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The Lassithi or Lasithi Plain on Crete
Lasithi Plain, Crete, Lasithi vlakte Kreta Lasithi Plain, Crete, Lasithi vlakte Kreta

Nederlands map of Crete The Lasithi plateau is 850 metres above sea level. It is 12km from east to west and 6km north to south and surrounded by high peaks, the highest is Spathi at 2,418 metres above sea level. These peaks protected the inhabitants of the plateau from attacks. Because the Lasithi Plain is at such a high altitude it is usually a bit cooler than on other places in Crete. The plain is at 43 kilometers distance from Agios Nikolaos and and has about 20 villages that are laid out in a circle around it. There are two entrances to the plateau: one is from the side of Agios Nikolaos and the other is a pass into the plateau coming from the Iraklion side through Kera. The Seli Ambelos Pass, at 900 metres, is dotted with abandoned windmills on either side. There is an impressive view of the plateau from here.

The days of glory are gone for the windmills on the Lassithi plain, and the reason to visit it should be the trip that takes you there and the nice views that you get along the way. If you're expecting a large amount of working windmills than you are going to be disappointed (you must go to my country, Holland, if you want to see those ;), because I don't believe any of them is working any more. The villages along the route, like for instance Tzermiado, and the really old stone windmills and churches that you will pass along the way are very attractive though, and worth to take a look at.

The fertile soil of the Lassithi Plateau is due to alluvial run-off from the mountains when the snow melts in the spring. The ditches on the plateau were installed by the Venetians in 1631 when they wanted to insure a good harvest. The irrigation was handled by the many visible windmills seen in the plateau. Most of these have been abandoned for the more efficient electrical pumps. The main crops of the plateau are potatos, vegetables apples and other fruits. There are also many almond trees which blossom in late January (the Brides of Winter) giving the plateau a wonderful appearance.

Lasithi Plain, Crete, Lasithi vlakte Kreta. Lasithi Plain, Crete, Lasithi vlakte Kreta. Lasithi Plain, Crete, Lasithi vlakte Kreta.

People have inhabited Lassithi since Neolithic times (6000 B.C.) except for a period of 200 years during Venetian rule. The Venetians could not control the inhabitants of Lassithi because of its position in the mountains, so, once the people were relocated, they forbade the plateau to be inhabited under penalty of death. After an uproar in the 13th centurr the Lasithi Plain was no longer used for farming for two hundred years. Only in 1463 some people came back to the area. You may circle the plateau, visiting its villages along a paved road.

Many people come to the Lasithi Plain because they want to visit the Dikti Cave which is situated near the village of Psichro. In Greek Mythology the Dikti Cave is the birth place of the god Zeus. From the parking place the climb up the hill takes about fifteen to twenty minutes and there is a small entrance fee to the cave of a few euros. The cave with its stalagmites and stalagtites goes down 84 meters to an enormous space which is 15 meters high. The walk inside the cave is quite slippery.

Hans Huisman, 2017
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