Thodorou Islands off Platanias
Thodorou is the name of the small island opposite Platanias, more or less in the middle of the bay. If you go up to Ano Platanias and look towards Thodorou, it will remind you of a huge turtle with it mouth open as if it’s about to attack or bite something.
Agioi Theodoroi or Thodorou
The island, with an area of 697 square metres, is now known as Agioi Theodoroi (Saints Theodore) or Thodorou, but it has changed name many times in its history. It should be noted here that in Chania it is always referred to in the plural, as “ta Thodorou” (in the plural).
This may be because, apart from the large island, there is also a tiny islet next to it, known as Glaraki (“little seagull”), so the locals refer to both in the plural. You will never hear them called “to Thodorou” in the singular here, so we will refer to them in the plural too, although the islet is more of a large rock.
History of the Thodorou Islands
The history of Thodorou is very interesting. The large island was known in antiquity at Akytos (meaning unsuitable for habitation) or Letoa, while it was also mentioned as Toullouros.
In the Minoan period, the Thodorou islands were a sacred sanctuary, but their character and function changed in Christian times and the Venetian period.
The Venetians referred to the main island as San Theodoro or San Todaro. In 1574 they decided to build a fortress on the island and reinforce its defences in order to prevent pirates and Turks from invading Crete from the direction of Platanias.
They therefore built a fortress on the highest point of the island and named it Turluru. They also built a smaller one lower down, naming it San Theodoro. Both fortresses were polygonal and cost about 21,500 ducats, a large sum at the time, but the Venetians were aware of the island’s strategic importance and did not stint the money.
A guard of 70 men lived on the island permanently to protect the coast of Platanias. In 1645, however, the Turks attacked Crete and 70 men proved too few to resist the enemy. When they realised the battle was lost, they preferred to die rather than surrender. They blew themselves up and put an end to their lives on Thodorou.
In 1650 the islands passed back into Venetian hands until 1699, when the Turks reconquered them, ruling them until the liberation of Crete.
Today only a few ruins remain of the castles and the older little church of Agios Theodoros.
The Cretan Ibex on Thodorou
The Thodorou Islands once guarded Crete from her enemies, but now they protect the Cretan Ibex from its own enemies, the hunters who would love to add the famous Kri-Kri, the wild goat of Crete, to their trophies.
The wild goats were moved to Thodorou from the mountains of Crete, to allow them to breed in peace, far from poachers and other dangers.
In order to protect the Cretan ibex or kri-kri, the state declared Thodorou a National Park and banned any human presence and activity there. About 80 ibexes are now thought to live on the island, protected by a special guard.
Until recently even visiting the island was forbidden, although the Platanias Municipal Council approved the raising of the interdiction in 2009, in order to allow organised boat trips to bring tourists to the island for a few hours. However, there are strong objections by those who fear the possible impact on the ibex population, so the future course of action is uncertain.
It should be noted that the Thodorou Islands are a refuge for many wild animals and migratory birds.
The soil of the island is relatively dry and waterless, while the landscape is mainly one of rocks and bushes. The climate is typically Mediterranean, with little rainfall and hot summers.
The legend of Thodorou
Apart from the official history of the islands, local folklore and tradition always engenders even more interesting stories and fascinating legends. The Thodorou are no exception to this rule.
According to legend, then, once upon a time there were no Thodorou Islands, and you could gaze out across the Sea of Crete with nothing to interrupt your line of sight.
But one day, we don’t know how long ago, the inhabitants of Platanias beheld a huge monster threatening their homes. The monster rose from the sea off the coast of Platanias one day at sunrise and the inhabitants, terrified by its roars, ran to see what was happening.
They saw a huge black mass rushing at them, with its baby following behind. One version of the story says that the monster was a massive bear with its cub.
The locals took up their weapons to kill the beast, throwing spears and shooting arrows, but the monster remained unharmed and prepared to attack the people who threatened it and its cub.
As the two monsters approached, the women of the village fell to their knees and started praying to St George and the Virgin to save the people and their village.
Miraculously, the monsters were transformed into two masses of rock, two new islands, one large and one much smaller. The inhabitants named these islands Thodorou.
The large cave mouth among the rocks of the larger island is the maw of the attacking beast, making locals and visitors even today refer to Thodorou as “the beast”...