Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 21 February 2015
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Cretan Journeys Pa The Doma A house in time etan Journeys Part 3 house in time The remarkable story of the Doma Hotel in Chania WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICHAEL SWEET There aren't many hotels in the world like the Doma, the century-old establishment perched on the waterfront just east of Chania town centre. To ascend its curved steps and pass across its threshold is to enter a portal to the past, and if you are looking for a spot to reflect on Crete's rich, turbulent history - or just a perfect place to unwind - look no further. Decorated with exquisite antique furnishings - the walls adorned with fading framed photographs, documents and objets d'art - this former diplomatic consulate is the family home of its present owners - sisters Irini 'Rena' Valyraki and Ioanna Koutsoudaki, and their story is inextricably linked to this special place. Built in the late 19th century as the consulate of the Austro-Hungarian empire, it was like all consulates in Chania, located in the affluent seaside suburb of Halepa. As WWI redrew the map of Europe and the old dynasties fell, by 1918 Crete had been unified with Greece, and the building went into private hands. In 1933 the consulate and its extensive grounds was purchased by Ioanna and Rena's grandmother. Irini was born there the same year, but as war approached, the sisters' time in their childhood home was to be shortlived. In 1940, with Hitler's armies on the march across Europe, the British Consul in Chania persuaded their father Kyriakos Koutsoudakis (a former employee of the company that operated the telegraph line from Crete to Alexandria connecting England with India) to lease the house to the British government. For a year the family lived with the consul and his staff, before - on the eve of the invasion of Crete in May 1941 - they moved out, leaving their furniture and most of their precious heirlooms behind. Ioanna still remembers vividly the day the soldiers came from the sky. Fate decided that she and her family would be at the centre of the storm. "My father had arranged for us to be taken to a village near Maleme," says Ioanna, as we sit in the Doma's fourth-floor dining room, with its sweeping panorama looking out over the bay. "I remember the first night of the invasion. I was very afraid, my father took me in his arms, and the next day he took us in his car to the village of Elos, south of Kissamos, in the mountains." When Chania fell on 27 May the victorious German paratroops took over the British Consulate to use as their command centre. Ioanna and Rena's home would host the uninvited guests for four long years. "We came back soon after the invasion," says Ioanna. "I remember saying 'who are all these strange people?' and my mother telling me 'it's not our house anymore'." For most of the occupation the Koutsoudakis family lived not far from their requisitioned home. Like so many displaced in a town that was decimated by war, they made the best of it. "There were ten of us in my aunt's house. Once a German soldier gave me some chocolate, and my father told me 'you must not take anything from those people because they are not our friends'." Athens saw the Germans leave in October 1944, but 'Fortress Chania' would remain under Nazi control until 9 May 1945. The German surrender of the town would be the final act of World War II in Europe, but not even Chania's liberation Doma detail: Bedroom balcony ironwork and the old British consulate sign.
14 February 2015
28 February 2015