We begin our morning at the Arkadi Monastery. Now this is a beautiful, beautiful place, but with a tragic history. In 1866, nearly 1,000 people were taking refuge here against Ottoman invaders. Rather than surrender, they made the ultimate sacrifice. How did they do it? They blew themselves up with gunpowder.
The Venetians left a lasting legacy following their conquest of Crete in the 13th century. In cities like Rethymnon are remnants of Kingdom of Candia, as Crete was called when it was part of the Republic of Venice.
Today, we’re going to see vestiges of Crete’s Venetian past as we tour Rethymnon and a monastery with a tragic story.
The Arkadi tragedy was among the first during the Cretan Revolution between 1866 and 1869. World leaders condemned the Ottomans, and the Arkadi tragedy became a milestone in Greek history. It was viewed as a heroic act that changed the course of the war. The Ottomans ultimately lost their stronghold on the island of Crete.
Today, the Arkadi Monastery is one of the most important monasteries on all of Greece. The church inside the fortified walls still represents a place of peace and refuge, despite the tragedy that occurred here only steps away from this holy place.
The city of Rethymnon was founded during the Minoan times, but unlike Knossos, Rethymnon never became an important Minoan center. It was important to the Republic of Venice, however,
Rethymnon’s old town, one of the best preserved in all of Crete, still echoes an aristocratic Venetian past in squares and along small streets that are utterly charming.
So after exploring the town, I found this great little restaurant/coffee shop called Raki by Raki, and I was fortunate to sit down with the owner and she told me how much she loved life in Crete. Well you know what? I do too.
Crete appeals to me for many reasons, primary among them is that the island is such a rich destination when it comes to fruits and vegetables and natural products. I also enjoy the slow and relaxed lifestyle here where people take time to chat over a coffee or a glass of raki.
My last stop was the Rethymnon Fortress. I thought it would be a good idea to walk off some of the calories I’d consumed back at the restaurant.
Though the Greek flag flies over the fortress, it was built, like most other things here, by the Venetians – in the 16th century.
Similar to Rethymnon’s old town, the fortress is one of the best preserved fortresses in all of Crete, and I enjoyed exploring the grounds.
I learned that were once a lot of residential buildings inside but that many were demolished after World War II as residents moved out.
The Ottomans ruled the fortress from the 17th to the 20th centuries. They converted the cathedral into a mosque. It is worth a step inside to admire its beauty.
We’re going to end our day at this beautiful seaside fortress. Now whether you choose to spend your free time exploring the fortress or trying some of the local delicacies in the town down below, I know you’re going to love your time at the Arkadi Monastery and the city of Rethymnon. I’m Ralph Grizzle, and I’ll see you in the next beautiful destination.