bout 20 Km. from Siteia stands the historic Toplou Monastery. This monastery rises fortress-like out of an arid landscape. It is also known as Our Lady "of the Cape" ("Akrotiriani") because of its proximity to Cape Sidero.
It acquired the name of Toplou in Turkish times because it had a cannon ("top") since Venetian days to protect itself from pirates.
In its current form, it dates from the 17th century, but the wall paintings in the church make it plain that the original buildings go back to 14th century.
The monastery is square with the ground plan of a fortress and a total area of 800 square meters.
Among the important portable icons in the church is one by Ioannis Kornaros known as "Great Art Thou, O Lord", dating from 1770. The paintings in the north aisle are from the 14th century.
The icon of Our Lady was found in a cave where there is a spring; its water is regarded as holy.
he palm forest of Vai stands about 27 kilometers away from the Toplou Monastery. The 5,000 palm trees stand in an attractive valley between two hills, arranged amphitheatrically and overlooking the golden beach. Here the landscape has changed once more: now it is tropical and idyllic.
According to the myths, the existence of the palm trees was attributed to the Phoenicians, who called here and threw away the stones of the dates they were eating. The trees, "vayia" in the local dialect, have given Vai its name.
Today the whole area and all routes of access to the beach are carefully fenced off and camping is strictly forbidden.
The main entrance is open from sunrise to sunset, and so the beauty of the landscape can still be enjoyed while slipping a cool drink in one of the pretty cafes.
No far from Vai stands the quiet sandy bay, Erimoupoli. This is the site of one of the most important cities of eastern Crete, ancient Itanos.
|The name comes from Itanos, one of the Kouretes, who brought up Zeus. According to the myths the Argonauts built a temple to Athena here. As archaeological finds have shown, Itanos was occupied between Minoan times and the Christian era. There was a large harbour, which would have acted as a way station on the routes between Crete and the Middle East. |
f you want to discover one more important archaeological site in this area you should get back the road, through the picturesque village of Palaiokastro to Zakros. The attractive village of Epano Zakros stands on two hills covered with fruit trees and olive. From here a surfaced road leads to an inviting sheltered bay where the village of Kato Zakros stands. Here recent investigation has revealed a large Minoan palace, the fourth largest in Crete and the only one to have escaped robbery. It was built around 1600 BC, covered an area of 8,000 square meters and had 180 rooms. The site of the palace is of great importance, since standing as it does on the east coast of Crete it would be in an ideal position to import goods from the East and sell them to the other palaces. Thus its harbour developed into a major commercial port and the whole Minoan 'thalassocracy' relied heavily upon it.
Photos and text taken from "Crete - today and yesterday"
and "Crete - A tour of all the towns and villages"
The south end of Greece