by Maud Vidal-Naquet LE FIGARO (translated from French)
Our travel guide essentials for Chania and its surroundings. Western Crete can be discovered from its capital with Venetian influences, a starting point for sublime beaches and the Samaria gorges.
Call it Chania, the locals also say Hania or Chania. One thing is certain: one can only fall in love with the most attractive city of Crete , which is a destination in its own right for lovers of Greece . Wrapping around its charming Venetian port and protected by walls, its historic center is a paradise for strolling on the quays and in its alleys. Long capital of the island, it is covered with Ottoman, Venetian, Jewish and Greek monuments.
This city vibrates constantly and is full of pretty trendy addresses: boutique hotels, young or sophisticated restaurants, tempting shops of designers or local products … Chania is an excellent base for exploring the western part of the island.
From Fort Firkas, which houses the maritime museum to the Nério Moro Docks , a stroll along the quays includes welcoming terraces and spectacular monuments: fortifications, the Janissaries’ mosque transformed into an exhibition hall, old Venetian arsenals and, just opposite, the 15th century lighthouse. which stands proudly at the end of the dike, the object of a magnificent walk …
In the old quarters, many old buildings have been converted. Thus the archaeological museum , housed in a magnificent Venetian church, is a must.
On Wednesday European Commission proposed to create a “Digital Green Certificate” to facilitate safe, unencumbered travel inside the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic, meant to save this summer.
The idea of a “Certificate” was proposed by Greece, with the support of the Mediterranean nations, in order to unlock travel for the summer holidays on 2021.
A proof that a person has been either: – vaccinated against COVID-19 – received a negative test result (RT-PCR) or recovered from COVID-19 would be the “Digital Green Certificate”.
“With the Digital Green Certificate, we are taking a European approach to ensure EU citizens and their family members can travel safely and with minimum restrictions this summer,” Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said.
Digital Green Certificate will include a QR code to ensure security and authenticity of the certificate and it will be available – free of charge – in digital or paper format. The Commission will build a gateway to ensure all certificates can be verified across the EU, and support Member States in the technical implementation of certificates.
Commissioner Reynders highlighted that the Digital Green Certificate will not be a pre-condition to free movement and will not discriminate in any way.
Moreover, according to the Commission:
– All people – vaccinated and non-vaccinated – should benefit from a Digital Green Certificate when travelling in the EU. To prevent discrimination against individuals who are not vaccinated, the Commission proposes to create not only an interoperable vaccination certificate, but also COVID-19 test certificates and certificates for persons who have recovered from COVID-19. – Same right for travellers with the Digital Green Certificate – where Member States accept proof of vaccination to waive certain public health restrictions such as testing or quarantine, they would be required to accept, under the same conditions, vaccination certificates issued under the Digital Green Certificate system. This obligation would be limited to vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation, but Member States can decide to accept other vaccines in addition. – Notification of other measures – if a Member State continues to require holders of a Digital Green Certificate to quarantine or test, it must notify the Commission and all other Member States and explain the reasons for such measures.
To be ready before the summer, the Commission’s proposal for the Digital Green Certificate needs a swift adoption by the European Parliament and the Council.
Green Certificate to support free movement
EU Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova said “The Digital Green Certificate offers an EU-wide solution to ensure that EU citizens benefit from a harmonized digital tool to support free movement in the EU”.
“This is a good message in support of recovery. Our key objectives are to offer an easy to use, non-discriminatory and secure tool that fully respects data protection. And we continue working towards international convergence with other partners.”
Due to COVID restrictions, all reservations– even those described as “Non Refundable”, that are scheduled for arrival on 2021, can be cancelled or postponed without any penalty or extra charge, for new reservation dates, for future accommodation, any time until the 31 December 2022.
Clean Monday, celebrated by the Orthodox Church, marks the beginning of the Great Fast, of the Forty Days Lent, the preparatory period before the great feast of Easter “Pascha”, one of the most important holiday in Christianity.
“Clean Monday” customs are date back to ancient times and includes flying kites (which are symbolic of the Resurrection) and consumption of very special delicacies:
Lagana, a special kind of “azyme” bread (unleavened) symbolizes the manna offered by God, which is baked only on that day
Halvas (Halvah) a semolina-based ahomemade plain and densely-grained confection made of ground sesame, sugar, water and oil, sweetened with honey or “petimezi” (grape must made syrup)
Taramas the small salty beads of the red caviar (fish roe)
A big variety of different rituals are kept and passed through generations, involving the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Greece.
