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Municipal Unit of Georgioupoli

Georgioupoli is a seaside settlement located in the Gulf of Almiros. The first settlement in this area was built on the hill of Venou Kefala, where the ancient city of Amphimalion or Amphimalla, port of ancient Lappa (today Argiroupoli), gradually developed. The area seems to have been abandoned during the early Byzantine period, but in the early 13th century the Venetians realized its importance and built two small fortresses called Kastelakia or Paliokastela in Greek and Castello dell’ Almiro in Italian. The Venetian censuses did not mention a settlement with a permanent population, but the fortifications must have had a permanent garrison.

At least one of these fortresses continued to exist during the Turkish occupation, until it was destroyed in 1821 by a group of rebels under Protopapadakis. The Ottomans did not attempt to rebuild it, and as a result, the “strait of Almiros” became a den of robbers and smugglers in the following decades. This was also caused by the fact that the Almiros River was navigable for several hundred meters from its mouth, while the rocky shores to the north offered cover from land attack or fire. This situation began to change in 1880, when Miltiadis Papadogiannakis, a merchant in Athens originally from Kalamitsi, settled in the area with the aim of draining the swamps and turning the area into an arable plain, which would be irrigated with the water of the Almiros river. Despite the difficulties and adversities, the new settlement he founded as Armiroupoli began to attract new residents in 1893, while the marsh was drained and hundreds of eucalyptus and other trees were planted, many of which still exist today. The transformation of the marsh into a small town was completed in 1899 when the settlement was renamed Georgioupoli in honor of the first High Commissioner of Crete, Prince George (1898-1906).

Georgioupoli developed significantly during the first decades of the 20th century, experienced a recession in the middle of it and continued to develop after the “re-discovery” of Crete by European visitors in the 70s, as a result of which it developed into a popular tourist resort. Apart from its long sandy beaches, other points of interest are the Almiros river bridge and the church of Agios Nikolaos, which used to be an island and is now connected to the land by a pier.

Administratively, Georgioupoli includes the settlements of Asprouliani, Mathes, Kavallos and Mouri. Armiroupoli was mentioned as part of the Municipality of Mathes in 1881, Georgioupoli of the Municipality of Georgioupoli from 1900 to 1915 and an independent community from 1915 to 1999, when the Municipality of Georgioupoli was reconstituted and then became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Dramia is located at the eastern end of the Municipality of Apokoronas, at an altitude of 42 meters to the west of the Mouselas river, which is the boundary between the Regional Units of Chania and Rethimno. In the past the estuary was marshy, causing the area to be plagued by malaria. The village was named after the ancient city of Hydramia, which was founded in the Minoan era around Kefala Hill, but flourished during Roman times. A clay urn from the post-palatial period (1360-1200 BC) was found in the village, one of the few that have been found in western Crete.

According to tradition, the village was (re)founded by shepherds from Sfakia who came down from the mountain in the winter and returned to the mountains of Sfakia in the summer months. One of them was Captain Manias, who accompanied and translated well-known European travelers, such as Robert Pashley and Thomas Spratt. In the list of the 100 cities of Crete preserved in the Marcian Library of Venice, the city “Idramia, allogiamento de forestieri, era ove hora e il casale Dramia nel confine tra Rettimmo e la Canea” is mentioned (Hydramia, a place where foreigners live, was where today the village of Dramia is located, on the border between [the regions of] Rethimno and Chania”). The village was mentioned as Dhramio Flari by Barozzi in 1577, Adramia by Castrofilaca in 1583, Dramia by Basilicata in 1630 and Dhrámia by Pashley in 1834.

The monastery of Agios Georgios (Doubrika), a metochi of the Miriokefalon monastery founded by Agios Ioannis Xenos in the 10th century, was near the village. The monastery was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1770 and rebuilt later, but it does not exist today. On 31 March 1896, the Reformers clashed with the Ottoman garrison of Episkopi in Dramia and won, as a result of which their influence extended to the mainland of Rethimno, and on 10 April another battle took place – although the outcome was ambiguous – in Sellia of Agios Vasilios.

