Fodele is between Heraklion and Rethymnon, about
27 km west of Heraklion or 50 km east of Rethymnon. It is close
to Agia Pelagia, the popular tourist resort on the north coast
of Heraklion prefecture.
We take the highway from Heraklion, we drive past
the signs to Agia Pelagia and soon after that we see the sandy
beach of Fodele with a big hotel built on the side of the hills.
We leave the highway and follow the signs to the village of Fodele
Fodele, the village
Fodele village is well worth
seeing. Fodele is built in an area of orange groves and, according
to historians, this was the site of the ancient town of Astali,
which was the port of ancient Axos. Today, the people of Fodele
may have overdone things with too many craft shops selling the
same products, and many cheery tavernas squeezed together, but
it remains a central destination for visitors to the area, for
two main reasons:
First, Fodele is very green. A very pretty park next
to the main square of Fodele offers shade and a picnic site. Even
in the beginning of summer there is water running through it, reminding us why this
area is so lush and verdant.
We park our car past the huge platanos tree at the main square and we enter the park. We follow the shady path and we start climbing to the older section of Fodele. The route is short and easy and it offers wonderful views across the valley. Unfortunately the views down to the lower newer part of Fodele is not equally charming. For once more we become witnesses of the damage these concrete boxes have done to the landscape of Crete. The houses in the older part of Fodele are old, beautifully decorated with colourful flowers, simple and fitting to their environment. There are also a few new houses here and some of them are beautiful to look at, giving us hope for the future.
grows in the fertile valley of Fodele, and the area is known for good oranges and lemons.
During the sunny days of the winter and spring, Fodele is a popular
destination for the people of Heraklion and nearby villages for
Sunday lunch in the many tavernas here.
The El Greco House and Museum in Fodele
The El Greco Museum in Fodele |
The second reason to stop in Fodele is the El
Greco House and Museum.
There are plenty of signs showing the way
to the Museum, which lies within walking distance,
at about 1km from the village centre.
A small collection of memorabilia
and some interestingly displayed reproductions are housed in
a building dating back to the life of this world-renowned painter
and renaissance figure. The collection of reproductions of El Greco's
paintings, split into small rooms, are hung with back-lighting
accentuating their own light and colour. They are full of soulful
expression and grace. I particularly liked a painting of a young
woman, representing Mary Magdelene (1557), her hand across her
breast, looking at breaking clouds, is a thing of great beauty.
It is said that El Greco (The Greek),
or to use his correct name Domenikos Theotokopolous (1541 to 1614)
was born here. This son of Crete travelled to Spain, and in
Toledo his most important work, with characteristic elongated faces
and bold use of light and colour, was completed. Rediscovered by
artists in the late 19 th Century, he is considered an influential
figure in the development of art in the 20th Century and into
The Museum and the cafe outside open from 9am to 5pm every day apart
from Monday. It closes after the summer, at the end of October,
to re-open in the spring. Admission is two euros (2005).
The building that houses the El Greco Museum is
worth a detour to visit, as is the café outside, in a building
of a similar age. This is the site of an earlier settlement which
transplanted itself down to the area of the modern Fodele, again
as a means to avoid detection by marauding pirates.
Byzantine Churches in Fodele
A little before the El Greco Museum there is the 11th or 12th century Church
of Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, with fine frescoes (wall paintings)
covering many surfaces, patches remain inside the dome, upon tapering
columns, and on the undersides of arches. Larger fragments of saintly
figures look upon you with soulful eyes from walls and around the
It is a small and highly important relic of the mid-Byzantine
period. We were asked not to take interior photographs, as none
of the frescoes have yet been published, but a visit here will offer memorable
views of icon painting from what many say was a 'golden era' for
this art form. The opening hours are 8:30 am to 3 pm, apart from Monday when it is closed.
The Monastery of Agios Panteleimon in Fodele
We have time for one last stop, as another pleasant
cypress lined road follows the river bed through orange groves, and it brings us to the Monastery of Agios (Saint) Panteleimon,
5 km from Fodele. Built in the last period of the Venetian occupation,
it is in complete harmony with the verdant landscape. During the
Turkish occupation, the monastery constituted a centre of the revolutionary
action and even though it was severely damaged and pillaged, it
preserves the traditional architecture of a monastery.
Pronounced Pantel-e-imon, this monastery is dedicated
to the patron saint of bakers. We had missed the annual celebration
in his honour, sadly, by one day. What remained from the feast were the bunting, alternating Greek
flags with those of the two headed Byzantine eagle. You
will often see these yellow flags with their black eagle emblem
outside churches. The two heads face east and west, symbolising
the readiness of Byzantium to deal with threats from either side.
The small monastery is closed, although we wait beyond the 4pm
time of opening, and can forgive the solitary monk who lives here
for any lateness. He must have had his work cut out yesterday,
at the feast.
A white walled newer section sits comfortably
next to a very old building, the former monastery of Agios Panteleimon. This building
is awaiting restoration, but gives an indication of the habitat
that monks of the middle-ages would occupy. The young monk here,
23 years old, will have replaced the man now lying under a dignified
grave in the courtyard, who died in 2003.
Realizing that we would
need to return on another day, we decided to leave Fodele and head back towards
Heraklion, the city that looks so placid from up here, in its blue
bay, with the sun now low in the sky, and the protecting mountains
NOTE. Just a last word about the monasteries and churches.
It is fine to visit these places, but don't expect the door to
always be open. If it is, take a look around, and leave a few small
coins in the box. Monasteries will offer opening times in most
cases, and are closed at midday, between 1pm and 4pm. Visit at
around 10am or 5pm and you should not be disappointed. Always respect
your environment, and please don't wear beach clothes in these
places. It does happen. You may be offered water and a sweet, which
you should accept, with thanks.