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Crete: Hania Prefecture Overview Page Twenty-three

To Aghia Roumeli; Samaria gorge

The road goes west out of Hania, then roughly south towards the Omalos plateau ('omalos' means navel in Greek). In the Kerkitis valley near Aghia are orange groves with windbreaks made of a type of cane commonly used for this purpose on many Greek islands. This area is known as Prison Valley since the days of the Battle of Crete (1941), because of the prison there (both then and now). During the German airborne invasion German parachutists tried to land in the valley as part of a pincer movement along with forces on the coast road in the planned attack on Hania, but were met with daunting resistance (as they were on the coast, where the German suffered horrific losses). There is a reservoir near Aghia, which is frequented by both birds and bird-watchers, spring migration being the best time season.There are churches, some of them with frescoes on the way to Omalos, in the Episcopi area, and also near the war memorial near the junction with the road to Soughia.

There's a turnoff to the village of Meskla (see above) near Fournes the plateau of omalosAfter the main road crosses the Kerkitis River the road spirals up to Lakki, a tile-roofed mountain village with specactular views, and wonderful local honey. Beyond there the road reaches a pass, with a plaque commemorating the death of Sergeant Perkins, a New Zealand leader of a guerilla band during the World War II resistance and a Cretan co-fighter, who died in a German ambush in 1944, at the end of the war. Perkins, whose was nick-named 'Vasili' and 'Kiwi' had escaped from a prison camp early in the war, later from the island itself, and then returned as an undercover agent. He and his Cretan comrades were based in the southwest part of the island, and were much-sung heroes of the resistance.

The Omalos Plateau (right) is at 1100 meters, surrounded by the highest peaks of the Levka Ori (White Mountains) with passes leaving from three corners (the plateau being triangular in shape). The unsuccessful Cretan revolt against the Turks of 1866-7 began here, and the grave of one of Crete's great rebel leaders Hatzimihalis Yiannaris is here next to his house and a chapel, who became president of the Cretan Assembly which won union with Greece in 1912 after nearly a century of bloody struggle. He had the chapel built and dedicated to the saint to whom he had prayed while languishing in a Turkish prison.

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