Hania is a very ancient and delightful port town located on the north coast of Crete, west of Heraklion. Full of small windy streets and a clean harbor the city remains largely reminiscent of Venetian period architecture. A more careful look illuminates the markings of its entire storied history and the fascinating story of Crete.
On the hill across the harbor (pictured), bronze aged peoples settled thousands of years ago. The indigenous and highly evolved Minoans made the same hill their home approximately 3000 to 1450 BC. Post Minoan Crete was to be followed by 3500 years of foreign occupation and rule, beginning with the Mycenaeans (1450 – 1100 BC).
Then followed the Dorians (1100 – 400 BC), Hellens (400 – 50 BC), Romans (50 BC – 300 AD), Byzantine (300 – 800 AD), Arabs (800 – 1000 AD), Byzantine (1000 – 1200 AD), Venetians (1200 – 1669 AD) and the Ottomans (1669 – 1898). Unification with modern Greece finally came after the Ottomans in the late 19th early 20th century.
While there were periods of prosperity and near autonomy during some of the occupations, life for Cretans was more often harsh and oppressive, especially under the rule of the Venetians and the Ottomans. Most recently Hania and Crete suffered harshly again with the German invasion during WWII. Evidence of the bombings of that time can still be found in Hania (also pictured across the harbor!).
Crete’s cultural history is as varied and complex as it’s mountainous geography and geology!