The old town of Malia
The old town of Malia is well worth strolling around. Like a labyrinth, the small streets lead you to unexpected places, such as beautiful old churches and small squares with restaurants, some of them with live music.
In old Malia there are still old houses with courtyards full of flowers, children play in the street in the warm summer evenings, and adults bring their chairs outside and sit with the neighbours for the veggera, the way people used to spend the evenings in Crete of old: chatting about the village news, a bit of gossip, a few jokes and teasing.
A stroll though old Malia will reveal many pretty corners. Unfortunately many of the old buildings have been demolished and the new ones detract from the traditional colour of this neighbourhood.
Sightseeing in the old town in Malia
Our stroll through old Malia begins at the central church of Agios Nektarios. This is the largest church on the main road, so you can’t miss it. The inside is decorated with impressive wall paintings by the painter Michael Vassilakis.
Take the first narrow street on the left of Agios Nektarios and you will find yourself in front of Agios Ioannis, a church dating from the Venetian era. This is the prettiest spot in old Malia, with the huge bougainvillea of the taverna next door forming a flowering archway over the alley.
Continuing your walk a few yards further on, you come to the loveliest square in Malia, that of the church of Agios Dimitrios. The church was built in the late 19th century on the ruins of an older one.
Around the church are several tavernas and old houses, and an old kiosk with its characteristic creamy yellow colour. Kiosks were established by the Greek State after World War II to offer work to wounded soldiers. Originally they were small, selling very few articles such as cigarettes. Later, their original purpose forgotten, they grew into minimarkets where you can buy almost anything.
The church of Panagia Galatiani, meaning "the Virgin of Milk" because the shepherds donated their animals’ milk to mix with the mud used in building it, is the oldest church in Malia. It was built at different periods which are visible both inside and out. The nave of this three-aisled church was built around 1400, during the Venetian period. Parts of the church come from another, older, church in the Potamos area.
The church was restored completely at the beginning of the 19th century, while another aisle was built on the north side. At the end of the 19th century the bell tower and another aisle were built on the south side.
Next to the church is the only restored well of Malia (photo above, under the tree). Until the 1960s, the houses in Malia had no running water and the inhabitants depended on wells. The other three or four wells in the village were either covered over or destroyed.
Another old church is that of Agios Georgios next to the San Georgio taverna. This is yet another lovely spot in the old town, one which is best enjoyed in the evening with live music and mezedes titbits.
The Girls’ School or Parthenagogeion was built in the 20th century, at first functioning as a girls’ school and later as a mixed one.
During World War II it became the German officers’ mess; for a short while it even functioned as soup kitchen.
Since the restoration of the building, senior citizens enjoy their coffee and read their newspaper in the shadow of the trees.