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Hania : Hania-Frangokastello and how to come

(Sources: GNTO, Wikipedia and various publications)

The cultural background of Chania is very rich, mainly due to the town’s long history and its interaction with many diverse civilizations in the past.

Frangokastello is located 86 kilometres (south) of Hania. The best way to arrive at Oasis Apartments and Frangokastello from Hania is by using the Highway – National road E75 to Vrises, first. At Vrises you should choose the Hora Sfakion direction over Askifou to Komitades. There you will go left using the secondary road to Frangokastello. From Hania you need approximately 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes to arrive at Oasis Apartments. When driving this exceptionally beautiful route though, “half an hour longer” is just pure pleasure.

Chaniá (Greek: ?a???, IPA: [xa’?a], also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish ????? Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania Prefecture. It lies along the north coast of the island, about 70 km west of Rethymno, 145 km west of Heraklion and 86 km north of Frangokastello.

The official population of the municipal area is 55,838, but around 70,000 people live in the greater area of Chania. With 4,248.1 inhabitants/km², the municipality is the most densely populated area outside the Athens and Thessaloniki metropolitan areas.

The city of Chania lies at the east end of the Gulf of Chania, a wide embayment between the Akrotiri peninsula in the east and the Spatha peninsula (also called Rodopos) in the west. Kastelli Hill is a prominent landform within the city, as the hill was the center of the ancient city of Kydonia. It covers a significant part of the small Plain of Chania and borders with the hilly suburbs of Profitis Ilias, Agios Mattheos and Kounoupidiana towards the east, with the villages of Vamvakopoulo, Nerokourou, Mournies and Perivolia towards the south and the coastal areas of Chryssi Akti and Agioi Apostoloi towards the west.

The city enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, with sunny dry summers and mild rainy winters. During the period between April and October, clear-sky weather is almost an everyday feature. The atmosphere is always warm, but fierce heat waves (temperatures above 38°C) are not very common, since the prevailing Etesian winds (“Meltemia”) blow from northern directions and pleasantly moderate the conditions. Intervals of sunny days are frequent during the windy and rainy winter as well. Snow and frost are rare near the coast, with very few exceptions – like the snowstorm on 13 February 2004, when 10-30 cm of snow accumulated in the urban area, causing general chaos. However, such cold days can be followed by much warmer, sunnier weather. Even minor early heat waves can occur in March or April, during a Saharan dust event, whose main feature is the strong and hot katabatic southerly wind, which is a type of Sirokos (s??????) and is called “Livas” (i.e. the wind from Libya) by the Greeks. Such events happen only a couple of times a year, and their duration is never more than 1 or 2 days.

The chart to the left is based on data recorded during 1958-1997. The absolute maximum temperature ever recorded was 42.5°C, while the absolute minimum ever recorded was 0°C. However, the record minimum was broken on 13 February 2004 when the temperature reached -1°C at midday.

Chania is the site of the Minoan settlement the Greeks called Cydonia, Greek for quince. Some notable archaeological evidence for the existence of this Minoan city below some parts of today’s Chania was found by excavations in the district of Kasteli in the Old Town. This area appears to have been inhabited since the Neolithic era. The city re-emerged after the end of the Minoan period as an important city-state in Classical Greece, one whose domain extended from Hania Bay to the feet of the White Mountains. The first major wave of settlers from mainland Greece was by the Dorian Greeks, who came around 1100 BC. Cydonia was constantly at war with other Cretan city-states, such as Aptera, Falasarna and Polyrrinia, and was important enough for the Cydonians to be mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey (iii.330). In 69 BC the Roman Consul Metellus defeated the Cretans and conquered Cydonia, to which he granted the privileges of an independent city-state. Cydonia reserved the right to mint its own coins until the third century AD.

The city of Chania can be divided in two parts: the old town and the modern city, which is the larger one. The old town is situated next to the old harbour and is the matrix around which the whole urban area was developed. It used to be surrounded by the old Venetian fortifications that started to be built in 1538; of them the eastern and western parts have survived. From the south, the old town is continuous with the new, and from the north the physical border is the sea. The center of the modern city is the area extending next to the old town and particularly towards the south.

The main square of the Old Town (next to the west end of Kasteli) is the Eleftherios Venizelos Square (“Syntrivani”). It is the heart of the touristic activities in the area. Next to this (on the west side) lies the Topanas district, which used to be the Christian part of the city during the Turkish occupation. Its name comes from the Venetian ammunition warehouse (Top-Hane in Turkish), which was located there. The Jewish quarter (“Evraiki” or “Ovraiki”) was located at the north-west of the Old Town, behind the harbour and within the borders of Topanas. The whole Topanas area is generally very picturesque, with many narrow alleys and old charming buildings, some of which have been restored as hotels, restaurants, shops and bars. This makes it a lively and colourful place, especially during the warm period of April to October. In the winter, it still remains a center of activities (especially for nightlife) but in a more quiet and atmospheric way.

Finally, a very distinctive area of the Old Town is the harbour itself, and generally the seafront (“akti”). Akti Tompazi, Akti Kountouriotou and Akti Enoseos (marina) all feature several historical buildings and a thriving nightlife. The main street that combines the modern town with the old town is Halidon Str.

