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Crete: Hania Prefecture Overview Page Thirty-two

Westernmost Crete

Kastelli Kisamou

This westernmost city on Crete's north coast is 43km/27miles from Hania, and has a population of around 3000. A castle (hence 'kastelli') was built here by a Genoese challenger to the Venetian claim to the island , Enrico Pescatore. The official name of the town reverted to Kisamos in1966, to avoid confusion with the town east of Iraklion, also called Kastelli (Kisamos being the name of the Greco-Roman city-state at this site), but the locals still call it Kastelli.

Set on a bay with a pebble beach below the town and a sandy beach to the west, it is a working town and wine center rather than a tourist-oriented place, though the development of ferry service to the island of Kythera (off the south tip of the Pelopponese), along with the fairly recent highway from Hania and the road-building that has opened up the west coast, have all drawn more tourists here. Besides being an obvious base for exploring the west end of the island , with rooms available (though not much in the cheapest price category), perhaps it is its very ordinariness and disinterest in tourism that people find refreshing. The ferry is 2km west of town, and most facilites are to be found on the main square, Platia Kastelliou.

The city was the port for the ancient city of Polyrinia , remains of which can be seen about 7km inland above the village sometimes called by the same name, but also Paleokastro (old castle), to which there is regular bus service. From the present day village there it is a climb up to the hilltop site, which takes the form of two promontories. Polyrinia, (which meant 'rich in lambs') was an 8th century BC Dorian colony from the Pelopponese which thrived until Roman times and after. The city was spared destruction by the Romans because it thanked the conqueror (Quintus Metellus), treating him as a benefactor, rather than joining the resistance of Hania and other Cretan cities. The acropolis is Venetian which incorporated previous Roman and Greek masonry consisting of massive blocks into the church there now.

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