The village remained in obscurity during most of the 20th century, but at the end of it the area started attracting tourists, as Dramia is located near beautiful beaches and several points of interest (Georgioupoli, Kournas lake, Argiroupoli springs), while it is easily accessible from Chania, Rethimno and other areas of Crete. Thanks to these advantages, Dramia quickly developed into an important resort, which today boasts accommodation and infrastructure of all kinds, from rooms to rent to hotels, restaurants and cafés.

Administratively, Dramia was part of the Municipality of Mathes in 1881, of the Municipality of Georgioupoli from 1900 to 1915, and part of the Filaki community from 1915 to 1999, when it again became part of the reconstituted Municipality of Georgioupoli which became part of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Exopoli (or Xopoli) is built at an altitude of 133 meters on a mountainside overlooking the Gulf of Almiros. The village used to be called Chrisoupoli, a name that possibly came from the fact that it flourished during the Roman and Byzantine periods as a commercial hub between the mainland of Apokoronas and the area around the Gulf of Almiros. The village was mentioned by Barozzi as Ghrussopoli in 1577, by Castrofilaca as Argiromuri Chrussopulli in 1583 and by Basilicata as Assogieromuri Chrussopoli in 1630. In the Egyptian census of 1834 two distinct villages were mentioned with the names Xopolis and Azoeromuri, which became Xopolis and Argiromouri of the Municipality of Vamos in 1881. Exopoli passed into obscurity after the establishment of Georgioupoli at the beginning of the 20th century, although the tourist development of the latter also favored Exopoli.

In the center of the village is the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin and Agios Dimitrios, which has the extremely rare feature of having one aisle and one dome, but two holy altars and two sanctuary niches. The master craftsman of this church was Giorgis Giorgarakis from Kefalas, while the creator of its impressive altarpiece, Papagiannis Prinolis or Prinolakis, was also from Kefalas. The church began to be built in 1888 and was inaugurated in 1908. It hosts the only banner created based on the flag of the Cretan State, made in 1901 in Athens (the upper left square of the flag was painted blue in 1913). Another important church is that of Agios Vasilios, which is estimated to have been built by Agios Ioannis Xenos in the 13th century.

In addition to its churches, Exopoli is known for the custom of “throwing the bell”, which takes place on the celebration of Agios Georgios (23 April) in the Argiromouri neighborhood. The village priest puts gunpowder, garlic, salt and incense inside a bell, and then throws the bell to the goats and sheep gathered in front of the church. The first animal to touch the bell wears it for life, protecting the owner and his family from evil.

Administratively, the village was part of the Municipality of Vamos in 1881 and 1900, the seat of the homonymous rural municipality in 1920 and part of the Georgioupoli Community in 1928. In 1951 the village was part of the Kalamitsi Amigdali Community, a status it retained until the re-establishment of the Municipality of Georgioupoli in 1999, which became a Municipal District of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010. Kalivaki beach, between the Almiros and Vlichada rivers, pertains to Exopoli.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Kavallos is located at an altitude of 72 meters, on the eastern shore of Lake Kournas. The origin of the name “Kavallos” is not known, but in ancient times the lake was known as Korisia and it is believed that there was a sanctuary in honor of Athena Korisia on its shores. The name “Kournas” is estimated to have been given to the lake and the adjacent settlement during the Arab period (8th century-961), as kourna or gourna means “lake” in Arabic. However, the inhabitants of the area moved to the village of Kournas (2.5 kilometers southeast) during the second Byzantine period (961-1252), as a result of which the lakeside settlement was abandoned. During the Venetian rule, no village was mentioned around the lake, but during the Turkish rule, three were created: Kavallos on its eastern shore, Mouri further east (altitude: 46 meters) and Xiladiana, between Kavallos and Kournas (altitude: 115 meters).

