The mountainous community of Kroussónas (GR: Κρουσώνας) includes the village of Kroussonas, that of Kitharida
and the monastery of Agia Irini. Its total population amounts to 4,022 (2001) inhabitants; the area covers 7,000 hectares of which 1,500 are wooded land (cypresses, cedars, oaks, and so on).
The plateau Livadi
, at a height of 1,020 meters, covers a surface of 1,000 hectares.
Agriculture and stock-raising are the main activities of its inhabitants: their dairy products, livestock and fruit (apples, pears, walnuts, prunes, among others) are of excellent quality.
Kroussonas is the main village of the county of Malevizi in the prefecture of Heraklion. The village is built in a semi-circle on the eastern slopes of the Psilortis (the highest mountain in Crete), between the hills of Koupos and Livadiotis, at 460 meters above sea-level.
It is at a distance of 21 kilometres from Heraklion and the crossroad at the seventh km on the main road to Heraklion leads straight to the village.
There are 2,972 inhabitants in Kroussonas, and the village offers many facilities:
- 1 High School
- 2 Primary Schools
- 2 Kindergartens
- A police station
- A medical centre
- Telecommunications services
- 1 Bank
- A post-office
- A nursery
- A centre for elderly people
- A corporation for further education and
- Recreational grounds
The history of the village is closely linked to the Christian faith and the main churches are: Saint Charalambos (the patron saint of the village), Saint George, Panagia Kera (Our Lady), and the more recent church of the Holy Trinity. There are over twenty chapels in the countryside around the village.
Kroussonas is a very old village and there is historical proof of its existence, under the same name, 700 hundred years ago.
The Barotsi census that took place in 1577 states its existence with 262 inhabitants, quite a large number for the time; today, Kroussonas continues to be one of the largest villages in Crete.
Like most villages on the island, Kroussonas played an important role in the rebellions against the invaders, particularly against the Turks.
To be able to survive, the inhabitants of Kroussonas became one with their surroundings, totally integrated to the mountains and the wild landscape. With their wild look, their rough but FREE manners, the people of Kroussonas remain faithful to their long-life tradition never to give in to the invader, never to bow their heads; always considered as an intractable bunch by the different invaders, they have always distinguished themselves in the fights for freedom.
During the worst fights against the Turks, Kroussonas and its "Hainides" became famous among the surrounding villages: these wild bandit-fighters formed the first army and prepared the ground for the great rebellion of 1821, which they lead to victory.
In these times of guerrilla warfare, the "Hainides" hid in the most remote and inaccessible parts of the Psiloritis, hiding in monasteries during the winter. There were five monasteries at the time, on the foothills of the mountain, in a range of less than seven kilometres: Kavalara, Jerusalem, Saint Irini, Saint Fanourios and Gorgolaini.
Many traditional songs and couplets celebrate the courage and the deeds of the "Hainides", many of which were from Kroussonas: Xilouris, Makatounis, Giamalis, Kokolozacharis, to name but a few.
A typical "Hainides" song mentions how a young man has made up his mind to go up into the mountains and live there with the wild animals, coming down as often as he can to take revenge on the Turks. He asks for his mother's blessing and she gives it to him telling to be brave and follow his father's and grandfather's example:
"and should a bullet kill you, let it lodge in your breast".
The name KROUSSONAS
There are many explanations as to the name of the village. One thing is sure: for the last 700 years it has been, and continues to be, KROUSSONAS, and not Krousson, as the present-day authorities name it in an effort to make it more "eneek" sounding...
Many believe (the majority) that the village owes its name to the Kourites who, in ancient times, lived in this area and used to bang their arms and their shields together (the Greek word "krousis" implies this). Others believe that the name "Kroussonas" comes from the Greek word "koursevo", implying a place that has been plundered, or else a place where brigands dwell.
The village and its surroundings is full of churches and chapels, some very old and each one with its own story.
The church of Jesus Christ,
better known as Agios (Saint) Charalambos
This is a very old church, inside the village. Its exact date is unknown but it certainly existed in Venetian times and during the Turkish conquest of the island. Important historical events have taken place in this church, like the burning of the Albanian Turks in 1822. The hole in the roof through which the fire caught, can still be seen.
The church of Panagia Kera (Our Lady)
This is the oldest church in the village and it lies behind the church of Saint Charalambos. The ring of its bell was famous: a Russian princess who, when returning from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, had been cured by our Lady, gave the bell to this church in 1674. The bell was built in Odessa and contained a large amount of gold and silver; unfortunately, it was melted down and replaced by a much smaller one with a common ring...
