Located 20 km west of Hania, on the road to Kastelli-Kissamos, Maleme is the first place coming from Hania where you might want to stop. Not for its beaches, which are, after all, unremarkable, but out of curiosity for an event that remains omnipresent in the memory of the Cretans and which took place in May 1941: the Battle of Crete whose main stake, for the Germans, was the capture of Maleme airport.

Churchill believed that Crete would be the ideal place to regroup British (and New Zealand) forces during the inexorable German advance into the Balkan Peninsula in the spring of 1941. For a time, the Allies successfully continued German attempts to land in Crete. But on May 20, 1941, the sky darkened with thousands of Nazi paratroopers. At stake: Hill 107 (Hill 107), whose position ensured the security of the Maleme Military Airport. The Allied troops and the Cretans offered fierce resistance as the figures show: 6,581 Germans killed for every 2,000 men among the Allied troops. However, poor communication between the Allies resulted in the evacuation of Hill 107, which was immediately taken by the Germans. They were then able to land their planes safely. Allied command had no recourse but to order the evacuation. This they did by a forced march through the Lefka Ori to the south coast where boats were waiting for them that took them to Egypt, to Alexandria. This escape was only possible thanks to the resistance of a Greek battalion that defended a strategic location for two days. What followed was bleak for the Cretans who had to face German reprisals, but this blind repression had the effect of strengthening local resistance.

At the exit of Maleme coming from Hania, on the left, a small hut indicates the entrance of the German cemetery which goes up towards hill 107. A map details the progress of the battle. At the top, a terrace offers a view of the bay and the airstrip, coveted by the German troops. Even if it no longer operates, the airport is still located in a military zone; in principle, photography is prohibited. There are planes exposed on the runway, and you can ask the soldier on duty for permission to go and take a look.

Close to the cemetery, there is also a tomb from the Minoan period (3000-1200 B.C.), discovered in 1966 during archaeological excavations. With its 4 m high walls, pyramidal roof and entrance topped by a wide lintel, this ancient burial site is impressive.

Finally, do not hesitate to leave the coast to discover the small villages of the hinterland. Here, we live to the rhythm of olive growing and vineyards. It is a beautiful, unspoilt agricultural region that is open to the curious visitor. Take the country roads, leave the coast and tourists behind and play hooky!

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