Thursday, 20 June 2013

Walking, jogging, or cycling at Koules... with your dog

While I was living in Heraklion, I used to go down to the Venetian Harbour and walk out to the end of the pier at Koules with Sage, whenever I wanted to clear my head and have some time alone.

Venetian fortress, Koules, at Heraklion
Koules, as it survives today, was built by the Venetians in the early 16th century. It was built on the site of earlier defences, probably dating back to the Arab period (9-10th century). The name Koules comes from the Turkish name Su Kulesi, or water tower. The Venetian name was Castello a Mare or Rocca a Mare. 

Going inside the fortress with a dog is not possible, so I'll very briefly describe what you're missing... Koules is a two storey building, the ground floor once housed a prison, and storerooms for food and ammunition, while the upper floor supported a lighthouse, and sleeping quarters for the soldiers and officers. A church, a mill, and a bakery were also constructed within the fortress.
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Pass by the fortress and you come to the endless pier that disappears out into the sea. It is said to be about 2km long.  This pier has an almost constant stream of people, walking their dogs, cycling, jogging, young families with pushchairs, courting couples, people exercising, but it rarely feels too busy. It feels safe and bustling along there until about 8 or 9 in the evening in the winter, and much later in the summer.
View back to Heraklion from the end of the pier
(Winter 2012)
It is great to have a long, traffic-free space to walk with your dog, in the middle of the city. I love the views along there too - on the way out you're looking out to sea, at the huge ferries in the new harbour, the small fishing boats in the old harbour, to the lighthouse at the end, then on the way back you focus on the city itself, and the mountains behind, to Juktas and Stroumboulas, and East up towards Lasithi.
Sage with my Dad, with a view of the new harbour and Mount Juktas on the horizon
You are supposed to keep your dog on a leash, and I think it's probably a good idea - several times when I let her run free we nearly caused an accident with some (rightfully) angry cyclists. This is one of the few places in town, however, that sets out clear rules about dogs and dog walking: dogs ARE allowed, but on a leash. This makes a refreshing change from the ambiguity and uncertainty of dog rules elsewhere. There are even bins for dogs' mess, complete with bags!!! There are one or two fountains along the pier for drinking water too.

Information about opening times and ticket costs for Koules can be found on the website of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism:

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