Walk from Sitia to Toplou Monastery & Palaikastro

Walk around Crete in 50 days – Day 6

from Sitia to Palaikastro

Distance 26.3 km
Number of steps 34.605
Burned calories 1483
Weather: cloudy in the morning, sun and again cloudy with strong north wind in the afternoon
Pulse at arrival in Palekastro 121

I wake up as usual, at 07.00. Having my breakfast I was thinking of the poor dog, I saw just passing Kavousi.. No further news.. I asked somebody to go and look for it, but they did not find it.

At 09.00 I met Maria Veniamaki, the president of the Animal Welfare in Sitia, who offered me the overnight place. Yesterday evening I had a nice dinner with her and Kostas (from the Sitia website) and his wife. We had a very positive talk about what could be done in Sitia… Maria said there were some strays… We would have a look tomorrow..

I met her the next morning (today) and we went for a walk, a little outside of the center. First Maria showed me a place where a stray lived, but we could not find it. As I noticed, people come to feed it. There was lots of bread and other food. No water.

Walking to another place, Maria told me that, in case of sick and wounded strays, they go to Heraklion, to Ourania Tzatzakis, close to the airport. Kostas, his wife Danielle and Maria pay all costs from their own pocket ! How is this possible in a modern state, year 2005 ? And they are not the only ones !

Arriving at the second place I catched a terrible smell. Two “hunting” dogs were locked up in a barn (3 x 3) and chained with a 1.5 m chain….both were separated one from another…VERY SKINNY AND I COULD SEE THAT THE SKIN FROM THEIR LEGS WAS GONE…To my guess, they had not been fed for weeks ! An no water of course! They place was locked and we could not even reach the poor animals. I zoomed in and took some pictures.

Maria called TELE KRITI, based in Ierapetra. Within one hour Ilias, a journalist, arrived. I had an interview with him and we went back to the place where the dogs were locked up. NOBODY from the neigbourghood knew the owner of the place ! Amazing, knowing that the Cretans know always everything about everybody !

Ilias filmed the situation and promised me he would broadcast it in the evening news. AND HE DID ! Great job, Maria and Ilias ! Reaction will come….although NOT FROM THE POLICE IN SITIA ! We visited them after the filming, wanting to complain against unknown. THEY REFUSED TO WRITE DOWN MY COMPLAINT and sent me to the Attorney District of Neapoli ! With two starving dogs at 1km from their office ! Unbelievable ! When I faced them with the law 3170 from July 2003 about strays and pets, they did not know anything about it ! The officer took notice of the numbers and said he would have a look at it ! Why could they not just cut the lock and free the dogs, so we could help and at least feed these poor animals !

In the mean time it was 12.30 and I still had to start my walk to Toplou ! Maria called her brother (taxi driver in Palekastro) and he brought me out of the Sitia center towards Agia Fotia. There I started at 12.45. Only climbing this time….

On my left I saw the gracious island of Dionissada and the Dionissos Village Resort, the only buildings in the area. Passing the village of Anatoukas the area is completely deserted, but what a nature…I started singing, together with the hundreds of birds, passing and facing me all the time…I am a lucky man, living all this…if it was not the sad situation in Sitia…Still mad about it !

Reaching the junction Toplou – Palekastrou, I had another 3 km to the Monastery..climbing of course ! At 14.30 at passed an area where was indicated “SITIA MOTOR CROSS”..In this beautiful nature ? Come on now ! A German Shepherd dog was protecting the area…No food, no water and a 4 m long chain…Protecting what ? The poor animal could not even reach the entrance of the area ! I tried to go near him but he was very afraid…

Then, suddenly, the first glimpse of the Monastery of Toplou.. 200 m before the Monastery another “barrel” dog. This one was hiding himself in the barrel as soon as he saw me.. .He had food but in his water I discovered a dead mouse. Arriving inside Toplou, I only met a man and a woman, drinking raki… I think they worked for the Monastery.. Asking them for an overnight place, they said I had to wait until the responsible father arrived at 18.00 !

It was 15:30 at that time and the distance to Palekastro is another 13 km..I decided not to wait for the “father” and to walk on to Palekastro..There I was at least sure to find an overnight place at Maria’s hotel “Hellas”, because I had arranged to stay there on March 7th. I took some nice pics and I left…

As far as I could see, all the land belonged to the Monastery, because it was closed off by high fences.. .After a while I was walking between the two seas (Aegean and Lybian). .It reminds me of Christopher Thorn’s book (gift from Ann Adamaki) about his cross over the island from Zakro to Kissamos “Between the two seas”. My “soulmate” SJ (Stelios Jackson) made the same trip, a couple of years ago. A strong and cold north wind catched me and I speeded up a bit…All the way I am walking on asphalt, sometimes very new.

Spotting Zakros beach now and the Island of Chrissi, where I spent so many beautiful hours, years ago.. Only one old stonehouse, where some people were working.. They are from Palekastro and pass their weekends in this beautiful area. Peace in Paradise ! At 16.40 I met the junction Vai – Palekastro and turned right.

Vai is for another time…17.50 arrival at the beginning of Palekastro and I phoned Maria of HELLAS HOTEL. Her son answered and indicated me where the hotel was. No problem to spend the night here…In the evening I met Maria (very warm and friendly woman). She will show me some nice places in the village tomorrow..

Now I am going for some salad (laxanosalata), fava, saganaki tiri, patates tiganites and a good glass of wine. I’ll drink my daily “elleniko sketto” after dinner, this time…..Looking forward to my friends who will visit me in Zakros, together with Christina…

Letter of Protest

Sitia, March 06 2005

To the District Attorney of Lassithi
Tel 2841 032062
Fax 2841 033127

Dear Madam / Sir,

My name is Ivan van Driessche, living for 6 years on Crete now. This year I decided to walk around Crete in 50 days, for Animal Welfare. I started in Malia on March 1st 2005 and I am now (today) in Sitia. I was welcomed by Maria Veniamaki, who is working for animals and the president of the animal welfare in Sitia.

She showed me two dogs, locked up in a stable, close to the road where is the market on Tuesday. Both dogs were very skinny, did not have food, I guess, for weeks, and were without water. The area was smelling.

I had an interview with Tele-Kriti from Ierapetra and asked the journalist to come with us and film the situation. I took pictures myself. Terrible situation. After that we went (11.30 am) to complain at the police station in Sitia. The police officer (Mr Angelakis) refused to write down my complaint and sent me to your office.

We are nowhere now and the dogs are starving. I pointed out the law 3170 from 29 July 2003. The police denied it, they did not know anything about it ! Nobody in the area, or the police, don’t know the owner of the piece of land where the stable with the dogs is . People walking in the area and working on their land, neighboring to this place, did not see anybody for months !
Mr Angelakis took notice of the number and date of the law, saying he would have a look at it. We left disappointed.

I will continue my journey to Toplou Monastery now and Mrs. Veniamaki will follow this case. Please contact her at : 28430 24934. Please have a look at my website : www.crete-in-50-days.com

Thank you for your kind attention.

Best regards,
Ivan van Driessche

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