In the heart of the Skafia region, Kallikratis is a village marked by history. The Cretan resistance takes all its meaning here. Located at an average altitude of 540 meters, this village is now inhabited by a few dozen families during the period from May to October. It is still a popular spot for hikers who crisscross the many gorges on the island of Crete.
The village takes its name from admiral Manousos Kallikratis who led a troop of 1500 Cretans in support of the defense of Constantinople in 1453. Kallikratis and its inhabitants suffered their lot of atrocities, namely in 1770 during the revolt against the Ottoman Empire, in 1821 and in 1866 when the village was sent on fire during fighting against the Turks.
Then on October 8, 1943, thirty civilians were executed by German forces on the pretext of reprisals for the resistance efforts of the Cretans during the World War II. On October 3, 2018, this village received the unenviable distinction by presidential decree of "martyr village".
Today, the reputation of this lost place relies on one of the most dangerous roads in the world. Access to Kallikratis village by road from Kapsodasos is a steep zigzag climb from southwestern Crete, with more than 25 hairpin bends including a famous 2 km section with a climb of nearly 9%.
One of my good friends (René Bousquet) found himself to access it by the north-east in 2008. Here is an excerpt from his experience:
The road from Rethymno to the gorge of Imbros was, and the word is weak, perilous. A good star had to follow me to be out of this journey alive. I took the road west and turned south at the first opportunity. After a while, I saw the mountains appear on the horizon ... Imposing mountains ... It was the beginning of the white mountains. The wildest mountain range of Crete. I entered a road more and more winding, more and more abrupt.
The earth had become inhospitable, untamed, rebellious. I was in the land of resistance, in the land of the disciples; those who have stood up to conquerors for centuries. At the intersection leading to Asi Gonia, I decided to continue in the mountains instead of going to the village. The place was too weird. The poster indicating the village was riddled with rifle bullets, a veritable peg of executions. Nothing invited to hang out in this place.
The upward slope and the zigzags had become unreal. The wheels were slipping on the pavement flooded with scree and debris. For several miles, I had to go around unstable stones with a fall of five hundred meters to my right, without any rampart to comfort me. What to do ? Impossible to turn back on this road! We had to continue...
At the heart of the plateau, I met old mountaineers. They were huddled around a table in the shade of a chestnut, playing dice. Finally, there was a little humanity in this untamed corner. I arrived at Kallikratis. An old lady got up from the table and came in my direction with her arms outstretched to greet me. I thought she was going to apply a goat's milk compress on my forehead. No doubt, she had never seen a face color like mine. I was green like my car. Is that KA ... KA ... LI ... KRA ... TIS ... TIS ... uh ... TIS ... here? I mumbled. The old lady gave me an illuminated smile.
The road continued to climb for one or two kilometers. In the middle of the road, a herd of goats had taken up residence. They had decided to take a nap, stacked on this stretch. They blocked the road in total indifference. I paused to look at them without flinching. I wanted to fully enjoy this magical moment. I had just come out of the road of death. In front of me, three kilometers to the south and almost a thousand meters below, appeared the sea of Libya in all its quintessence.
By Patrick Hadsipantelis and René Bousquet