RETHYMNON - ATTRACTIONS
The Venetian stronghold of Fortezza is built on top of a low hill above Rethymnon Town. The hill is known as Paleokastro, which means old castle in Greek and suggests the existence of an older structure in that place. This huge fortress, with its turbulent history, was built between 1540 and 1570 by the Venetian maritime power as a bulwark against Turkish pirates. More than 100,000 Cretans on compulsory labor and over 40,000 pack animals were used in the construction of this mighty fortress. However, the Fortezza was conquered by the Turks in 1646. After many upheavals during the next three centuries, only the outer fortifications of the Fortezza remain intact and few buildings are still under restoration. The Fortezza is visible from every part of the town and provides the visitor a panoramic view of Rythymno town. The visitors enter from the East Gate through an impressive archway. Some of the many sights to see inside the Fortezza are the Ibraham Han Mosque, the Bastion of Santa Maria and the church of Agios Theodoros Trichinas. This orthodox chapel was built in 1899 by the Russian Governor of Rethymnonn. The 20th century Theatre of Erofili is also inside the Fortezza and holds many cultural events every summer.
A beautiful 6th century building now houses the Public Library; it is located in the old town at the end of Paleologos Street. Lotzia building was the gathering place of noblemen feudal lords where they could discuss issues concerning economy, commerce, politics, etc. At the same building they could play lucky games while its arcades were used by representatives for announcing state decrees. It was later turned into a mosque by the Turks, covering the arches and leaving just one door open. In the west side they annexed a minaret.
The building operated initially as Venetian church, dedicated to Santa Maria and later (1657) it was turned to a mosque by the Turks. During this transformation the Turks annexed a roof with three domes and the highest minaret in Rethymnon.
The important monastery of Preveli sits on the rocky hills of Preveli canyon, on the southern side of Rethymnonn prefecture. It consists of two monasteries, the Lower or Kato Preveli and the Upper or Pisso Monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos, about a mile and a half from Kato Preveli, which is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. The monasteries date back to the middle 16th century. Many times along their history, they were destroyed but they were always restored. Kato Preveli is a typical Orthodox monastery with the church of John the Baptist in the centre. The buildings in the rectangular courtyard constitute the cells of the monks and some additional buildings. The monks spend most time of the year here rather than in Pisso Preveli, which is deserted today but still makes a beautiful sight nestled among the mountains. Many valuable relics and icons of the monastery were looted during the wars. The remaining collections can be seen at the Ecclesiastical Museum of Kato Preveli, where there are religious garments, relics, icons from the 17th century and a historical cross that depicts the Baptism of Jesus Christ and was used as a banner in wars.
Kato Preveli Monastery consists of a double aisled basilica with a complex of buildings around it holding the dining hall, the food cellars, guest reception and meeting halls. Near the large dining hall is the monk's hostel which has exits to the slopes of the mountains, which was very useful in times of war in the past. An old fountain with the inscription 1701 is still used as water source. In the interior, the icons of Saint John and Saint Charalambos and the biblical frescoes are works of artists from the Cretan school of Art and date from the 16th century. The Monastery of Preveli served as a refuge for soldiers and rebellions in the many wars of Crete for liberation. The monks of the monastery have always played an important role in the history of Crete, providing shelter to the Cretan soldiers even though their lives were put in danger. The monastery today is open to visit and offers excellent views to the mountainous landscape of Crete.
The Cave of Ideon Andron is found 12 miles from Anogia, a small traditional village at the borders of the prefectures of Heraklion and Rethymnon, towards Nida Plateau. Mythological beliefs say that this was the place where the Greek god Zeus grew up in his childhood. The cave is perched on the Eastern face of Mount Psiloritis at an altitude of 5000 feet. The road to the cave is scenic with high mountain landscapes and tall rock formations along the winding path to the cave.