As for the formation of the lake, legend says that one day a villager who lived here went to the fields with his daughter. On the road they sat somewhere to rest and the daughter started combing her blonde hair. While initially admiring her, the father suddenly lusted after her and threw himself at her. The daughter was surprised and cried out in despair: “I’m a ghost in the lake!“. Immediately the place sank inward and a lake formed, which the daughter haunted. It is even said that at night some residents sometimes see a girl sitting on a rock combing her hair.

Regardless of legends and popular beliefs, Lake Kournas is the only natural lake in Crete and the largest natural lake on an island in the Mediterranean. It is fed by surface streams and two underground springs and is drained by the Delfinas River, which empties into the Gulf of Almiros between Asproulianos and Kavros. The murky waters in the center of the lake led to the legend that it had no bottom, but soundings carried out in the mid-20th century showed that it is no more than 23 meters deep (its deepest point is 3.5 meters below sea level). Its dimensions change during the year, but its maximum area reaches 579 acres and its volume 7.5 million cubic meters. The lake is an important natural habitat for fish and migratory birds and it is a Bird Protection Area that has been included in the Natura 2000 network. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants on the eastern shore of the lake, and it is popular to go around it by pedal boat or on foot.

Administratively, the villages of the area were first mentioned as Xiladiana and Kavallos of the Municipality of Mathes in 1881 and are included in the villages referred to as “Kournopatimata”. In 1900 only Xiladiana was mentioned as part of the Municipality of Georgioupoli and in 1920 only Kavallos, in the same municipality, which has been referred to as Kavallos from 1940 onwards. The above villages became part of the Community of Georgioupoli in 1980 and the reconstituted Municipality of Georgioupoli in 1999 which became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Kalamitsi Amigdali is located at an altitude of 141 meters south of the heights of Vamos, between Kalamitsi Alexandrou and Exopoli. According to tradition, the village used to produce almonds in large quantities in the past, and for this reason it was called Amigdalou, which eventually became Amigdali. We have no information on when exactly the village was founded, but it was mentioned by Barozzi in 1577 as Calamici Amighdalea, a name slightly modified as Calamici Amigdalu by Castrofilaca in 1583 and as Calamici (plain, in contrast to the neighboring Calamici Alissandro) by Basilicata in 1630. In the Egyptian census of 1834 it was recorded as Kalamitzi, although it is not clear whether this name refers to Alexandrou, Amigdali or both. The two villages were mentioned again in Kritika written by Hourmouzis Byzantios in 1842 as Kalamitsi Pera (Alexandrou) and Kalamitsi Pode (Amigdali).

In recent history, Kalamitsi Amigdali was the village where the confrontation between the Christians of Crete and the Powers during the Theriso revolt peaked, as at the beginning of October 1905 a Russian army under Konstantinos Urbanovich occupied Georgioupoli, reached Kalamitsi Amigdali and demanded the delivery of Vamos within 36 hours. The revolutionaries rejected his claim and strengthened their positions, forcing him to negotiate with them in Kalamitsi. However, the British consul Esme Howard agreed with Eleftherios Venizelos to end the revolt, in exchange for the formation of an international commission of inquiry that would visit Crete and propose reforms.

Today, Kalamitsi Amigdali is known for its narrow streets, the old fountain in the village square and the church of Agios Pavlos, which was built at the beginning of the 19th century. There is also a Silk Cooperative in the village, known for the beautiful traditional silk textiles made by the women of the village. To the southeast of the village is Vakles, a wonderful natural area with plane trees and running water. From there a path leads to the chapel of Agia Eleousa, which was a shelter for armed men during the Turkish occupation. When the Ottomans found out about this place, they sent a force to destroy it, and as a result, only its altar exists today. Under the rock that covers the chapel, a stalactite has been created by the water of the springs in the area.