The church of Agia Triada (the Holy Trinity)
This is a new church in the village square.
The church of Saint Irini
It is built in the grounds of the monastery bearing the same name.
The church of Saint Fanourios
An ancient church built in the monastery of Agia Eleousa near the village of Kitharida.
It is said that during the Turkish occupation, the agha (Turkish commander) would always make a point of stopping at the monastery to beat the monk who lived there. the poor monk, in despair, prayed to Saint Fanourios to save him from these beatings. To no avail: the agha went on beating him just as much. The monk, then, angrily flung the Saint's icon outside the monastery. Next time the agha came by, he tripped over the icon and, in his fall, killed himself!
So it was that after all the Saint did work his miracle (after being suitably reproved by the monk!)
The church of Saint George Kokkiniako
A church with a small hospice.
The church of Saint Paraskevi
It is situated outside the village, in a place called Virgin Mary "TZAMA", where rituals were held in ancient times. This is shown in the name TZAMA which means the mother (MA) of Zeus (ZA).
Later on, in Christian times, it is said that a huge rock was about to roll down and crush the village: the Virgin Mary pushed the rock back with her shoulder and the mark of her shoulder can still be seen on the rock...
KROUSSONAS - VROMONERO
A magnificent walk, ideal for nature-lovers
Εxperienced walkers will most certainly enjoy this walk, while those who want to go by car had better use a 4-wheel drive vehicle, or a cross-country motorbike, especially in winter. It is 10 kms. long: one first follows the paved road for 3 kms. as far as the institution of Agios Spiridon; then a rough dust-road for 7 kms., until one reaches the woods of Vromonero at an altitude of 1300 meters above sea-level.
On leaving the village, one starts climbing East: right opposite is the natural park "Plai" which is under reforestation (5,000 trees), with a panoramic view of the village.
At the monastery of Agia Irini, the welcoming nuns will treat you to a cup of coffee and to biscuits they bake themselves.
The paved road comes to an end a little further on, at the Agios Spiridon Institution for Handicapped Children. From now on, the rough - and the most exciting - part begins.
After a kilometre or so the road parts.
To the right, it leads to the "Livadi", or plateau, of Kroussonas, a real orchard with 300,000 pear-trees and some apple-trees. The Livadi is a beautiful place, well worth a visit in the summer. From here you can admire the Kroussonas Gorge which goes from the village of Kitharida all the way to ZOMINTHO an ancient source on the Psiloritis mountain. It is said that the Minoans followed this gorge to reach the "Ideon Andron", the cave where Zeus was born, and one can still see traces of this ancient passage.
To the left of the crossroad as you climb, you have the mountain peak of Gournos to your right and the peak Skinakas in front of you. The hillside of Gournos is literally covered in herbs of all kinds: camomile, oregano, sage and many other local plants.
Less than a kilometre further on, there's a bypath where, after another 300 meters or so, you reach "Ai Yannis o Psilos" on the Koudoni peak. The archaeologist, Professor Sakellarakis, named this spot "the veranda of Crete": from here you can gaze on the whole province of Malevizi, all the way to the coast of Heraklion, and you can admire the "divine" mountain Giouktas and the island of Dia.
This visit is also worthwhile and the Municipality of Kroussonas has made it more welcoming to visitors by providing it with an open-air barbecue and running water.
Another three kilometres after the Ai Yiannis crossroad, through beautifully wooded landscape, you reach the "Lako tis Limas", or "Vromonero" a Greek word which means strong("vrimo") and sacred("iero"). According to a legend, the goddess Demeter met Jason on the hillside of Mount Ida and Pluto, the god of the underworld, was the fruit of their love...
"the sacred queen gave birth to a strong youth"....
In the wood among the oaks and other beautiful trees, there are ideal places for setting up a tent: here again the Municipality has provided the spot with certain facilities (barbecues, running water and so on).
Further on, 3 kms. from the Ida plateau, there's a mountain refuge: stone-built, it has all the basic victuals (sugar, coffee, wine, biscuit, and so on). It is located 3 km from the pass "THINOKOLAS" which leads to the plateau of Nida.
Enjoy the view, and admire the local "bonzai", or dwarf trees, which, due to the ceaseless pasture and the wild winds have never been able to develop into large trees.