The modern part of Chania is where most locals live and work. It is less traditional than the old town, but there are still areas of charming beauty or of some historical interest. The oldest district (early 18th century) of the modern city is Nea Hora (meaning “New Town”) which is located beyond the west end of the old town. It is a developing area, but also a very picturesque one, with old narrow lanes leading to a small fishing harbour. During the same era the district of Halepa began to grow to the east of the city, and used to be home to the local aristocracy. Some of the historical buildings of the area (including old embassies of foreign countries) had been destroyed or abandoned during the later decades of the 20th century, and it was only recently when some interest was shown for the restoration of the remaining ones.

In the last two decades there has been a profound movement of Chania residents towards the suburbs, as well as towards areas around the city which used to be rural, mainly the Akrotiri Peninsula.

The cultural background of Chania is very rich, first of all due to the town’s long history and its interaction with many diverse civilizations in the past. Furthermore the location of Crete (immediately connected to Athens, situated between Europe, Asia and Africa) as well as the cosmopolitan atmosphere that tourism creates have generally kept the town up-to-date with modern advances in art and knowledge. Currently, there are several museums, art galleries, theatre and music groups, educational and research institutions within the city.

The most important museums in Chania are:

· Archaeological Museum (Old Town). It houses findings from different parts of the county and from several historical and prehistorical periods of the local history (Neolithic to Roman)

· Folklore Museum (Old Town)

· Historical Archive (the second most important in Greece)

· Maritime Museum of Crete (Old Town)

· Municipal Art Gallery

· Byzantine/Post-Byzantine Collection (Old Town)

· House of E. Venizelos

· War Museum

· Museum of Chemistry

Several theatre groups are active in Chania with the most important being the Municipal and Regional Theatre of Crete (DI.PE.THE.K). The repertoire includes old and contemporary plays from Greek and foreign writers. The Venizelian Conservatory of Music (“Odeion”, established 1931) is also one of the most important cultural societies in Crete. A recent attempt from the municipality to create a chamber music group named “Sinfonietta” has been successful and its performances throughout the year have enriched the cultural event calendar of the city. There is also a significant community of people who focus on alternative/indie music as well as jazz, and some interesting bands perform modern musical styles. A number of traditional [Cretan] musicians are also active in town.

During the summer period a variety of cultural events take place on a daily basis. Theatrical plays, concerts and several exhibitions from Greek and foreign artists are organized either by the municipality or by individuals. A venue which hosts many of these events is a theatre located in the east bulwark of the Old Town (“Anatoliki Tafros”). Also, several festivals, conferences and sport events take place in Chania, especially between May and September. The Venizeleia athletics competition is one of the most noteworthy events of the year.

Cultural life throughout the wintry period of the year (November-March) is not as rich as in the summer, but it is certainly maintained to a good standard. During the last years there has been a substantial effort by both the city councils and by the locals to create the background for the city to be in the centre of interest throughout the year. Towards this direction, the increasing number of students moving to Chania for their studies has proved to be helpful. There is also some effort to promote Crete as a tourist destination for all seasons – a role that the island could easily hold – which would also support both the local economy and culture.

Chania is a family orientated town, traditionally Cretan in its charm. However, that does not stop it from boasting a fairly lively night life. The family atmosphere is more profound during the winter, something that is slowly changing with the reinforcement that the University students bring to the town. During the summer period (late April – early October) the place becomes more cosmopolitan, with many tourists coming to the place from both mainland Greece and from any other part of the world. There is a selection of food choices, with plenty of Greek tavernas – many of them serve traditional Cretan specialities, and a decent number of foreign cuisine restaurants exist too. A big proportion of them are gathered in the Old Town, Nea Hora and Koum Kapi, the coastal areas of the town, but there are several choices around the city as well. The Old Town is the place to find a myriad of galley bars and cafes carved into the cliff side and the age-old Venetian buildings. Some of them are quite popular among people who look for a relaxed and cosy night out, offering a more intellectual point of view on nightlife, with good music ranging from jazz and indie, to traditional Greek music. Some other ones are very popular among specific types of visitors (Scandinavian Bars, American Bars etc.).

Two main sources of wealth in Chania are agriculture and tourism. A big portion of the city’s residents (not necessarily farmers) own from few to many decares of agricultural land where several plants are cultivated, the most popular ones being olive trees and citrus, along with other important products include wine, avocados, dairy etc. Apart from the traditional ways of cultivation, some of the producers have concentrated on practicing new methods in order to promote organic food. The organization of the Agricultural August has been a recent attempt to promote local quality products including a series of activities organised by the Prefecture of Chania since 1999, and has thus far proved very successful.

The main health center in the city is the General Hospital “Agios Georgios”. Other institutions include the Crete Naval Hospital, the branch of the National Centre for Emergency Medical Care (E.K.A.B.) and the Clinic of Chronic Disease. The Chania branch of the Organisation Against Drugs (?.??.??.) opened in 2003.There is also a number of private clinics like Dental Hania and various medical centers.

The city is served by Chania International Airport (IATA code: CHQ) on the Akrotiri Peninsula. The airport is named after Daskalogiannis, a Sfakiot hero who was skinned by the Turks in the 18th century.

There are several flights a day from Athens to Chania, with Aegean Airlines and Olympic Airlines. From April to early November, there are many direct charter flights to Chania from the UK, Germany, Scandinavia and other European countries. See Domestic flight schedules.

Souda, some 7 km from Chania, is the city’s port, with daily ferries to Piraeus and a NATO naval base. See ANEK Lines and the ferry schedules.

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