Administratively, the village was part of the Municipality of Vamos in 1881 and 1900, seat of the homonymous rural municipality in 1920 and part of the community of Georgioupoli in 1928. In 1951 it became the seat of the homonymous community, and in 1999, part of the reconstituted Municipality of Georgioupoli which became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Kastellos is located in the southeast of Apokoronas, at an altitude of 227 meters at the foot of the White Mountains. It is a picturesque semi-mountainous village built along an elongated hill that stretches from south to north and offers a panoramic view from Georgioupoli to Petres in the north, Kournas in the west and Filaki in the east. Because of its fortified position, the village was named castello (i.e. castle) by the Venetians, from which its current hellenized name arose. The village was mentioned as Castello by Barozzi in 1577, Castello et Patima by Castrofilaca in 1583 and Castello by Basilicata in 1630. Given that the hill was used mainly for defensive purposes, the main settlement was formerly located low on the northern edge of the hill, in a location called Agathes or Agathias.

However, around 1800 the villagers moved and settled on the hill so that they would be protected from attacks from the lowlands. This move proved to be apt, as in a fierce battle that took place in 1835 in the village, the Ottomans lost 22 men, while the locals lost only one. Realizing that it was difficult to effectively control the area, the Ottomans established a garrison in neighboring Episkopi, but did not attempt another attack on Kastellos. Due to its mountainous nature and the unruly nature of its inhabitants, the village also played an important role during the German occupation (1941-1945), during which the village was a temporary refuge for several guerrilla groups.

In addition to its historical wealth, the village is also known for its natural beauty, as in the ravine that separates it from Kournas there is an impressive forest of holm oaks, a unique species of oak that can reach 25 meters in height and whose leaves do not have the usual shape, but resemble those of the olive tree. In an elevated position to the south of the village there are ruins of a tower, one of the many that the Ottomans built after the revolution of 1866-1869 to control the mountain villages and the crossings between them. The village has seen significant growth in recent years, as several old houses have been restored to become guesthouses and tourist accommodation, respecting the tradition and architecture of the place.

Administratively, the village was  part of the Municipality of Mathes in 1881, of the Municipality of Georgioupoli in 1900 and the seat of the homonymous rural municipality in 1920. Kastellos was an independent community from 1926 to 1999, when it was annexed to the Municipality of Georgioupoli which became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Kournas is located at an altitude of 210 meters to the east of Apokoronas, at the northeastern foothills of Mount Dafnomadara. The name of the village means “lake” in Arabic (pronounced kurna or gurna) and is apparently connected to the adjacent lake, on the banks of which the village used to be. The movement of its inhabitants to the current location must have taken place during the second Byzantine period (961-1252), as in the churches of Agios Georgios and Agia Irini there are remains of Byzantine frescoes that are preserved in good condition. The oldest recorded reference to the village is in a power of attorney of Stefanos Sahlikis in 1356 to Emmanuel Melissinos, a resident of the settlement of Kournas (Hemanueli Melissino, habitatori casalis Curna). The village was mentioned again as Curna by Barozzi in 1577, by Castrofilaca in 1583 and by Basilicata in 1630.

Encouraged by the proclamation of the revolution in southern Greece in the spring of 1821, that same July hundreds of armed Christians began to gather outside Kournas, where Sherif Pasha from Rethimno attacked them with 15,000 men and succeeded in exterminating them. Thanks to this surprise, the Ottomans managed not only to regain control of the area, but also to pass through the straits of Almiros without encountering resistance, subsequently destroying many villages of Apokoronas. Kournas also played an important role during the revolution of 1866-1869, when it became for a while the seat of the Revolutionary Government, while in 1897 it temporarily became the seat of the General Assembly of Cretans.

Apart from its historical wealth, Kournas is also known for its natural beauty. West of the village at Keratide there is a large cave with impressive stalactites and stalagmites, while in the ravine that separates it from Kastellos there is an impressive forest of holm oaks, a unique type of oak that can reach 25 meters in height and its leaves look like those of the olive tree.

