From Alikiano to Vatolakko
We set off our excursion from Alikianos village, 12 km west of Chania. The town of Alikianos, a site of exceptional natural beauty, lies peacefully in the green scenery among olive groves and orange groves, alongside the cool waters of the Keritis river and the huge plane trees lining its banks. One of the main landmarks of the town is the Stone Bridge over the Keritis river, aged over 100 years, a truly remarkable architectural monument!
A visit was paid to the Byzantine churches of the village: first, to the Byzantine little stone church of Agios Georgios. Second, to the imposing Byzantine church of the Life-Giving Fountain (Zoodohos Pihi) located between the villages of Koufos and Alikianos, at a site with many orange and lemon trees. The temple is also known as Ai Kyrgiannis (St Mister John) after the name of St. John the Hermit or Xenos who founded it around 1030.
It a simple, four columned, Helladic type, cruciform church with a dome. The church bears frescoes in two layers (11th and the 14th - 15th centuries). Pillars cave been embedded in the walls (5th century). Among the frescoes of the 14th century we can discern Agios Ioannis Xenos among the figures.
Excavations in and out of the temple unearthed tombs from the 11th to the 19th century.
Finally, to the more contemporary one next to the Town Hall inVatolakkos, the main Church of the town dedicated to the Holy Cross, celebrated grandly on the 14th September each year.
Following, we headed for the Museum of Olive Oil “Fabrica of Dermitzakis" in Vatolakkos, housed in a 18th century olive mill, which is believed to be the only monument of the preindustrial era in Chania prefecture. The collection consists of agricultural tools and machinery for cultivation, furniture, utensils and objects of daily life at home. We got a rough idea of the life and habits of the people of that era.
A clock, 22m high, dominates the central square in memory of those executed during the German occupation.
A narrow path took us to Valsamioti river dam.
During the Venetian Occupation the Venetian family Da Molin owned this feudal terittory. They had built a a magnificent mansion - tower, the ruins of which still survive in the orchards of the area. The remains are very near the church of Agios Georgios, approachable through a narrow alley between buildings.
The tower of Alikianos hosted the drama of the 'Cretan Wedding", the famous Cretan novel written by Spyros Zampelios. The story is as follows: In 1527, due to the economic oppression of Crete by the Venetians, the revolution of Kantanoleos or Lisogiorgis broke out. The rebels quickly prevailed in the provinces of Selino, Sfakia and a part of Kydonia.
The son of Kantanoleos, Peter, fell in love with the daughter of Francesco Damolino, Sophia. Kantanoleos visited Damolino in Alikianos and asked his daughter as a wife of his son. Damolino accepted and the marriage was scheduled. On the wedding day, Kantanoleos accompanied by 350 men and 100 women, came in the tower for the ceremony. After the ceremony, they all sat together at the wedding table. All the partners of Kantanoleos drank wine with sleeping drug. Damolino had called a secret army of 2000 men that slaughtered most of the sleeping men and women. Kantanoleos and his two sons were hanged immediately. The others were hung along.
Alikianos is best known outside the island for the fierce fighting which took place there during the 1941 Battle of Crete, during which the 8th Greek Regiment (Provisional) aided by the local population, helped cover the retreat of the 10th New Zealand Division, to which it was attached. In retribution, the German paratroopers executed 118 civilians from Alikianos and the nearby villages.