FULL-DAY EXCURSION, PROGRAM 1, JULY 13TH, 2019
A MONASTERY, ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES IN THE WORLD, AND A TRADITIONAL VILLAGE
We will depart from the hotel right after breakfast heading 72km southwest of Chania to the Monastery of Khryssoskalitissa which sits perched on a cliff with amazing views along the coastline. The monastery is located in an isolated spot but increasingly visited by tour buses. The name Khryssoskalitissa translates as
“golden steps” and the local faithful believe that one of the 90 steps leading up to the monastery appears gold to those who are of pure spirit. Five kilometers south of the monastery is Elafonisi which consistently appears in lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Elafonisi is a tiny uninhabited islet marooned on the edge of a gloriously scenic turquoise lagoon that bears the same name. The sand with its pink hues, the warm and clear
lagoon with its shallow waters, and the islet comprise a picture-perfect image. Unfortunately, Elafonisi does not offer solitude since the desire to visit this marvel of nature is shared by many others. We are going to spend a couple of hours enjoying the sun and the water of the lagoon before heading back. But there will be one last stop at Elos, a tiny traditional village located in an area which caters to eco-tourism. Elos is known for its production of chestnuts and its traditional shops with local products. Along with some time for walking around, we will be having a late lunch in a restaurant that gets superb reviews.
FULL-DAY EXCURSION, PROGRAM 2, JULY 20TH, 2019
TWO MONASTERIES SYMBOLS OF CRETAN BRAVERY, A DRIVE THROUGH A PICTURESQUE VALLEY, AND A WALK THROUGH A GORGE
The excursion of the second program will find us heading east of Chania with first stop at the Arkadi Monastery which has acquired the status of a national Cretan shrine. The year was 1866, Crete was under Turkish rule, a rebellion rose to challenge it. As the Turks gained the upper hand, Arkadi monastery became a refuge for hundreds of independence fighters and their families. Surrounded and facing imminent defeat, the Cretans ignited a powder magazine at the moment the Turks stormed the monastery. Hundreds were killed, defenders and aggressors alike, the sacrifice and bravery of Cretans raising international sympathy for their independence cause. We will walk around the well-restored grounds, visit the roofless vault where the explosion took place, the 16th century church which is one of the finest Venetian structures left in Crete, and a small museum dedicated to the heroism of the defenders. Next, we will take a scenic drive through Amari valley, flanked by mountains, and witness an authentic part of Crete which still survives despite tourist flows. The countryside is delightfully green, even in the summer, with rich groves of olive and fruit trees. Along the way we are going to stop for a walk in Patsos Gorge and visit the Cave of St. Anthony. In antiquity there was an altar dedicated to god Hermes, who was the protector of shepherds, forests and guardian of the fertility of nature.
Periodically people have found objects from the Minoan, Greek and Roman eras. But eventually the cave came to be known to the locals as Agios Antonios Cave because of the small church of St. Anthony that has been built within it - on top of the ancient site. We will have a late lunch in a restaurant nearby. The last stop of the excursion is at Preveli Monastery located on the southern shore of the island. The monastery sits high above the sea and, like many other places of worship in Crete, it has a proud history of resistance; in this case as a place where allied soldiers found shelter during World War II awaiting evacuation, the event being commemorated by two life-size bronze statues depicting an abbot and a soldier.
CRETAN NIGHT, botanical park and gardens; BOTH PROGRAMS, July 8th and 15th, 2019
The day after checking in the hotel (first day of classes), on a Monday, we will visit a place that has a touch of magic, the Botanical Park and Gardens of Crete, 20 km south of Chania. The gardens are located in one of the greenest parts of the island with olive orchards providing the main source of income for the locals. All this came to an end in 2004 when a devastating fire wiped out over 60,000 olive trees that stood there for over 400 years. Out of the ashes the Botanical Park and Gardens were created thanks to the vision and persistence of Petros Marinakis and his brothers whose family’s land suffered great damage in the fire. We will arrive in the Gardens in late afternoon/early evening having the chance to take a walk around. Right after there will be a buffet with different dishes representing the local cuisine and using local ingredients. The excursion will conclude attending a show of Cretan music and dance.