You are in Crete and the only thing your kids want to do is visit the beach or chill by the swimming pool.
Crete has dozens of beaches with some of them quite spectacular. You know they are actually reason no. 1 to visit this Greek island. But you also know that Crete has so much more to offer: monasteries, temples, churches, historic towns!
Your plea for doing ‘something cultural’ however seems to fall on deaf ears.
But on that one morning you find yourself driving your rental car. Your lovely wife sitting beside you, smiling and always willing to accompany you on those cultural trips. The kids are enjoying themselves by the swimming pool, happy to be left alone for a while. Teenagers…
Windows down. The smell of a dry and long summer enters the car. We drive through tiny villages and olive groves. Roads full of hairpin turns take us to 500m above sea level.
Sometimes it feels like time is not on your side. You’re on holiday but with hardly enough time to visit all those interesting (“must-visit”) places. The only way to get time on your side is to focus on one specific destination and enjoy that one to the fullest.
Time picked the Arkadi monastery for us. I was fascinated by a picture of Arkadi’s façade, a beautiful example of Venetian architectural style. But there was more.
Behind this striking façade there was an important story waiting to be discovered.
The monastery played a crucial role during the Revolution against the Turkish (Ottoman) domination in 1866. A revolution that changed the course of the island of Crete.
Not knowing that the monastery is actually a symbol of self-sacrifice, freedom and heroism, we entered the gate.
During the 1866 besiege of the central Rethymnon district around 1,000 people (many of them women and children) found shelter in the monastery. When the Ottomans managed to enter the monastery after days of fighting, these people collected all ammunition, gathered in a former wine cellar and blew themselves up (taking hundreds of Ottoman soldiers with them). Death rather than surrender. An ultimate sacrifice. The Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery is a tragic symbol of the struggle for Cretan independence, something that was finally achieved in 1898.
The dead tree on the premises is a silent witness of the great battle of 1866. A white arrow indicates a bullet in its dead bark, fired by one of the Ottoman soldiers. All these stories make this place a special destination, it creates better understanding of Cretan history, and for us it was the perfect cultural trip. Time well spent.
Next up: Cretan beaches.