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Rethymno is the most mountainous of Crete, dominated in the east mount Psiloritis (or Ida). Two of Crete's most famous monasteries, Arkadi and Preveli are in the county. Rethymno county is a microcosm of Crete, it has everything, excellent beaches, popular resorts, undeveloped beaches, fortresses, gorges, rich vegetation, a scenic landscape.
Rethymno town the capital, is a beautiful old town with little winding Venetian and Medieval streets and buildings, an imposing castle and a hors-shaped harbour filled with tavernas, bars and restaurants. The old part of the town contains many Venetian palazzos, Turkish houses with wooden balconies and the Venetian citadel with a mosque spanned by a massive dome.
Arkadi Monastery (or Moni Arkadiou) southeast of Rethymno, is the symbol of Cretan resistance to the Ottomans. There during the insurrection of 1866 the abbot Gabriel and 960 (estimated) monks, women, children and villagers blew themselves up by firing powder magazines when confronted by the army of the Ottomans.
WHAT TO VISIT IN RETHYMNON TOWN
The Archaeological Museum:
Antiques of the Rethymno prefecture from Neolithic to Roman years are on display. The exhibits are organised in chronological order. Of particular interest is the "filter compass" with the plant decoration, the "teeth-bordered helmet" and the coin collection.
Museum of Sea life:
It is housed in the old abbey, which is situated in the old town and has been restored recently. The exhibition represents one of the most important collections in Rethymno including molluscs, sponges, fish and various fossils.
It was founded in 1994 and is situated in Mitropoleos Square. The museum includes ecclesiastical relics dating back from 1816 up until the present, such as church utensils, icons, bells as well as the clock of the belfry, which had been functioning from 1894 up until 1986.
Arkadi - Moni Arkadiou in Rethymno Crete Greece The most significant monastery of Rethymno and maybe the most important in Crete. It is situated 23 Km from the town of Rethymno and is built overlooking three districts. Established in the 14th or 15th century, it constituted an important revolutionary centre during the Turkish occupation. The martyrdom of its defenders in 1866 made it well known:
"When the Turkish Pasha in Rethymnon learned of the rebels operating out of the monastery, he sent an ultimatum to Arkadi's Abbot Gabriel Marinakis: either expel the revolutionary committee or the monastery would be destroyed. Abbot Gabriel refused the Pasha's demand. The rebels began preparing the monastery for the anticipated Turkish attack. On 7 November 1866 the Turks under Mustafa Kyrtil Pasha with 15,000 Turkish soldiers armed with 30 cannons attacked Arkadi and after 2 day siege they breached the walls. Then a fighter named Konstantine Giaboudakis set fire to gunpowder room, blowing up Greeks and Turks. 864 Cretan men, women and children were dead along with 1500 Turks. The Turks took 114 prisoners whom they immediately put to death. Only 3 rebels managed to escape to tell the story". (source by STIGMES, the magazine of Crete)
The event shocked Europe and won much support Cretan independence. In 1898, Crete won its independence and the Turks withdrew from the island, which they had held since 1669.
The gunpowder room where the blast left a gaping hole in the roof can be visited.
The Monastery has a glorious history due to the active and leading involvement of its fellow monks in all national endeavourers for freedom and education. This monastery is comprised of two separate building complexes which are 3 kms apart.
There are strong indications that the first core of the Monastery was organized on the area of the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist or Kato Monastiri (the lower monastery), during the II Byzantine period of Crete, around the 10th or the beginning of the 11th century, when many monasteries were established on the south coast of Crete. The oldest date related to the monastery is 1594, and it is engraved on a bell of the monastery. A feudal lord known as Prevelis probably founded the monastery during the Venetian occupation. When in 1649 the Turks occupied Crete, they destroyed numerous church establishments, among them the monastery of Preveli.
Saint John of Gerakari Church:
A cluster of isolated churches, which was transformed in three construction stages. It has interesting wall frescoes.