Smashing Pomegranates for prosperity
On the night of New Year’s Eve, they hang a nice pomegranate over the front door. Minutes before the clock shows 00:00, the whole family exits the house. After the year change, one family member (usually a child) enters the house again, stepping carefully inside with the right foot. The specific family member has a special name that would follow him or her for the rest of year “First Footer” and he would be in charge of bringing good luck for each and every one on the house.
At the moment that the “First Footer” enters the house, one other from the family, grabs with the right hand the pomegranate and smashes it against the house door. The cause is to break pomegranate to many seeds and spread it in the room. According to tradition as more seeds fall over the floor, the more prosperity, good health and good fortune will be brought to the family of the house.
Vassilopita almond Cake for Saint Basil (the Greek version of Saint Nicolas)
At the New Year’s Eve celebration family dinner, “Vassilopita” is the special desert of the day. It is a an almond cake witch a baked coin inside, sliced up and served. The cutting of the cake is a small ceremony as the 1st cut goes to the new born Jesus, the 2nd to Agios Basil, the 3d to the house and the next slices to the family member from older to younger order. Even the members of the family that are not present are having their own slice of this special cake. The lucky member, that has the coin in his/her slice, is the one that would have good fortune for the new year.
For more Greek New Year’s Eve traditions click the link below:
Angela Epstein a journalist from Independent is describing in his article about her Greek vacation experience in the days of the pandemic.
The author writes: “For millennia, the Greeks have aced hospitality (filoxenia). In fact the ancients had a word for it – FiloXenia – which rendered sacred the imperative to show a warm welcome to those visiting far from home. “
As she if filling very safe in Greece spending her vacation in Crete she descripes: “There are so many other measures to admire too: the taxi driver who told us the police would pull him over if we didn’t wear masks, and the temperature checks before we entered the hotel building – not only for ourselves but for the cab driver, even though he ventured no further than the courtyard. And, of course, the mandatory wearing of masks at all times indoors – not simply in shops.”
I wish I was still in Greece to offer answers on a postcard. Though perhaps the biggest question of all is, why did I come back so soon?
If you are interested in this, check the full article in the link below:
Health protocols that are applied at Arcus Suites due to COVID-19
Action plan The Hotel has developed an action plan and individual protocols for each section of the establishment to take measures, prevent and manage suspected Covid-19 cases in order to limit the spread of the virus to staff and guests. The action plan is conformed by the recommendations of Greece’s public health organization – EODY. According to the plan, the hotel management has appointed a health coordinator to supervise that protocol is being followed and a doctor on call who will act on the instructions of EODY for testing suspected cases of Covid-19.
Communication The Hotel informed all stakeholders (employees, guests, contractors, suppliers, visitors and the public) on the measures of its action plan.
Hotel staff All staff members: • are aware of how the Covid-19 virus is transmitted and able to provide information to guests. • are trained on practices for cleaning and disinfecting identified spots, on following hygiene rules to avoid transmitting the virus (frequent hand washing, avoiding handshakes, physical distancing, avoiding contact of hands with eyes, nose and mouth and respiratory hygiene). • are provided with personal protective equipment (masks, gloves). • undergo thermal screening every morning.
Reception • Antiseptic for the guests, next to the hotel entrance. • Check in και Check out in outside area (when weather conditions allowed it). • Web – paperless Check in (e-concierge service) • Frequent disinfection of reception desks. • Staff members are keeping the appropriate distance (at least 1,5 meters from customers). • When requested, staff is capable to inform guests on the hotel’s rules and the new measures taken. • The Hotel provides information leaflets on basic health instructions and useful coronavirus-information for guests through the public screens and room TVs. • For any case of emergency, a medical kit is available which includes disposable gloves and masks, antiseptics, cleaning wipes, apron, long-sleeved robe and laser thermometer. • Staff is able to identify symptoms and report them to the health coordinator. • All key are disinfected. • Non-hotel guests are prohibited from entering hotels. • Mandatory extension of duration of check-out and check-in times between stays (check out by 11am and check in from 3pm) so that rooms can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and aired out through natural ventilation.
