and its return to life
There is a large village in the southwestern, central area of Chania, Crete, which is called Kandanos. You can get there by following the route to Palaiochora. You will find this village on the road 16 km before Palaiochora. Just before you arrive at Kandanos, you will go through the village of Kakopetros.
Where you will see this sign:
And what does all this mean?
Well, the huge German Airborne invasion of Crete landed largely at Maleme Military Airport, very close to Tavronitis, where the road you are on begins. The temporary commander of the Germans in Crete was a man Called Kurt Student. His job was to secure the Island of Crete, and he ordered a division of Nazi troops to proceed immediately south to occupy the southern port of Palaiochora, where he was afraid that Allied troops could land to fight the German forces.
Already Student was shocked that Nazis landing in Crete would not be welcomed by the people of the Island. In fact, as the Germans landed on Crete, there was an enormous resistance, mostly by the islanders without their own troops who had been captured fighting the Germans in northern Greece. Every Older man, woman and child fought back. They had first world war guns, scythes, and a bitter hatred of these invaders who would take their island from them. They had centuries of experience of forces doing this long before the German Invasion.
As the Nazi divisions marched south, they had large numbers of soldiers and field artillery. The first resistance fighters they found were here in the village of Kakopetros. Kurt Student ordered that they should kill and destroy completely any resistance. Here at Kakopetros, they shot everyone they could find and destroyed the village completely. Some people escaped to the hills and saw their families murdered by the Nazis.
The next village on their route to Palaichora was the lovely village of Floria.
Here the locals had prepared an ambush for the German troops, having been joined by fighters from Kandanos, the next and larger village on their route to Palaichora. Fighting commenced, and around 25 Germans were killed, along with many of the locals. When the Nazis had won the fight, and the resistance had retreated, Kurt Student ordered a memorial to his dead men and the murder and destruction of this village as well. Next was Kandanos.
Here was another battle. The Germans were angry that they had lost 4 or 5 days in their march and some of their men had been killed. They had to get to Palaiochora, and these civilians were causing them a lot of grief. At Kandanos, they came in with guns blazing and shot everyone they could find. Many locals hid in the surrounding hills as the Nazis slaughtered their families. Kurt Student was furious. He ordered them to destroy the large village of Kandanos and leave nothing standing. The Germans destroyed everything they could, throwing hand grenades into houses and so on.
Then the Germans erected a sign in the village square:
It says that Kandanos has been destroyed because of the assassination of 25 Nazi Soldiers. Every resident of Kandanos was murdered, including some 180 men, women and children. Their ancient village was entirely destroyed.
This was one of the worst atrocities committed in Greece and has haunted the Cretans for many years. Kurt Student was arrested by the Allied forces after the war in May 1947. He came before a war crimes court charged with his mistreatment of the people of Crete. He was sentenced to five years in prison and, in 1948, was given a medical discharge.
The Germans had decreed that Kandanos does not exist.
Today, Kandanos has been completely rebuilt and is now the seat of the municipality.
And here in the main square of Kandanos is my favourite taverna:
It is called Platia, and the tables and chairs are opposite:
And it is run by an American Greek woman called Samantha, who returned from America to care for her grandmother, got married to her husband and kids and runs this lovely and efficient taverna.
Here she is:
And she makes incredible Greek and Cretan dishes for a reasonable price, including her Moussaka:
So, on your way to Palaiochora, call in at Kandanos. It really is a very special place.