Suda Bay or Souda as it is locally spelt is situated in the North-West of Crete near to the city of Chania. A natural harbour, it has provided shelter for ships and boats for thousands of years. Indeed it was at Souda Bay that the Roman army first gained a foothold on the island of Crete in 69 BC.
In more recent years the visitors to Souda bay are likely to be on cruise liners visiting for a short time the beautiful city of Chania. It is also a major naval base, both for the Greek and the US navy. Visiting warships, tankers, merchant vessels and even submarines are often seen visiting the harbour. It is a wonderful sight to see a submarine leave the bay as it cannot submerge until clear of the busy waterway.
Visitors that arrive by air into the small, yet busy, Chania airport on the Akrotiri peninsula are greeted with a spectacular view of the bay as their holiday busses or hire cars wind down the steep road that flanks the North side of the bay. If they are lucky they will see one of the many cruise liners that dock here during the summer months. These vast floating cities dwarf the harbour front with their multi story facades and sun decks. One of the most compelling sights as you meander down the hillside is of a smallfield set aside with small white stones laid out with military precision. As you get closer you make out a large cross in the centre of this field and realise you are looking down upon a war cemetary.
The Souda Bay allied war cemetary is one ofthe main reasons for visiting the area. It is the resting place of over 1500 allied soldiers, sailors and airman. Most of these fallen heroes are a direct result of the German invasion of Crete in May 1941 but there are some graves commemorating dead servicemen from the 1800s here too. The cemetary is the final home for hundreds of Australian, Maori and New Zealand soldiers who died during the violent struggle when German paratroopers invaded the island. Each year there is a celebration where veterans and dignitaries commemorate the war dead. The services are held in the last weeks of May to coincide with the anniversary of the Battle of Crete and are if you happen to be in Crete at this time it is well worth a visit to the site to witness the solemnitty and dignity of the occasion.
Outside of the war cemetary at Souda is a small cantina. It is just a small caravan that sells cold drinks and an occasional snack, but if you take the time to chat to owner you will be rewarded with a wealth of information, not just of the war cemetary but of Crete itself. Dimitris, the owner, will regale with his personal life experiences of living in Crete for his 80 plus years. Pop in and buy a bottle of water and experience the history of Souda bay at first hand.
If you are visiting the area of Souda Bay for more than a few hours then a fascinating trip should be made to Aptera. This ancient site overlooks the bay to the South and is the home to some wonderful ancient Roman and Greek ruins that are remarkably well preserved. Allow yourself at least two hours to walk around the site and see the amphitheatre, the villas and the specatcular Roman baths and cisterns that are in remarkable condition. Aptera offers a wonderfully tactile experience to the visitors of the area around Souda bay.
For many visitors Souda Bay is just the stretch of water and wonderful sandy beach that is seen from their hotel balcony, especially if they are holidaying in the resorts of Almirida and Kalyves. But Souda Bay offers so much more if you just take the time to find out.
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