Cleaning, disinfection, housekeeping • The Hotel implements improved disinfection and deep cleaning practices in accordance to EODY instructions. • In addition to the normal cleaning procedures, the public areas, the main entrance, reception, door handles, counter tops, tables, handrails, elevator knobs and other “high-frequency “touch points” are being sanitized and disinfected frequently each day. • Hand sanitizers are present in each public area. • “Personal” hand sanitizers in each room • Guest rooms are receiving additional cleaning upon departure, paying particular attention to touch points. • The daily cleaning and change of sheets, pillowcases and towels is carried out only upon request from guests. • We have removed from all rooms, every object such as extra pillows, bedding and shared multi-purpose items such as menus, magazines, etc. • TV and other controls have disposable covers. • Fabric surfaces (e.g. furniture upholstery) are cleaned with a steam appliance. • If it is possible due to availability between stays of guests, the rooms remain empty and ventilated for 24 hours. • Customer information with special marking on when and how the room was cleaned.
Air condition in rooms • Room individual fan coil air condition filters, has been replaced with new washable. • Each room has an independent ventilation network. Ventilation systems provide fresh, clean air. Continuous ventilation is performed to prevent virus recurrence. • Regular maintenance and chemical cleaning of fan coil. • Continuous filter cleaning.
Public areas • Social distancing rules applied in public areas include lobby, seating area, outdoor seating, etc. • Signage and floor markings are present to remind customers to keep their distance from one another. • Installation of antiseptic solutions in all public areas.
Swimming pool • Number of bathers: the crowding density in hotel pools is calculated with an index of 5 m2 of water surface per person (total of 8 persons for 40sqm). • Physical distancing: • The layout of seats on swimming pool decks (sunbeds, chairs, sun loungers, etc.) should be such so that the distance between the ends of the seats of two people under two different umbrellas be at least 2 meters in each direction. • All sunbeds seats, tables, personal storage boxes, price lists and any other items should be disinfected after a guest leaves and before used by another guest.
Hotel log book For public health protection, hotel would keep an updated record of staff members and all guests staying at the hotel – name, nationality, date of arrival and departure, contact details (address, telephone, e-mail), so that communication is possible if a coronavirus case is identified at a later time. The General Regulation on Personal Data Protection (GDPR) would be observed and all staff members and guests must be informed that their information will be kept on file for reasons of public health protection. It is necessary to record and update all events that may occur in the log book.
On the way to the settlement of Kato Poros, east of the village of Argyroupoli, in the municipality of Rethymno, descending to a beautiful gorge, is the church and the tomb of the Saints Five Virgin’s and, next to it, five carved rooms on the rock, where, according to tradition, the ascetics virgins lived five saints, honored in the area.
The entire site is located in the area of the Greco-Roman cemetery of the ancient city of Lappa, (it is also called “Lappa cemetery”) which had recently been excavated with particularly important findings. The very tomb of the five saints, as well as the five carved rooms, where tradition places their ascetic life, are tombs of the Greco-Roman period, which were apparently used by the saints a few centuries later. It is one of the most important sanctuaries on the eastern side of the prefecture of Rethymno and one of the most beloved to our people Orthodox pilgrimages, with a history of centuries, recorded by Western European travelers since the 15th century.
Lappa was an ancient city of Crete, extremely important and the seat of a diocese, which probably included the settlement of Rithymna (today’s Rethymno). It was destroyed by the Arabs in the 9th century AD. Today’s Argyroupoli is built on the same location site, of great historical and archaeological importance. The city of Rethymno is watered from the waters of Argyroupoli, known also as “sources of Agia Dynami” or “Springs of Argyroupoli” or “Argyroupoli waterfalls”.
The Holy Five Virgins, from the time that the historical memory survives until 2014, were celebrated in their temple, which communicates with the place of their tomb, on the Tuesday of the sacramental week (Easter Tuesday) week after Easter, while on Holy Tuesday Christians from Argyroupoli, especially women, as well as from other villages in the area, went to the temple, cleaned, reminisced, lit candles and received from the holy water that gushes from the shrines of the saints. Since 2015, the Holy Metropolis of Rethymno and Avlopotamos and the parish of Argyroupoli have carried the celebration on the Saturday of Diakainisimos, as the most suitable day for the event.
During the Feast of the Five Saints, local shepherds lead their herds to the church location, which are blessed by pastors. Then they milking their sheep and after the end of the Divine Liturgy, they offer the milk to the pilgrims and the visitors, along with a piece of fresh Cretan cream cheese and local treatments. Milk is also sent by many breeders who are unable to attend. In fact, some of them they have arranged (promised) the supply of milk, praying for their flock, especially in cases of illness.
The names of the Saints Five Virgins are recorded in 1577 by Francesco Barozzi – who copies them from hagiography in their temple – as Thekla, Maria, Martha, Ennatha (or Enneim) and Mariamna. These saints, who are described as “Five Normal Virgos” (nuns, who lived in the world and, in parallel with their spiritual life, indulged in social work), are honored by the Orthodox Church on June 9, so For several years now, the church of the Holy Five Virgins in Argyroupoli has been operating on that day, but with less brilliance.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic measurements to stop the spread of the virus, this year the celebration had been moved to the Tuesday the 9th of June.
