Against a background of majestic mountains and aquamarine seas, Chania is one of the most captivating cities on the island and a good starting point for touring western Crete. Its neoclassical mansions and impressive Venetian fortifications attest to the city's troubled past. Location of the ancient Minoan city of Kynodia, Chania has been disputed by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Turks and Egyptians. After unification with Greece, in 1913, the island had to suffer the invasion of the German army in 1941, and Chania was precisely the scene of a bloody battle.

Port

Almost all the places of interest are located in the old Venetian neighborhood, next to the port. At the north-western end of the outer port, the Naval Museum's collection of models and marine objects are exhibited in Fort Firkas, a large, well-restored Venetian tower that in summer hosts traditional theater performances and dances. On the other side of the pier, the Jannisaries mosque dates back to the arrival of the Turks in 1645, and is the oldest Ottoman building on the island; it was damaged in World War II and rebuilt soon after. Behind the mosque stands the Kastelli neighborhood, the oldest part of the city, where the Minoan Kydonia site is being excavated. The enclosure, closed to the public but visible from the road, is accessed via Lithinon, a street lined with ornate Venetian doorways. Many of the exhumed pieces from the site are exhibited at the Chania Archaeological Museum, including a clay tablet with inscriptions in linear scriptures. The Venetian arsenals, now abandoned, where the ships anchored and repaired, rise on the inner pier. The Venetian lighthouse, at the end of the jetty, offers splendid views of Chania.

The surroundings of the covered market

Connected to the port by Chalidon, in the covered market which dates back to the end of the century, merchants sell fruits and vegetables from the country and souvenirs from Crete. Next to it, in the bustling Skirydlof, or Stilvanadika, shops of leather goods abound, such as traditional Cretan boots and custom sandals. The nearby Archaeological Museum is housed in the Venetian church of San Francesco and contains pottery, sculpture, mosaics and coins from western Cretan ranging from the Neolithic to Roman times. Next to the museum there is a little garden with a Turkish fountain. In the square just opposite, stands the cathedral of Agia Triada, from the 19th century.

The Splantza neighborhood

This neighborhood, northeast of the market, is a picturesque corner of the old town with houses with wooden balconies that hang over cobbled alleys. The tree-lined square, called Plateia 1821, commemorates a revolt against the Turks during which an Orthodox bishop was hanged on the spot. The square is dominated by the Venetian church Agios Nikolaos, with its truncated minaret, and not far away is that of Agioi Anargyroi, with its primitive icons and paintings, and that of San Rocco, built in 1630.

Fortifications

South of the covered market, by Tzanakaki, are the public gardens, laid out in the 19th century by the Turkish pacha (governor); They have a modest zoo with kri-kri (Cretan mountain goat), a playground, a café and an open-air auditorium that is used for celebrations and cultural events. The nearby National Archaeological Museum, installed in a neoclassical building, is dedicated to the successive occupations and rebellions of the eventful history of Crete; It includes photographs and letters from the famous politician Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), among other historical documents.

Surroundings

To the west of Chania, there is a string of sandy beaches that reach the agricultural town of Tavronitis, 21 km away. The nearby Agio Apostoloi beach is less urbanized than the city's beaches, and therefore, offers more tranquility.

Further to the west, the well-kept German war cemetery recalls the launch of that country's army paratroopers on Maleme in 1941. Excavated on the side of a hill, its more than 4,000 graves with simple stone steles face the Mediterranean. For its part, the small pavilion at the entrance houses a commemorative exhibition.

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