Visiting villages in Crete Greece

Visiting villages in Crete Greece: The village of Astraki today has 228 inhabitants, mainly engaged in agriculture. Documents in 1278 mentioned Astraki as Astracu and more specifically in 1583 as Astracus Catto with 230 inhabitants. The name of the village comes from the many potsherds found here, called ostrakon. As papyrus was too expensive for everyday use, people used mainly ostraka for short everyday writing activities.

There were two parts of the village: Epano Astraki (above) and Kato Astraki (below). Nowadays nobody lives in Kato Astraki anymore and it basically consists only of ruins. The Turks built this settlement and it was abandoned in the early 1900s after the Turkish occupation was defeated. After that, nobody inhabited the houses ever again.

The village of Astraki

At the highest point of Kato Astraki stands the ruins of the 12th-century Byzantine church Agios Georgios Vourvoulitis. Next to the church is a spring with holy water of Agios Georgios (Saint George), which farmers now use for irrigation of surrounding land. This church used to be richly decorated with a golden bell and it had golden chalices. The Cretans buried all the gold in the area just before the Turkish occupation took over the area.

The church of Panagia (Our Lady) in the lower part of Kato Astraki is a single-nave 16th-century church that bears traces of frescoes. This church is still intact and can also be visited. On the west side, there is a coat of arms with four roses, a double-headed eagle and the date 1555. Inside the church is a sarcophagus with a family crest on it.

Below the village is the cave Neraidospilios, there is a spring with plenty of water. They use the water for the city of Heraklion. Legend has it that the cave is home to the fairies. This also explains the name of the cave: Neraido (fairy) spilios (cave).

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