Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chania: The Origin of the City's Name

Scholars have been trying for years to analyse the etymology of the name "Hania," and to decide on the time when the name was changed from "Kythonia" to "Hania". The new name is first met as "Cania" in the document "Sexteriorum Cretensiu in Militias divisio" in 1211. Then the name "Canea" is mentioned in the document which relinquishes the Hania area to the Venicians in 1252. As for the change of the name from "Kythonia" to "Hania", the most convincing point of view is that of Prof. N. Platonas, who associates it with the existence of a big village "Alhania", named after the God "Valhanos" (Vulcan). The Sarasin Arabs found this name easier to use but confused it with their own word "Al Hanim" (the Inn). After the departure of the Arabs, the syllable "Al", probably taken to be the Arab article "Al" (the), was dropped when the name was translated into the Greek "Hania" and the Latin "Canea".

Historically and Archaelogically, the hill of Kasteli is one of the most significant parts of the city, as it has been inhabited since Neolithic times. The factors which contributed to the uninterrupted use of Kasteli as a residential area were : its geographic position and the fertile plain on the south, both of which contributed to making the district an important commercial and transport junction. Excavations have brought to light remains dating from the first Minoan period (2800-2000 B.C.). The houses of that period are large with well constructed rooms. The walls and floors are painted with a bright red colour. The Kasteli area was also inhabited in the Post-Minoan period (1580/1550 - 1100 B.C.).

According to the evidence offered by the clay tablets in Linear A scripture found on the hill, the area was reserved for royal use. Between 1380 and 1100 B.C. it developed into a commercial centre which was in constant communication with the rest of Crete and Greece.A historically significant ceramics workshop, known as "the Kythonia Workshop" has also been found in the Hania area. It now belongs to the post-royal period.

Chania Prefecture

The Prefecture of Chania covers the Western part of Crete; its extent is 2.376 square kilometres, the coast line 250 kilometres approximately, and it counts circa 150.000 permanent residents. It is divided in five provinces: Apokoronou, Kissamou, Kydonias, Selinou and Sfakion. Chania is the capital city of the prefecture.

Most of the territory is mountainous, with the mountain chain of Lefka Ori ("White mountains", named so because of the snow covering the tops all year round), to be the highest mountain (2.453 metres); at the intervals there are small plains and valleys very fertile, and well watered, due to the various small rivers and brooks flowing through them, which, unlike to the rest of the Greek islands, do have enough water even in summer.

The area has a magnificent natural environment; apart from the small rivers and brooks here and there, there are lakes and lagoons, caves and rocks, as well as several gorges both at the North and at the South, the most well known among them being the Samaria gorge, the longer in Europe, declared as a National Park and protected by the Greek State.

Visiting the villages of the inland is a fascinating experience, both for the landscape and for their character: most of them are not affected by tourism, they maintain their traditional features in what concerns the architecture and their residents proudly maintain their traditional way of life. It is in those villages that the visitor can understand the special characteristics of the Cretan people, experience the hospitality and taste and smell the scents of the area.

The routes from one village to another in most cases are one of the attractions of the place, since the secondary roads pass through sites extremely scenic and beautiful and driving there is an unforgettable experience.

Chania prefecture has coasts at the North, at the South and at the West; the northern coasts form three large bays: the Kissamos bay, the Chania bay and the Souda bay, the latter being the best protected from the winds. Souda is one of the bigger natural ports in the Mediterranean Sea. The beaches at the North and West are in their majority sandy and very much affected by the northern winds, as the small islets around cannot prevent them from arriving to the coast at all their strength.

The southern coasts are open to the South, with no considerable bays. Partly sandy and some of them pebbly, the beaches have crystal clear blue water and very interesting seabed, for the fans of snorkelling and underwater activities. Swimming starts earlier in the South, where the weather is a bit warmer.

In the territory of the prefecture it is found the last part of the European path E4, which passes through the whole of Europe and Greece and ends up at Crete; in the island the path starts from Kissamos (Kastelli) and ends up at Siteia in the Eastern part.

The place is wealthy enough. Traditionally, one of the main sources of wealth used to be, and still is, agriculture and cattle breeding. However, the attractions of the place, the magnificent nature, the development of facilities and the hospitality of the locals have made of tourism one of the main economic resources for the prefecture. The area is one of the main destinations both of the Greeks, for vacation, excursions and business, but also of tourists from all over the world.
The history of the place goes back to the Neolithic times; it flourished in the Minoan period and was very important during the Venetian domination of the island, mainly due to the excellent port of Souda; it has been the centre of numerous revolts during the Ottoman domination, as the independent character of the people could not stand being under the yoke of any foreigner. During the World War II, it has been one of the most important places of resistance, as the Battle of Crete has taken place in the territory of Chania, due to the interest of the Germans for the airport of Maleme, one of the two main military targets on the island.

Historical Archive of Crete

The Historical Archive of Crete was established in 1920 based in Chania and constitutes a Public Interprefectorial Service, a decentralised department of the General Record Office of the State, which comes directly under the Ministry of Education. It is housed in a public, neoclassical, scheduled building at 20 I. Sfakianaki Str. and it also includes a second, ancillary building with filing-rooms.
The Historical Archive has reached today such a high level, that it is considered to be the largest of the regional Historical Archives in our country in terms of content, volume and material importance. The aim and mission of th Historical Archive of Crete consists in the collection, classification, recording, preservation and promotion of all kinds of archives and relics related to Cretan History. Today, approximately 700,000 historical documents are preserved in the Historical Archive : Large historical collections, such as the official correspondence of the Cretan Revolutions of 1821-1830, 1866-1869, 1877-1878, 1895-1898 and 1905. Moreover, it includes many private collections with archives material belonging to Rebels and other prominent figures, the archives of Cretan fighters, the archives of the Turkish Administration in Crete, the Central Translation Office of Crete, the Cretan Government and German Occupation, as well as Administrative, Judicial, Church archives, etc., a large photographic material with approximately 3,000 photographs, a complete record of the Cretan Press since 1831, a specialised Library containing about 10,000 titles, as well as a large museum collection of valuable historical and folklore relics.

Address :I.Sfakianaki 20, 73134 Chania tel.& fax 0030 28210 52606
web site: Open :9:00 - 13:00 exept Saturdays and Sundays
Responsible:Simandiraki Zaxarenia