In the middle of the 20th century, the settlement of Paralia Kourna or Kavros was founded on the beach north of the village. The original name indicates that many inhabitants of the new settlement came from Kournas, while the second one comes from the river that defines its eastern borders with Dramia, where it is said that there were many crabs (kavroi). The western end of Kavros is the Delfinas River, which comes from Lake Kournas and flows into the Gulf of Almiros. Thanks to its long beach with clean sand and crystal clear waters, Kavros has developed in recent years into a popular tourist resort where one can find all kinds of infrastructures and services.

Administratively, Kournas was part of the Municipality of Mathes in 1881, an independent community in 1920 and part of the Municipality of Georgioupoli in 1999 which became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Mathes is located at an altitude of 155 meters south of Georgioupoli, in a verdant landscape overlooking the Gulf of Almiros and the heights of Vamos and Kefalas to the north. The name of the village possibly comes from a certain Mattheos who settled first in the area (the name is also pronounced Mathios or Mathes in the Cretan dialect), while according to another theory it is related to the fact that it was one of the few villages that had a school, where children from the surrounding villages went, hence Mathes (the Greek word matheno means learn). In any case, the village is popularly known as Mathes (masculine), although locals also refer to it as Mathe (neuter). The village was mentioned by Barozzi as Mathea in 1577, by Castrofilaca as Mathé in 1583 and by Basilicata as Mathia in 1630. In the Egyptian census of 1834 it was mentioned as Mathès, at which time it had 15 Christian families.

In the Venetian census of churches of 1637, the church of Michael the Archangel in Mathes was mentioned, but today the church of Agios Antonios, at the entrance of the village from the side of Georgioupoli, is better known. Although it looks like an ordinary chapel from the outside, its interior hides an interesting story, as many years ago a carob tree grew on its roof, the roots of which gradually embraced the building from roof to floor. During a fire in 1982 the tree was burnt, but the interior of the chapel and the carob roots were saved. An impressive century-old olive tree is also preserved in Mathes, which according to the locals is hundreds of years old. Its form and volume impress the visitor, while making this tree a unique monument of nature.

Administratively, Mathes was the seat of the municipality of the same name in 1881, which stretched from Embrosneros to Asi Gonia and had a population of 4,187 people, of which only 8 were Muslims. In 1900 the village became part of the Municipality of Georgioupoli and part of the community of Georgioupoli from 1925 to 1997, when the Municipality of Georgioupoli was reconstituted which then became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Mouri is located at an altitude of 46 meters to the east of Lake Kournas, approximately in the middle of the valley formed between the foothills of the White Mountains, Georgioupoli and the River Mouselas. In ancient times the lake was known as Korisia and on its shores it is believed that there was a sanctuary in honor of Athena Korisia, while during the Arab occupation (8th-10th century) a village was founded on its banks, which was abandoned during the second Byzantine period as its inhabitants moved 2.5 kilometers southeast to the area where the village of Kournas is today.

The area of the lake seems to have remained uninhabited for several years since then, as no village was mentioned around it in the Venetian censuses. According to oral tradition, Mouri was founded at the end of the 18th century by people who came from the village of Mouri in the province of Sfakia. The name “Mouri” is usually used to describe a location overlooking the surrounding area, which applies to both the old settlement ( Mouri of Sfakia) and the new one (Mouri of Apokoronas). The village was mentioned in the Egyptian census of 1834 as Muri, when it was inhabited by 10 Christian and 2 Muslim families.

In the village there are two churches, one at its western end, dedicated to Saints Anargyroi, and one at its eastern end, dedicated to Agios Ioannis Rigologos ( celebrated on 29 August). Next to the first of them, a school was built and operated at the end of the 19th century, but after the establishment of Georgioupoli in 1900, the school and the students were moved there. However, the place was remodeled a few years ago and now houses the Kindergarten of Georgioupoli.

