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2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

Far North Queensland
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2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

We are planning a trip to Crete next year and looking for advice on how to best get around as well as ideas for places to go (my husband and I, mid-60s, with our 35 yo daughter). We like a mix of historical sites and natural landscapes, but our Crete trip will also be a tribute to my father, who served in the Battle of Crete in WWII and was one of the organisers of an escape from Agia Galini.

We plan to come in late May and would like to attend one observance and visit some of the places he would have seen. Like all the allied troops, he was very grateful for the help given by the Cretan people.

We don’t want to hire a car – coping with mountainous roads and signs in foreign language on top of going against a lifetime of reflexes attuned to driving on the left hand side of the road does not sound like a relaxing holiday.

Our daughter has only 12 days including arrival and departure dates, we may arrive a few days before. We want to see how long we need before booking.

Any recommendations for local travel companies who could arrange personalised trips? Where could I find a list of 2014 Battle of Crete observances?

So far, our list includes:

Heraklion – Knossos & archaeological museum

Chania – old town

Rethymno – old town

Visit to Rethymno battle sites hopefully with someone who can point out the places where my father’s machine gun platoon was during the battle: Hill B near the wartime Rethymno airport and nearby village of Perivolia

Attend Battle of Crete observance around Rethymno or in the mountains towards Agia Galini

Travel by bus, taxi or jeep from Rethymno to Agia Galini

Trip to Moni Preveli and/or Moni Arkady

Gorge walk - Samaria Gorge short or other recommended

Jeep tour to scenic attractions hopefully including wildflowers if they are still in bloom

Thanks

Tenterden, United...
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1. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

You may find some interesting information in this previous thread.

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g189413-i424-k69…

As you will be travelling so far for this trip perhaps you should reconsider hiring a car if you want to get the most out of your trip. It is much easier than it looks. Give it a day or so to see how you feel as there are plenty of car hire places you could consider.

Rethymnon, Greece
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2. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

Hi there!

Please accept my thanks for your father's effort during the battle of Crete.

In the thread marg001 said, I have mentioned places of interest about WW2 in Rethymnon.

Every year from about the 18th of May to the 22nd there are various exibitions, are held in the town. From photographic exibitions to military representatives from Australia and England giving honor to the 2 monuments of Battle of Crete in Rethymnon. I'm not sure of the exact scedule but as the time goes by, details will be published, and I can tell you all about it. They start from Rethymnon and then to the (former) airport of Latzimas, and end at the Preveli monastery. I can also find and ask someone who I think knows of the exact point of the machine guns in Perivolia. There was another strong point in a church above Missiria. You can see it from the National road, it's over the fist exit to Rethymnon coming from Heraklion. I know because my grandfather was there. I think there used to be a cemetery at that place with Australians that later was transfered to the Suda bay war cemetery.

Maybe you could contact the authorities of Australia, as I see many Aussies, children or even still the participants of the battle, having tags on them as honored guests.

leicester
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3. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

As has been stated you would be better hiring car you do not have to worry about signs as the first are in greek

then after they are in english after a couple of trips you also get used to driving you just give others room to overtake i'm in my 70s if its any use I would recomend the camari gardens to base yourselves its just on the outskirts of Rethymon and car hire best cars they even give you a satnav free

Devizes, United...
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4. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

Hi there

The roads on the island are very good, you won't need a jeep or 4 x 4 unless you intend going off road. They are indeed twisting and steep in places where the routes cross the mountains but they are still well-surfaced and generally well maintained. Once away from the major north coast towns, traffic is generally light. Tales of "crazed" Greek driving are over exaggerated and if you take your time and just take a bit of care, you'll be amazed at how quickly you become attuned to driving on the right. It's the same for Brits, we have to adjust too but I wouldn't dream of not hiring a car on the island, it makes things so much easier.

Bristol, United...
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for Messenia Region, Laconia Region, Magnesia Region
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5. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

Years ago we were in the west of Crete around 21/22 May and there were coachloads of elderly WWII veterans everywhere.. In Hora Sfakion there were very moving ceremonies taking place and we felt privileged to be there and see them. Have you contacted any ANZAC veterans' organisations as they may be able to help with arrangements or at least advice?

Sale, United Kingdom
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6. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

While I agree that it would be best to hire a car, there is a good bus service to more or less all the places you mention. The current winter timetables are here:

bus-service-crete-ktel.com/timetabledet.php…

bus-service-crete-ktel.com/timetabledet.php…

bus-service-crete-ktel.com/timetabledet.php…

bus-service-crete-ktel.com/timetabledet.php…

and any others can be accessed from here:

bus-service-crete-ktel.com/timetable.php

By the middle of May, expect there to be at least 1 or 2 later buses to points on the south coast.

In my opinion, you should stay in at least 2 places - Rethymnon and Chania would seem ideal. There is a lot to see in Chania, not least Souda bay cemetery and the Maritime museum, and of course the town itself, but also there are other sites further west. All of these are accessible from Rethymnon as well, but involve an extra 2 hours+ on the bus for the return trip from Rethymnon to Chania. Also I think a visit to Chora Sfakion will be a good trip for you as well - perhaps you could incorporate that with your short Samaria walk (I presume you mean the one described (inaccurately!) as 'lazy way'?) Or you could do a shorter gorge walk such as Imbros.

