Archaeological finds in the area
The village of Gavalohori, together with the small settlements of Agion Pavlos, Aspro and Agios Vassilis is named after the Byzantine family Gavalades who lived here in the 12th century. Historically it goes back a long way because of the numerous archaeological finds in the area covering both Neolithic and Minoan periods.
In the vicinity of Ag. Pavlos church double bladed Minoan axes have been found and many buildings survive from Byzantine, Venetian and Turkish times. Look out for the arched olive oil mill dating from 1360, the old school and many old houses whilst 1.5km outside the village on the road to Vamos three Roman tombs have been discovered.
The chapel of Agion Georgios
A pleasant ten minute walk up a small hill brings you to the chapel of Agion Georgios. Next to it hidden under an old plane tree are three stone wells dating back to the 11th century and a bridge from the Venetian era (1204 to 1669). Several pieces of pottery were found in the wells which can now be seen in the museum. Other interesting churches include Ag Pavlos, Agia Aikaterini, Agios Joannis, Agios Sergios and the Panagia.
In 1910 about 1500 people dwelt here and there were about 40 kafeneio. Today little more than 300 live here including many incomers from northern Europe. The Cultural Society of Gavalohori strives hard to protect and uphold the old traditions by organizing festivities at New Years Eve, Easter and during the summer months. Every year on 8th September the biggest village festival (Panagiri) is held in the village.
The Woman's Co-operative
The women of the village maintain the old hand working skills of lace making and ‘kopaneli' which is the name given to the inter-weaving of many threads on a vertical frame. On the platea the co-operative has a shop selling a variety of hand made goods, textiles, lace, clothing and a broad range of decorative home goods.
Gavalohori Folk Museum
The museum is located a few steps away from the platea in an old building graced with both Venetian and Turkish building styles which has been carefully renovated using public funding. It was lived in until the end of the 19th century before falling into disuse. The heirs of the last family to live here, George and Maria Stilianakis, bequeathed it to the community to be made into a museum that would bring together a collection of objects historically important to the area as well as helping to keep alive local traditions and culture. A walk through the museum will briefly transport you back to Crete's past and give you the flavour of the way people once lived here.
The building is a fine example of a traditional Cretan house. The stone arches, much used in the construction of houses on the island, give a sense of durability and strength and help to provide the house both spaciousness and intimate corners in the same space. Within the walls of the house there were living areas and a kitchen around an oven with an ‘updraught' built over the fireplace for smoke to escape.
Under the same roof were also ‘auxiliary' spaces for a winepress, storage and a work room. The furniture, like the house is plain and functional consisting of a loom, large sofa, chest for a bride's dowry, lamp holders for the oil lamps, a hand mill for grinding wheat, earthenware oil and wine jars, water pitchers and most ingenious of all a wine press that could be used as a bed after the grapes have been pressed. It may seem like a nightmare of clutter to 21st century housewives but in those days it must have been a masterpiece of home design.
The museum displays an almost endless cornucopia of everyday items used and made by the long gone people of Gavalohori. It includes pottery, lace made with silk, home textiles and clothing, wood carving, iconography, historical weapons, old coins, framed family photographs and stone sculptures. After seeing how these people lived you will certainly leave the building with a greater understanding and empathy for them.
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