Undoubtedly, the most important testimony to the Holy Five Virgins is that of Francesco Barozzi, a 16th-century lord of Venetian Venetian, born in the village of Agios Konstantinos in Rethymno, near Argyroupoli. He was a mathematician with a variety of scientific interests, author of many books and founder in Rethymno of the Academy of Vivi (Living), the first club of scholars of the Renaissance in Greece. In 1577 he published the Description of Crete (Descrizione dell ’Isola di Creta), which states the following:
In the periphery of the city of Rethymno there are ruins that cover more than five miles; they belong to the ancient city of Lampi or, according to other authors, Lappi and Lappa. (…)
In the same valley, there are five carnivores in a cave, one next to the other, carved in stone, three long and two square, which were monuments to the Lappeans. There, after the destruction of the city during the period of persecution, five virgins, Rodion, Thekla, Mariamni, Anaim and Martha, were martyred, and their bodies were placed in these five sarcophagi.
From then until today a great miracle happens there: the carnivores are sometimes full of water and sometimes empty, sometimes some of them are full and the rest are empty, sometimes they are all half full, sometimes some full to the middle, more or less, and others completely full or completely empty. This water is not known where it comes from, because in the carnivores it is in no way distinguishable from where it gushes, nor does the cave drip from its roof, nor from where it leaves.
The water is sweet and very good, neither too cold nor too hot, but of moderate temperature, clear, clean and free from any kind of odor, easy to digest and healthy to drink. It is probably a holy grail, which is why many patients drink it with respect and are healed. Others still send there from remote areas to get water and this is maintained and never stinks. I can certify this myself, because I transferred it to Venice and it was preserved, nor did it ever smell.
This miracle appears every season of the year, both in winter and in summer. Sometimes in July, August and September, when the island’s waters are scarce, in summer it never rains in Crete, these carnivores are full of water, while in the winter the waters increase, they are empty and completely dry with dust inside. It also often happens that different people go there on the same day and some of them find them full and others empty, others half full, others one part full and the other empty; others happen to find them empty and, while they are still there, to they see them slowly filling up, without being able to locate where the water comes from, and others find them full and, while they remain there, they see them slowly emptying and remaining completely dry, without being able to see where they come from. the water leaves, which is truly wonderful and supernatural.
Due to this miracle, a small Orthodox church was built in the cave many years ago. The five virgins with their names are painted on its wall. The church is often visited by many locals and foreigners who go there to watch the service, see the miracle and drink with great reverence from that water and take with them, a fact that is unnoticeable and memorable.
“(Francesco Barozzi, Descrittione dell ‘Isola di Creta (Description of Crete) 1577/8, edited by Stefanos Kaklamanis, Vikelaia Municipal Library, Heraklion 2004, pp. 312-314; the Italian text on pp. 232-234).”
Translated from the article of Θεόδωρος Ι. Ρηγινιώτης (Theodoros I. Riginiotis):
2020 Season would start on the June 15, the day Greece will open welcoming back flights from abroad, as it was just announced (20/05/2020, 18:30)
Greek Prime Minster Kyriakos Mitsotakis had address the nation, announcing the plan to support economy, employment and tourism after the COVID-19 measurements.
“The transition from today’s uncertainty to tomorrow’s security is based on three pillars: employment support, tax cuts and boosting entrepreneurship,” he said.
Specifically referring to tourism business, the PM said “Greece’s 2020 season will begin on June 15th, coinciding with the date the country’s seasonal hotels will open their doors. Also Greece’s year-round hotels will open June 1st.
International flights will be welcoming from June 15th Greece, initially only at Athens International Airport. Starting From July 1st, all Greek airports will be open to flights from abroad.
According to Mitsotakis, Greece’s visitors will undergo sample tests when required and must abide by the country’s general health protocols (that would be announced soon), which however “will not cast a shadow over our bright sun or natural beauty”.
It was announced that Greece’s incoming tourists will not need to have a COVID-19 test prior to travel nor will they be quarantined after arrival in order to enjoy their stay.
Minister of Tourism Theoharis has announced detail schedule for “Restart tourism” planning. As he said:
“Αuthorities will boost the healthcare capacity of several tourist destinations by providing tests and doctors, as well as an operational plan for the handling of possible infections (a hotel doctor, quarantine areas and transfer to a health facility).