This cave is an important archaeological site. The main entrance opens into a large chamber with two horizontal caverns. Another cavern was discovered high above the main chamber. The caverns have been sculpted naturally by the water and snow in winter and you can still find snow blocks inside, even in summer. According to Greek mythology, the goddess of fertility, Rhea, hid her son, baby Zeus, in the Ideon Cave to protect him from his father Cronos, who used to swallow his children when they were born. Here, Zeus was fed by the foster mother and goat herd nymph Amaltheia. Some Kuretes worshipers and Korybantes dancers were gathered at the mouth of the cave to guard the baby. When Zeus cried, they used to dance, clashing the spears and shields and shouting to hide the wailing of the baby from his vicious father. Until the Roman times, this sacred cave was used to worship Zeus and his mother, Rhea. Excavations there have unearthed votive offerings, including a well preserved bronze shield, spears and gold and ivory figures. These findings are currently displayed at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
The archaeological site of Eleftherna is located at about 19 miles to the southeast of Rethymnon, on the northern foot of Psiloritis Mountain, between the villages of ancient and modern Eleftherna. Eleftherna is one of the most important archaeological sites of Crete and provides important insight on the development of the settlement. In fact, the inhabitation of the settlement apparently dates from the Prehistoric times and extends until the Early Christian era. The first excavations were held by a British expedition in the late 1920s and the archaeologists were surprised by the vast findings that were uncovered. However, there were still much to be uncovered as well. Since 1985, the University of Crete features a new excavation work that extends till today. Among the most important sites that were brought to light during these excavations, are the ruins of Orthi Petra, Pyrgi and Katsivelos, which are placed on the slopes of Mount Psiloritis, between two torrents that flow around its foot. The available potable water coming from these springs developed a major role on the inhabitation of the place and their occupation with agriculture. A necropolis dating from the Geometric Era and the Archaic Period was also brought to light as well as remains of some buildings and roads from the Hellenistic and Roman times. In addition, a three-aisled Basilica dating from the early Christian period, with a nice mosaic decoration, was found in Katsivelos. Pyrgi, on the highest point, was probably the urban centre of this ancient settlement. The ruins of three buildings belonging to the Roman and Christian periods and a remarkable Hellenistic bridge with a pointed arch were found close to this site. In addition to all these, the archaeological site of Eleftherna also has some ruins of ancient walls as well as cemeteries, sanctuaries, an aqueduct, huge cisterns and paved Roman roads. The objects that resulted from the excavations on these sites are today organized in three main categories: Polis and Acropolis, which are related to the public and private everyday life activities, as well as the Necropolis, which exhibits the traditions of ancient populations concerning life after death.
The Archaeological Museum of Rethymnonn was founded in 1887 by the Society of Friends of Education. Since 1991, the museum is housed in the pentagon bastion opposite the main entrance of Fortezza, while the gift shop of the museum is housed in Lotzia. The museum hosts findings from various ancient sites, caves and excavations all over the prefecture of Rethymnonn. These findings date from the Late Neolithic and Proto-Minoan times till the late Roman period. In particular, the exhibits include vessels, tools, figurines, collections of coins, weapons, helmets, ceramics, jewelry, marble statues, stele from ancient monuments, columns from temples, pieces of daily use and many other items connected with life in the ancient times. The exhibits are placed in chronological order and by excavation site.
Réthymno`s outstanding natural wealth is reflected on Mt. Psiloritis, which dominates the eastern part of the region, the most mountainous part on the island. The variation of the landscape will impress the nature enthusiasts: flourishing valleys succeed harsh mountains capes and rocky shores follow long sandy beaches. Steep gorges, leafy valleys, small rivers cutting through the mountains, wild life refuges and forty canyons complete the picture.
At the point where river Meyálos Potamós (Big River) flows into the sea and Kourtaliotis gorge ends lie the famous Préveli Lagoon and Palm beach (Fínikas), a sandy cove with a small date-palm grove. To get there you have to follow the road to the Monastery of Préveli, shortly before the monastery a track on your left leads down to a parking place. From this point onwards walk down to the sandy beach, where a remarkable, almost tropical landscape awaits you. The river flowing into the sea combined with the rich vegetation creates a magnificent sight. Don`t miss it!
Located 50 miles from Réthymno, on Mount Psilorítis, its major attractions are `mitáta,` vaulted stone huts where the shepherds live. The Plateau provides also skiing facilities during wintertime.
17 miles from Réthymno, a village built on the remnants of the ancient city of Láppas. Numerous springs, the cave and the chapel bearing the same name are all well worth a visit.