It has been proved that the cave was used as a central place of worship from the early Neolithic age up until the Roman period. An inscription gives evidence of the fact that Hermes was worshipped in this cave. It also played an important role during modern times, more precisely during the Turkish occupation. In January 1834, the Turks besieged the cave, where 370 inhabitants of the village of Melidoni had found shelter, set it on fire and suffocated everybody in it. Their bones are preserved in the memorial sarcophagus situated in the first hall. The cave is open to visitors.
Places to visit if you stay in Rethymnon town
Anogia is a small town, built at an altitude of 750 m on Mt. Psiloritis. It was often burned down in the past by its conquerors, before being levelled in 1944. It offers rooms to rent, restaurants, a folklore museum and shops selling woven products. Here, the visitor can visit the Idaean cave (26 Km) in which, according to mythology, Zeus was born. (According to another legend, Zeus was born in Dikteon Andro cave in Lassithi county).
The view is overwhelming from this beautiful settlement, located amphitheatre-like on the slopes of a hill and swathed in greenery. The history of the settlement goes back many centuries, to 260 AD and the Roman persecution of the Ten Saints which gave it its name. Today, the village constitutes a lively presence amidst a superb natural landscape. The Town Hall of the Municipality of Syvritos is located here, and the settlement of Agia Fotini has developed into a dynamic centre for the region. The main church of the village, that of Agios Nikolaos, has been preserved; it is a single-aisled basilica with wall-paintings dating from the 14th century. The churches of Agios Spyridon within the village, and Agios Onoufrios in Genna, are both Byzantine.
Built on the ruins of ancient Lappa, Argyroupoli keeps its traditional character. The visitor can enjoy the greenery of the village, can stay in tourist farmhouses and dine in the cool leafy area of "Agia Dynami", directly north of the village.
Once a small fishing village which it has today developed with tourism. Nestling in the surrounding mountains of the bay of Bali you will find the coastal village of the same name 34 km east of Rethymno. Visitors may choose from which of the small inlets to enjoy bathing at organised beaches. The area offers a large number of tavernas, hotels and rooms. The monastery of Saint John is worth a visit.
The village of Myrthios is situated on the southern slope of the Kouroupa hill, in an amphitheatre-like location which offers a unique view out over the Gulf of Plakias and the Libyan Sea. Its existence was mentioned for the first time in 1583, with a population of 87; today there are over 200 inhabitants. Within the village there is the little frescoed Church of the Metamorphosis of Christ the Saviour. Predominant among the wall-paintings is that of the Virgin (Theotokos Platytera) with Christ, in the niche of the Sanctum; the four Hierarchs are depicted immediately below it. In the surroundings of the settlement there is a large water mill which dates from the 19th century; both the mill itself and the water tower with the mill-dwelling are preserved.
This village is situated on the top of a hill and has less than 100 inhabitants. A number of houses dating from the Venetian occupation and subsequent period are preserved within it, thus its architectural physiognomy has been retained to this day.
The restored Church of the Virgin Hypapantis was formerly the chapel of the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Folklore Collection of Langa has been housed in the Primary School since 1993. Near to the village, in an area of extreme natural beauty, there is the "Elliniki Kamara", a bridge dating from the Hellenistic period and preserved in good condition.
The village of Plakias is situated 40 km south of Rethymno. This resort boasts a superb sandy beach, and the well-organised infrastructure includes hotels, rooms, tavernas and restaurants. The organised beach offers both bathing and various water sports.
38km south of Rethymno, shortly before you arrive at the historic Monastery of Preveli, a track on the left hand side leads downhill to a parking place. After approximately 15-minutes downhill walk you arrive at the beautiful sandy beach with palm trees, where the River Kourtaliotis empties into the sea.
Roustika is a beautiful village with 310 inhabitants, in an amphitheatre-like location smothered in greenery. It was first mentioned in 1577 and has retained its special architectural physiognomy to this day. At the centre of the village there is the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, dating from 1380, with frescoes in its northern aisle. To the southeast of the village there is the Monastery of Profitis Elias, the building of which – according to inscriptional evidence – began in 1637. The monastery played a significant role throughout the period of the Turkish occupation, functioning as a school and participating in the revolutionary struggles. It now houses a museum. There is also a private museum of Greek traditional costumes in Roustika.