, as like many of the buses in Hania it was displaying different information on the front, side, and back of the bus. However, it was going to Kounoupidiana, and we knew the grave was on the way.

The bus route took us through some parts of Hania that we hadn't visited before - some quite busy, pretty, important looking parts actually. We've walked east of the old harbour on a couple of occasions, once along the sea-front, and once along the main road by the stadium when house-hunting, but we'd never gone this far out. We've got this marked out as somewhere to explore, as there is another cinema, a beautiful tree and shrub lined main shopping road with restaurants, and a couple of other bits'n'bobs of interest.

The 18 (or 12!) then takes the main road out of Hania towards the airport, and we jumped off as soon as we saw a sign pointing to El Venizelos Graves that the route didn't follow. We were dropped off at a stop pretty much in the middle of nowhere, about 1km from the site.


The walk wasn't too bad, although we are experiencing a mini-heat wave here in Crete, so we were grateful to get under the shade of some trees when we reached the park. The graves are set in a park which houses a small chapel and a little Cretan culture shop, as well as some pieces of art. It is on the side of the hill and offers some absolutely stunning views across the Gulf of Hania.


One of the dominant features of the park is an imposing statue of Spiros Kayiales erected in 1997, which was a gift from the Pancretan Association of America. Who was Spiros Kayiales? Good question. I've no idea I'm afraid - I can't find a bean about him on the web. Great statue though.


Our next destination was somewhere for a pit-stop, and one of the main reasons we headed up in this way. Κουκουβαγια (pronounced Koykoyvayia) means 'owl' in Greek, and the Κουκουβαγια cafe is a beautiful owl themed bar and cafe high up on the hill with similarly superb views out across Hania. The bar is decorated with some large canvass oil paintings of owls, as well as more owl knick-knacks than you could shake your tic-tacs at.



We enjoyed a frappe and a milkshake whilst sitting out on the balcony, and then it was time to head for home. We re-traced our steps, but there didn't seem to be any bus stops on the opposite side of the road to where we alighted. We've got the hang of this Greek-bus-thing now though, so simply waited in a shady spot and then flagged the bus down like crazy when we saw it apporaching.

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