Réthymno Gallery 1—Wednesday and Thursday, September 28–29

  • Autumn in the park #1
    Autumn in the park #1
    The river park at Vrísses looks as if it could be very attractive in summer (which, it seemed to us, was still going on everywhere else in Crete). The gray day and dead leaves didn't help the atmosphere much, though we had a nice lunch outdoors and didn't get rained on.

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  • Autumn in the park #2
    Autumn in the park #2
    Another wistful vista. The oriental-looking bridge is the work of Tzoubadákis Special Constructions, according to the sign.

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  • The outdoor life
    The outdoor life
    We ate on a terrace a little above the river. Even though the tablecloth had to be clipped down in the breeze, we weren't cold, and the rotisserie chicken and French fries were great.

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  • The Hotel Idéon
    The Hotel Idéon
    Meanwhile, summer was in full strength in Réthymno, as we learned when a taxi strike forced us to haul our baggage across the Old Town from the bus station. The Idéon was big and luxurious compared to our previous lodgings. Our room on the 3rd floor had a balcony, but it wasn't one of those you can see on the front; it was on the building side at the right in the picture.

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  • Sea view
    Sea view
    Well, technically at least it was a sea view. But we could see more if we turned out heads to the left.

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  • Town and Fortezza view
    Town and Fortezza view
    See? Old Town roofs, with Venice's largest castle (by some accounts, at least) hovering above them.

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  • Getting to the Fortezza #1
    Getting to the Fortezza #1
    We began by walking along this waterfront road from the Hotel Idéon (the big pinkish-tan building near the top) past the Fanári taverna—I think their waterside dining area is the uppermost one, on the left edge of the picture—until we got to a public walk (with occasional stairs) that goes up the hill toward the right. You can find it if you look hard, but it's easier to see in the next picture. (Needless to say, perhaps, we were already inside the fort when I took this one.)

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  • Getting to the Fortezza #2
    Getting to the Fortezza #2
    Here's the public walk/stairway, running across the middle of the picture. It led us to another uphill road, where we turned around to take this picture.

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  • A different approach
    A different approach
    This road leads to the Fortezza gate from the middle of Old Town. Though it isn't the way we got there, it's the way we left.

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  • Rocks beneath, stones above, flag on top
    Rocks beneath, stones above, flag on top
    We went up the hill past the St. Nicholas bastion, a good place to fly the flag where it can be seen from the city as well as the sea. The fort today has no military function, but there's some national satisfaction in proclaiming that Crete and all its fortifications, modern and ancient, are now part of Greece.

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  • Defensive measure
    Defensive measure
    I’m no expert in Renaissance-era military engineering, but my guess is that this curved projection was designed so that the defenders could cover the main gate (out of the picture the left) with cannon as well as small arms fire.

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  • Near the gate
    Near the gate
    We were finally getting close to the fort’s entrance. As you may have noticed, little round-roofed lookout boxes project here and there from the top of the wall, so that attackers couldn’t approach from any direction without being seen. (In the end, though, this wasn't much help.)

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  • The eastern gate
    The eastern gate
    This is the main entrance to the fort, and is now the only gate that’s kept open, but the fort has northern and western gates as well. According to the Rough Guide, the northern gate, which faces the sea) was designed to allow reinforcement and supply by water in time of war, but in the end its main function was to facilitate the escape of the garrison in 1645.

    The square frame above the door no doubt held a stone-carved Venetian lion. I suppose this could have deteriorated and fallen out over time, but if I were the Turkish commander in 1654 I'd probably have taken great pleasure in removing it—and if I were one of the Greeks who finally got the Fortezza back in the 20th century, I wouldn't have been highly motivated to put it back, either).

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  • Alert!
    Alert!
    Most visitors were off-guard, but this little fellow had the presence of mind to be startled by the giant, white-bearded camera wielder bearing down on him.

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  • St. Paul’s Bastion
    St. Paul’s Bastion
    All the bastions are named after saints. I stood on the bastion of Áyios Ilías (St. Elias) to take this picture of the bastion of Áyios Pávlos (St. Paul). Each has a curved projection facing the other, in the hope of making things hot for any enemy who should be foolish enough to attack between them.

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  • Commanding a view
    Commanding a view
    One point all the guidebooks seem to agree on about the Fortezza is that it offers excellent views of the city. Dorothea saw me taking advantage of one.

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  • Loophole
    Loophole
    Openings like this were designed to let soldiers shoot at attackers outside with a minimum of risky self-exposure. The angled opening gives the shooter the widest area in which to find targets that’s possible without making the opening bigger.

    Such openings were called loopholes in English, and were originally designed to be used by archers in the days before the introduction of gunpowder. (Another name for them at that time was arrow-slits, but, unsurprisingly, that one hasn’t survived.) Because loopholes represented the tiniest opening through which one might possibly slip into or out of a guarded place, the word acquired its modern legal meaning.

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  • Lookout box
    Lookout box
    Probably this could also be called a sentry box, but the idea of someone shouting ‟Who goes there?” to an approaching fleet didn’t seem to go with that name. However, I suppose the duty of a sentry can be defined in more general terms. (Regardless of such fine points, I got a very good picture of Dorothea coming out.)

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  • Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim Han
    Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim Han
    I assumed that the Turks had (as they did elsewhere in Crete) converted the Venetian Catholic church of St. Nicholas into a mosque, but apparently they didn’t find it all that convertible, because the pamphlet we got at the ticket office says they built the mosque ‟on the site of” the church, which I suppose they tore down. If so, they probably used at least some of St. Nicholas’ stones to build the mosque.

