Πέμπτη, 19 Μαΐου 2011

The city of Rethymno

Rethymnon is the capital of the Prefecture of the same name and it is built between two other large cities of Crete. In the east is Iraklion (80 km) and to the west is Hania (60 km).
It lies along the north coast, having to the east one of the largest sand beaches in Crete (12 km) and to the west a rocky coastline that ends up to another large sand beach after 10 km.
It is the administrative, communications and commercial center of the Prefecture with approximately 25.000 inhabitants.

Access
There is direct connection all year round from the port of Rethymnon to Piraeus.Tours to Santorini are also organized during the summer.
Rethymnon does not have an airport but the city is served by the airports of Hania and Iraklion.
Public buses can be used for travelling to Hania, Iraklion and most of the towns and villages of the Prefecture of Rethymnon.

History
There are evidences that Rethymnon city is built on the site of ancient Rithymna that flourished during Mycenean times. In the 3rd century AD, for some unknown reason, it lost its importance, and is only mentioned as a large village. However, Rithymna retained its autonomy and independence, as is evidenced by the coins which, as a free city, it continued to mint. During the Byzantine period the town continued to be inhabited, and parts of Roman and Byzantine mosaics have been found.
Rethymnon became a city during the Venetian occupation. The Venetians needed an intermediary port for their operations for their ships travelling from Iraklion to Hania. They also needed an administrative center, so Rethymnon became the third bigger city in Crete and an important cultural center. Rethymnon was destroyed in 1567 when Algerian pirates conquered, robbed and burned it. The Turks took over Rethymnon at 1646.
During the period of Ottoman rule, Rethymnon fell into decline as did the other towns in Crete. During the difficult years of the struggle for independence, its inhabitants were actively involved and, as a result, many of its freedom – fighters were executed.
In 1897, the Russian army took Rethymnon and held it until 1909. In 1913, it became part of Greece, together with the rest of Crete.

During the German occupation, the Rethymniots took an active part in the resistance against fascism.
In the last 25 years, Rethymno has seen a significant growth, in economy by the development of tourism and in culture by the operation of the university.

Sights
The town still maintains its old aristocratic appearance, with its buildings dating from the 16th century, arched doorways, stone staircases, Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains, small Venetian harbor and narrow streets.

The Venetian Loggia, an elegant building of the 16th century, that used to be a Venetian gentlemens's club and today houses the information office of the ministry of culture and a sales point of the archaeological museum.

The Fortezza castle, at the top of a low hill named "Palaiokastro" dominates the town. It was built in 1590 to protect the city from the pirates raids and the Turks.
The name "Palaiokastro which means 'The old Castle" was in use even by the Venetians which demonstrates the existance of an even older castle at this place. - Probably the acropolis of the ancient town of Rithymna.
The interior of Fortezza accommodated the following basic buildings: the storeroom of the artillery, where canons and weapons were kept, the residence of the Councillors, where one of the city's two Venetian councillors lived, the residence of the Rector, which represented a luxurious, magnificent building in the central square of the fortress.
Today parts of those buildings, as well as of some others built later, can be seen. The view from up there is magnificent, especially at night.
The municipal theatre "Erofili" stands also at Fortezza's premises. It is an outdoor theatre that hosts almost all the performances during the Renaissance Festival.

Rimondi fountain with rich decoration is situated at Platanos square, the centre of the Venetian town. It was built in 1626, by A.Rimondi, in order to provide the citizens with drinkable water.

Neratzes mosque formerly the Holy Virgin church, was converted into a mosque by the Ottomans. Today it is used as a music conservatory. Outstanding elements of this building are the doorframe and the three domes. Next to the mosque there is the impressive minaret, built in 1890.

Kara Mousa Pasa Mosque also a venetian monastery that was turned into mosque by the Turks. Today it is the house of the Restoration Board.

Porta Guora the entrance to the Venetian town is the only remnant of the defensive wall.

Folklore & history museum (Vernardou 28-30. Open Monday to Friday 09.30-14.30. Closed Saturday and Sunday.) Housed in a restored Venetian building with an interior courtyard. Eight halls with collections that include textile and basket weaving, embroidery & lace, costumes, ceramics, historic photographs and maps, weapons and coins. Over 5.000 items dating from the 17th to the 20th century are displayed.

The Archaeological museum of Rethymno (8am to 3pm, closed on Monday), just opposite the entrance of the fortress, exhibits objects from the Neolithic to the Roman period, found at the prefecture of Rethymno (mainly Eleftherna, Monastiraki and Armeni). Clay figurines, funerary coffers, grave offerings, statues, grave steles, red-figure vases, bronze vessels, jewellery and glass vases, are some of the objects on display.

The municipal gardens are ideal for those in search of shade and tranquillity.
Throughout the year various activities are organized which draw a large crowd. The Wine Festival is held there annually at the beginning of July. Another festival is held on 7-8th of November, in memory of the destruction of Arkadi Monastery.


Facilities
Rethimnon is a city that caters to the needs of the visitor.
There are a lot of places to stay ranging from luxury hotels to rent a room, bed and breakfast apartment buildings.

Night life can range from extremely intense on the pubs and bars around the harbor and inside the old city , to relaxed on small bars right on the beach.
There is always fresh fish to be found in the tavernas around the harbor and there are many other restaurants and tavernas outside the city in equally attractive surroundings.
Arabatzoglou Street
A commercial street with old buildings.

Shopping could also be interesting at Rethimno. There are lots of small shops with attractive merchantise from souvenirs, cards, etc to the most rare kind of sponge.

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