Palekastro – Vai – Toplou Monastery
Palekastro is a village 18 km away from Sitia. It took the name due the ruins of an old castle on the top of the hil l(Palekastro in Greek means old castle). It is not the capital of the municipality of Itanos and a fast growing turistic place due to the fact that is surrounded with marvellous beaches like Itanos, Chiona, Kouremenos, etc.
For someone who desires to meet a population and live the experience of its culture,the present is not enough. The knowledge of yesterday’s life plays a determinant role.
With the help from the development union of Sitia, the restoration was complpleted and objects were collected from around the region.The museum exhibits common items and tools that would have been in use by the generations of people from the times of the Turkish Occupation up until 1960. Today ’s visitors can get a complete picture of an authentic Cretan house,with its traditional furniture and everyday house hold items.As well as rare kinds of Cretan popular art.
The famous palm tree forest of Vai is at the east coast of the island 24 km from Sitia. There are lots of mths and legends about the origins of these palms, inclunding the theory that they sprouted from date pits spread by Roman legionaries relaxing on their way back from conquering Egypt. While these palms are closely related to the date,they are separate species unique to Crete.
Eventhough the cause of existence of Vai is unknown,it maintain due to the special weather contitions and the underground water sources.The forest is on the way of the migrating birds and also a must for the visitor of the east Crete.The imposing Monastery Toplou, 18km east of Sitia on the back road to Vai,looks more like a fortressthan a monastery. It was often treated as such being ravaged by both knights of St John and the Turcks.
It holds between other valueable treasures an 18th century icon by Ioannis Kornaros,one of Crete’s most celebrated icon painters.There are also a big number of 14-15 centuries icons which painted on the way big masters of Konstantinople used to paint their masterpieces. The monastery took its name from the Turkish word<> which means cannon.
The nessecity for defense against Pirates made the monks of that age to use a cannon in order to drive away the pirates in the time of Turkish domination. The monastery damaged dramatically in 1612 due to an earthquake but restored by the Venetian senate and the leadership of Gabriel Pantogalos.
The reconstruction gave to the monastery an obvious different look from its former Byzantine architectural. Many monks are killed during the liberation fights in 1821 and 1940-44 because of their accistance to the rebels. Nowadays an interesting museum has been created in the monastery and the monastery is also a center of organic products as olive oil and wine.