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  • Mosque interior
    Mosque interior
    This is a recent restoration, and it may have left the mosque less ornate than when it was a place of worship. Still, the atmosphere is tranquil to a degree that seems quite appropriate. The niche in the wall is the mihrab, placed so as to let worshippers know the direction of Mecca.

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  • Inside the dome
    Inside the dome
    The dome of this mosque is said to be one of the largest in Greece. Knowing as little as I do about Islam, mosques, and 17th century Ottoman culture, I'm unable to say whether this is how the inside looked back then. Perhaps they plastered over the surface and painted it. But I’d like to think that the dome is still the way the builders made it. We certainly liked how it looks.

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  • St. Catherine's Orthodox church
    St. Catherine's Orthodox church
    The long process that transferred Crete from Ottoman to Greek control began in 1897, when the island was granted a measure of home rule. This little chapel dates from that time. There were some houses up here in the Fortezza, but if there was an Orthodox congregation, it couldn't have been large. Building the church may have been a gesture, a small assertion that liberation from Ottoman rule had a religious as well as a political dimension.

    In 1899 the ‟Russian governor” (i.e., the commander of Russian troops stationed in this part of Crete to keep order and prevent the return of the Ottoman military) built another small Orthodox chapel, St. Theodore's, near the eastern gate. Presumably the services there were Russian rather than Greek Orthodox.

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  • Retired ordnance
    Retired ordnance
    According to the Rough Guide, ‟when the English writer Robert Pashley visited in 1834 he found the guns, some of them still the Venetian originals, to be entirely useless.” These may have been among them. The Turks had little reason to keep the Fortezza up to the state of the military art—for a long time, no one challenged their possession of Crete, and when that situation began to change in the 19th century, the challengers were Cretan guerrilla fighters who wouldn't have been able (or for that matter have wanted) to attack a target like the Fortezza.

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  • Powder magazine
    Powder magazine
    One of two on the grounds. Perhaps the Turks gave it the domed roof. (Another guess.)

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  • St. Sozon's bastion
    St. Sozon's bastion
    This saint, martyred in the early 4th century, is the patron saint of his native island of Lemnos, and is honored on other Greek islands. It seems surprising that the Venetians would name one of their bastions for him, but they did rule a lot of Greek islands at one time, and might have acquired some enthusiasm for St. Sozon there. Another possibility is that the bastion names have undergone a few patriotically inspired changes since the 1890s. (I was already a little suspicious of St. Elias, who is much more likely to be celebrated in Orthodox than in Catholic circles.)

    The bastion is narrow and pointed, designed to fit on the rocks that provide its foundation. The tip of this bastion is the Fortezza's closest approach to the sea.

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  • Pedestrian traffic
    Pedestrian traffic
    On the shore road below the Fortezza, two hardy hikers brave the stiff breeze, passing a couple who have their love to keep them warm.

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  • The tip of the bastion
    The tip of the bastion
    This is the lookout/sentry box at the tip of the Sozon bastion. Whoever served here would be the closest to an enemy attacking by sea, at least as seen in an aerial view. On the other hand, he'd be at least 200 feet above them.

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  • Mysterious object
    Mysterious object
    This rusting iron structure is lying in what was once a below-ground storage area (and presumably had a roof). Although it makes an interesting picture, I don't know what it is. I thought I had seen somewhere a picture of an early beacon, in which something that looked like this was stuffed with hay or dry sticks, set afire, and swung aloft on a pole. The Fortezza is a place where such signalling devices might have had a use. But I can't locate that picture, or any other source to back me up.

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  • Mysterious object, continued
    Mysterious object, continued
    Here it is from another angle. This picture doesn't provide any more information than the first, and my only reason for including both of them is that I think they’re cool.

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  • Dorothea goes underground
    Dorothea goes underground
    My intrepid life’s companion wondered whether the underground storage areas contained anything interesting. I doubted it and decided to wait and ask her if anything of interest chanced to be in there. It didn’t.

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  • Composer
    Composer
    Though I have never had much luck at seizing the Decisive Moment, I do like to spend some time getting the composition of a picture right. Especially if the subject is like the next one.

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  • Composition
    Composition
    Sure, it's only the mosque dome on the other side of a little hill, but with some imagination you could build a whole science fiction movie on it. (And then, of course, find out that it’s already been done, repeatedly.)

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  • In disrepair
    In disrepair
    Restoration work in the Fortezza continues. It hasn’t yet reached this building near the St. Nicholas bastion.

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  • St. Nicholas bastion
    St. Nicholas bastion
    We passed below this lookout/sentry box on our way up the hill from the waterfront toward the eastern gate.

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  • Bastion and city
    Bastion and city
    The St. Nicholas bastion is shaped rather like an isosceles triangle, with a lookout/sentry box at each sharply angled end and a flagpole at the oblique angle in the center. In this view of the city's waterfront, the Hotel Idéon stands out: it's the big pinkish building just a bit to the left of dead center. The dark rectangles on the side are balconies, but I think ours was one floor too low to show in the picture. We could see the Fortezza from it, but not this part of the wall.

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  • To Pigádi
    To Pigádi
    And now for something completely different—it's the end of the day, and we're eating dinner at this fine restaurant, whose name means ‘the well.’ It occupies an old Venetian mansion and its courtyard—still roofless, though enclosed—which is the dining room. Behold the restaurant's eponym, still standing in the middle of the courtyard, though it’s no longer operative.

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