Crete and the Cretans are known for their hospitality and the warm welcome given to visitors. Unfortunately it’s not always the case and in the recent past the monastery of Gouverneto on the peninsula of Akrotiri seems to have made many steps in the opposite direction.
The monasteries of Agia Triada, Gouverneto and Katholiko are the three best known attractions on Akrotiri.
Whilst Agia Triada is on the circuit of many organized bus tours only the more adventurous will drive the narrow road that winds its way up the hill to the older monastery of Gouverneto. Most people go there to walk to the wonderful ruined monastery of Katholiko and maybe walk down to the sea where a tiny rocky cove also has some interesting ruins. The walk that traverses the hills of Akrotiri from Gouverneto to Stavros via Katholiko is also described in a few walking guide books and attracts the occasional walkers.
A year or two ago the last 100m of road that leads to the monastery was cut off, then entirely fenced off forcing visitors to pass through the monastery grounds to access both the monastery and the path to Katholiko. Shortly afterwards signs appeared telling people what was forbidden (not inside the monastery but in the whole area which is essentially wild nature). This includes things like picnics, bathing at the sea and taking photographs.
And whilst there are several large signs telling people what they can’t do, there is not one single sign showing where the way to Katholiko starts. With all these fences it is really not obvious any more.
After hearing rumours that things had gotten worse I went today to see for myself. About two km from the end of the road there were two new signs saying ‘No buses’. Later, passing through the gate of the monastery I noticed a sign that ‘Access to the sea has been permanently blocked’. And indeed once I got to the ruined monastery of Katholiko I found that several routes into the little river bed below had been walled off. There is no logical reason for doing this except, maybe, that they can: it’s church property after all.
Closing the routes into the river bed also makes it impossible to follow the walk to Stavros and it could be quite a liability for walkers coming the other way and needing to get out of the gorge after a long walk. It is still possible to go in and out of the gorge via other routes (if you know them) but they are quite steep and could be hazardous.
Additionally all the door openings into the old buildings have been closed off with unsightly wire meshing. There is no reason that I can see for wanting to prevent people from going into them. There is nothing to take and nothing to damage.
And perhaps saddest of all: the wonderful, very tall olive tree that grows out of one of the ruined buildings (and that you can already see in a 19th century engraving in Robert Pashley’s Travels in Crete) has been cut right down to a height of a few meters. This is vandalism.
I have no idea who is behind this but the message from the ‘Holy Monastery of Gouverneto’ as it likes to call itself in its warning signs is certainly clear: F… off, we don’t want you here.
I guess the next (easy) step now is to close the gate that you have to pass through and we will have lost access to one of the most special places in the north-west of Crete.