Tourists will be allowed to enter Greece without taking a coronavirus test or remaining in quarantine when international flights restart on July 1, but health officials will conduct spot tests when required”
Crete is not only famous for its ancient relics but also for the spectacular landscapes and renowned Cretan hospitality. To truly discover and explore Crete, you will need more than a week’s holiday, not even a month, a lifetime would be more like it and even then only a few people can tell you that they have seen all of Crete. It is almost impossible. Having already spent the past few summers on the island and in Rethymnon it was my first time visiting Argyroupolis.
I was invited to stay at the Arcus Luxury Suites in Argyroupolis which was the perfect opportunity to further explore the area and the nearby villages. Here are some of the places that I visited during my two day stay.
The highlights of Argyroupolis
Ancient Lappa was once a powerful Cretan city. Legend has it that is was founded by Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae, son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope. Today the village of Argyroupolis stands on the site which was once the ancient city of Lappa.
A number of Venetian mansions can be found here till this day and excavations in the area have uncovered remarkable finds which trace back to the Late Geometric period. Loukia who is a local of Argyroupolis took us on a tour of her authentic, traditional family home.
The springs of Argyroupolis
The springs of Argyroupolis are one of the highlights of the area. Numerous small waterfalls dominate the village, shaded by ancient plane trees.
There is also a very small church inside a rock, the chapel of Agia Dynami (Holy Force). The water which flows the chapel is said to be miraculous.
There is a plethora of taverns which serve grilled trout which guests can catch directly from the springs and have it grilled to order.
The church of Agia Kyriaki
This tiny church of Agia Kyriaki is located on the banks of the Mousellas river next to the famous Springs of Argyroupolis.
Featuring 11th and 13th century murals it was built on the site of what used to be a Roman bathhouse.
The church of the Holy Five Virgins
The church of the Holy Five Virgins located at a close proximity from the village of Argyroupolis and is an important historical site.
The church is dedicated to the Five Holy Virgins Thekla, Marianna, Ethane or Athena, Martha and Mary, who are believed to have died here.
The church was built on the ground of the ancient Roman tombs carved in the marly limestone rock. An impressive site indeed.
Panagia Antifonitria in Miriokefala
Miriokefala is a mountainous village which is located on the border of Rethymnon and Chania.
A short drive away from Argyroupolis the village is famous for the monastery of Panagia Antifonitria which is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete, founded in the 11th century.
The monastery celebrates on September 8 and 12 and many pilgrims walk up towards the monastery, starting a few days before the celebration.
New friends take you to places you have never been before. When our friend Andreas told us about visiting the Kallikratis village up in the mountains, we couldn’t resist his kind offer.
First we stopped for a Greek coffee at the most impressive little coffee shop I have ever seen. It is owned by Babis and his wife, who have a great passion for herbs and make their own jams, oils and other delicacies.
Whatever you do, this place should be on your list of places to see when you end up in Chania. We then headed towards the Kallikratis Gorge which lies on the southeast of Lefka Ori (White Mountains). The view from here is unbelievable!
The mountainous road that leads from Argyroupolis will give you the opportunity to explore the small villages and scenery. It might take you around 40 minutes or more to get to Lake Kournas which is the only fresh water lake in Crete.
During the summer it usually gets quite busy as it is a favourite destination for both locals and tourists. There are tavernas and coffee shops in the area and you can also rent a pedal boat to explore the lake and the natural surroundings.
Where to eat in Argyroupolis
Tavern Arhaia Lappa (Ancient Lappa)
On both evenings we had dinner at the Tavern Arhaia Lappa (Ancient Lappa) which serves delicious Greek food. We exchanged travel stories with our new friends who are worldwide travellers and are keen on exploring the world!
Over dinner we spoke about the famous Cretan snail dish and our friend Andreas told us that he knows a secret place that has the best snails. The next day he was out at 07:30 in the morning collecting snails for our dinner.
This is what makes Crete special. The generosity and thoughtfulness of its people. No hospitality can ever beat the Cretan hospitality.
Thank you Eleni and Yiannis Deligiannakis for your warm hospitality at Arcus Suites Rethymno Crete, Θόλος Σουίτες Ρέθυμνο Κρήτης member of the Guest Inn – The Greek network of rural accommodation, your sweet parents Argyro and Kanakis, and their special friend Andreas. Last but not least, Loukia for taking us on an interesting tour of her authentic and traditional family house.
If you haven’t been to Argyroupolis before, we hope that this post will inspire you to go!