Sunday, April 29, 2012

Holidays with History: The Battle of Crete

By Emily Collins

Holidays in Crete, or anywhere within Greece, can offer a glimpse into the past and as such the destination is ideal for those with a keen interest in history. You might be mistaken for thinking that the only history you'll come across on Greece holidays in ancient. The country also has a more recent living history.

A military invasion shattered the tranquillity of Crete for ten days during May 1941. This started on May 20th, the date Nazi Germany launched what was to become the first major airborne invasion in modern warfare. They encountered strong resistance from the Cretan civilians and a strong allied presence was expected, due to the first significant use of the recently cracked Enigma code. Although Germany suffered heavy casualties on the first day of battle, they had taken control of Maleme airfield by day two. This move allowed them to fly in reinforcements, overwhelming the defending forces. Crete came under German control and although a large scale evacuation got most of the allied forces out, among the local guerilla forces that took to the mountains, were an estimated five hundred allied forces who refused to abandon the island.

Due to the heavy German casualties suffered, Hitler forbade any airborne invasions. However, the Allied forces, unperturbed and impressed by the enemies tactics went about building their own airborne divisions. These would later prove indispensable during the Allied invasion of France.

To commemorate the anniversary of the battle, events and festivals are still held in Crete today, most notably in Rethymnon. May is the perfect time of the year to visit and get a broader knowledge of the country's history, or simply make the most of the wonderful spring weather. If you wish to spread your wings and get to some of the other islands, then this is another of Greece's May highlights.

Unification of the Ionian Islands - Corfu holidays will give you the best opportunity to sees the archipelagos' biggest celebrations. It marks the islands' unification with the rest of Greece, and sees revellers partake in traditional music and dance, and the obligatory eating, of course!

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