Réthymno is Crete’s third largest city, situated on the northern coast between the second largest (Chaniá, where we had already been), and the largest (Iráklio, where we were bound next). Réthymno‘s Old Town is pleasant in much the same way as Chaniá’s, but the city’s premier attraction is the huge Venetian fortress (still called the Fortezza) that looms over it. It’s said to be the biggest such fortification ever constructed by the Most Serene Republic, which built it in the 1500s to protect the town from conquest by the Ottoman empire. The plan was to rebuild the town (which an earlier Turkish raid had destroyed) inside its sheltering walls, protected by guns that commanded the sea from its great height. However, construction took so long that people got impatient and built outside instead. When the Turks finally arrived a century later, they came by land (making those guns irrelevant) and captured the city while paying little attention to the fortress. With nothing left to defend, the garrison soon surrendered and sailed away. A sad story, but the city still has lots of charm, and is less crowded with tourists than Chaniá. After a few days’ rustication in the quiet of Chóra Sfakío, we were ready for another city: a teeming metropolis that, according to Wikipedia, boasts some 27,000 residents.
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