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Crete village war museum

- by Archimedes

Visitors to western Crete often head into the mountains that form a majestic backdrop to resorts along coasts, both north and south. People passing through the mountain plain of Askinou may stumble upon an amazing private war museum hidden in the hills. If they do, they may get a personal tour by the friendly curator Giorgios Hazidakis who is also likely to offer a shot of "raki" and a tasty snack.

The war museum was started by George in the wake of events in 1941 when Nazis ousted Allied Forces from the island in the Battle of Crete.

The German troops parachuted into Crete, which was defended by 40,000 British, Australian and New Zealander troops as well as 10,000 unarmed Greeks who had escaped from mainland Greece.

Despite appalling casualties the Germans gained a foothold around Maleme airfield and, thanks in part to overwhelming air superiority, they forced the evacuation of British and Commonwealth troops.

The Allied troops marched over the mountains along mountain passes at Vrises, Askifou to Imbros and Chora Sfakion to be shipped away by British destroyers and submarines to Alexandria, in Egypt.

George Hazidakis, then 10 years old, witnessed much of the fighting. He was wounded and family members were killed. After the war George began to collect arms, weaponry and army memorabilia found in the surrounding area.

The collection is on display in the war museum in the village of Kares, in Askifou. Sadly the Greek authorities have declined to support the museum which relies on visitor donations to keep it going.

All the rooms, and even the courtyard, are packed full of rifles, revolvers, swords, mortars, shells, binoculars and military uniforms as well as maps, drawings and other paraphernalia.
The oldest exhibit is a small ship's cannon from the Daskaloyannis revolt of 1770, while the largest is a German World War Two bomb.

The village of Kares is worth a visit in itself for anyone on holiday in Crete. It overlooks the Askifou plateau where the fertile soil grows potatoes, vegetables, fruits and wheat.

There are 'Sfakian Bakeries' here with a huge selection of breads, biscuits and sweets as well as tavernas, cafes and some spectacular views.