There is a lot of stuff on the other thread, and further links from it as well. Have a good look and come back with any more questions.

Gerlion, what a simple but very touching message to FNQJen, and of course very relevant today of all days. If you find out any more information about the exact whereabouts of positions in and near Rethymnon, please post them all on here - I would be fascinated to see them as well.

London, United...
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7. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

Here are two suggestions for visits I think you'd find particularly interesting and moving.

1. The memorial at Moni Preveli owes much to the inspiration and gratitude of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who sheltered there and were protected by the monks during the occupation. (So Preveli shouldn't be an "or" , but neither should Arkadi: go to both, if you possibly can.) One of the Australians, Geoff Edwards, later built a chapel for Western Australia's Greek community Prevelly in Australia to show his gratitude. You can read about him here:

www.explorecrete.com/preveli/prevelly.html

and about the memorial at Preveli here

www.explorecrete.com/preveli/project.html

2. The Imbros Gorge, suggested by Steve, is a beautiful walk, a little less than half the length of Samaria, and perfectly do-able as long as you are all reasonably fit. More to the point for you, it's the route taken by the soldiers to the south coast after the Battle of Crete. You can do this walk as an excursion from Chania, or independently from Chora Sfakion, if you decide to go there, and I would certainly recommend that you do. There is a memorial there, and there is always an observance at the anniversary.

The bus service on Crete is excellent, so if you really don't want to drive, you'll be able to manage perfectly well. But I agree that a car will give you more freedom, and you'll be able to make the most of your limited time (I know you have at least 12 days, but all visits to Crete are limited in time: no amount of time is ever enough). The roads are good, and nothing to be frightened of or worried about.

Edited: 10 November 2013, 15:56
Rethymnon, Greece
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8. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

Hi Steve, battle stories always fascinated me, and always found very odd that people from so far away could fight so bravely as the Australians, New Zealanders and British did. They gave their life to do that... the least I could do is pick up the phone and ask a couple of questions to people I know or dust off a couple of books to see what happened.

Now... I was told that the place I told you about. The church St. George (Agios Georgios in Greek ) in Perivolia, which includes a cemetery was the strong point that the Germans held untill the defence collapsed in Maleme which turned the battle around. They where surrounded by Australian and local forces of gentarmerie and local Cretans. The machine guns where around that Church, pinning down the Germans.

I don't know where hill B is, but I will find it in a book, and tell you about it.

Far North Queensland
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9. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

Thank you all so very much, especially Gerlion for making enquiries especially for me. You say war stories fascinated you so here is ours.

I have been reading the history of Dad's unit written by one of the soldiers, which is where I found details of where Dad was. I had known from childhood that he escaped from Crete with difficulty but no place names. As you say, the Australian and local troops were successful around Rethymno in holding the airport and pinning down the Germans in the village of Perivolia. They held their positions on two local hills, called by them Hill A and Hill B. Here is a quote from the book regarding the first day "7 Platoon .... with a section dug in on both the east and west slope of Hill B. The four Vickers machine guns...had a field of fire covering an arc from the airfield, along the main road and beach, to Perivolia." Further: "For the rest of the campaign in Crete, the defenders of Retimo were undefeated....the Australians held two pockets of Germans, one in the olive oil factory at Stavromenos and the other in Perivolia, while another enemy group was having trouble with the Cretan gendarmerie at Retimo town." Fighting continued around Perivolia until 30 May when a German column was seen on the road near Retimo and it became obvious that the main force around Chania had been defeated. One of the Australian commanders ordered his men to surrender, concerned about the loss of life of his men, the impossibility of reaching Sfakia for evacuation and the danger to Cretans who assisted them. Another commander told his troops to take their chances in the mountains which is what Dad did along with others. In the mountains they split into three groups, one reaching Moni Preveli and two, including Dad's group, reaching Agia Galini. Dad and his mate organised a group to repair a landing barge (which the Navy had given up on) and 50 or 60 men made it to Egypt in it, despite it having only one engine so inclined to steer in a circle. I plan to stand on the beach at Agia Galini at dusk on 2nd June, the anniversary of when they left.

However Crete obviously has much else to offer and we would love to see as much of the countryside as we can as well as visit the amazing archaeological sites. One more thing I would like to know: Is there just one likely road that Dad would have taken from outside Rethymno to Agia Galini and is it the present main road taken by buses?

We may reconsider on the car. We don't do much big city driving so in Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania we might be best to rely on public transport. Perhaps do a day scenic tour into the surrounding countryside then catch a bus to Agia Galini and maybe hire a car there to go to other places on the south coast.

Thank you all once again.

Far North Queensland
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10. Re: 2014 Battle of Crete observances and May/June sightseeing

Another question. You mention the former airport of Latzimas - is that on the outskirts of Rethymnon and would it be the one referred to which was able to be defended from the same hill as the village of Perivolia? If so, that might be the observance I should go to.