Administratively, the village was referred to as Moure of the Municipality of Mathes in 1881, of the Municipality of Georgioupoli in 1900 and of the community of Georgioupoli after 1920, part of which it remained ever since. In 1971 the settlement of Dimitrouliana was abolished and annexed to Mouri. The village became part of the reconstituted Municipality of Georgioupoli in 1997 which became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Patima is located at an altitude of 238 meters in the southeast of Apokoronas, built on a hill with an excellent view towards Kastellos, the Gulf of Almiros and the plain of Episkopi. The origin of the name of the village is not known, but it is estimated to have been founded during the Venetian occupation, when it was chosen as a garrison seat. The village was mentioned by Barozzi as Patima in 1577, by Castrofilaca as Castello et Pattima in 1583 and by Basilicata as Patima in 1630. The village was also mentioned in the Egyptian census of 1834, according to which it had 15 Christian and 2 Muslim families, while it is historically and economically connected to the villages of Kastellos and Kournas, and this is why the wider area is known as “Kournopatimata”.

Intense conflicts took place in Patima during the revolutions of 1821 and 1866, as due to its fortified location it controlled a large part of the area west of the river Mouselas and the access points to Asi Gonia and the mountain. According to Kritovoulidis, on 2 August 1821, “about three thousand Turks attacked the fortified Greeks around Patima and Kastellos. The battle continued stubbornly throughout the day, but both bravely held their positions. As soon as it got dark, nine of the Greeks fell, and sixty of the Turks ,and many were wounded“. For this reason they retreated to Dramia, from where they moved the next day towards the straits of Almiros (today Georgioupoli). Something similar happened in 1866, so the Ottomans built a tower to the west of the village in order to better control the area.

On the western side of the village is the Byzantine church of Agioi Theodoroi, which was built in the 15th century and is decorated with remarkable frescoes. The 17th century church of Agios Antonios, just outside the village, as well as the ruins of Venetian buildings that are scattered around it are also very interesting.

Administratively, Patima was part of the Municipality of Mathes in 1881, of the Municipality of Georgioupoli in 1900, of the community of Kournas in 1925 and of the community of Kastellos after 1926. In 1997 Patima became part of the reconstituted Municipality of Georgioupoli which became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

Filaki (or Flaki) is located at an altitude of 111 meters at the eastern end of Apokoronas, near the river Mouselas which is the border between the Regional Units of Chania and Rethimno. It is estimated that the village got its name from the prisons that existed here during the late Ottoman period, or the outposts that existed along the river which used to be navigable, as evidenced by the existence of old water mills near its banks.

The area seems to have been inhabited in ancient times, as a vaulted tomb of the Late Minoan era was found northwest of the village, which is estimated to have been built between the years 1370-1200 BC. The tomb had been looted, but archaeologists found some interesting grave goods, including silver and stone rings, and seal stones. The current village seems to have been founded during the Venetian occupation, as it was mentioned by Barozzi as Dhramio Flari (together with Dramia) in 1577, by Castrofilaca as Flachi in 1583 and by Basilicata with the same name in 1630. It was also mentioned in the Egyptian census of 1834, according to which it was inhabited by 25 Christian and 4 Muslim families.

In 1880, Filaki became for about a year the seat of the Prefecture of Sfakia (Sancak-i İsfakiye), during which time the prison and court buildings were built, which are preserved to this day. Apart from these, the church of Agia Anna is of particular interest, inside which there is an elaborate tomb with the coat of arms of the Kallergis, a family that played a particularly important role in Crete during the Venetian occupation. Another point of interest is the old Primary School of the village, which was built during the last term of office of Eleftherios Venizelos (1928-1932) and has been declared a monument, while the entire settlement has been included in the list of Traditional Settlements of Greece (Government Gazette 594/13 -11-1978).

Administratively, Filaki was part of the Municipality of Mathes in 1881, the Municipality of Georgioupoli in 1900, the rural municipality of Kastellos in 1920 and the community of Kastellos in 1926, from which it was separated in 1949 and became an independent community, to which Dramia also pertained. In 1997 Filaki became part of the reconstituted Municipality of Georgioupoli which became a Municipal Unit of the Municipality of Apokoronas in 2010.

Editing & editing of texts: Giorgos Limantzakis

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