From Crete to the Aegean Sea and from there to the Ionian Sea. From Homer to the Venetian Occupation and from there to today. Everything changes in space and time, except for the relation of the Greeks with the sea. With thousands of islands and islets scattered in the Ionian and Aegean Seas and its endless kilometres of coastline, it’s by no surprise that Greece has a special relationship with the sea.
Hellenic Maritime Museum
This is the biggest of all the Maritime Museums in Greece and it is housed in a building in Marina Zeas, in Freattyda, Piraeus. Here you can enjoy the works of important marine painters, like Volanakis, and see various exhibits which demonstrate the nautical activity of the Greeks from prehistory to the present day. There is also a large collection of maps from the 16th century and embroideries, which express vividly the relationship of our people with the sea.
Furthermore, the museum is completed with a substantial Nautical Library and many educational programs.
The sea, is related to our military history as well. The highlight of our naval history is one of the main objectives of the Foundation of the Park of Maritime Tradition, founded in 1993.Today, among other things, it supervises the Park of Maritime Tradition in Flisvos. Historic vessels are docked there; such as the destroyer "Velos" (now a museum of the struggle against the Military Dictatorship), the only copy of an ancient trireme named "Olympias" and "Thales of Miletus' (constructed in the US in 1909) the only cable-laying ship, as well as other boats of that time.
The most important "exhibit" of the Park is "Georgios Averof". She was the battleship-liberator of Lemnos, Mount Athos and the islands of the northern and eastern Aegean (Thassos, Samothrace, Imvros, Tenedos, Ag. Efstratios, Lesvos and Chios). Today, she operates under the name of "Floating Naval Museum Battleship G. Averof''.
Most Nautical museums are certainly on the large Greek Archipelago but there are a number of fascinating naval museums located on the Greek islands.
The Chios Maritime Museum, showcases the naval history of the island, emphasizing the period from World War II and after, when the acquisition of the American vessels, ‘Liberty’ boosted naval economic reconstruction. In the museum, one can see the small collection of the Progressive Cultural Union of Vrontados, which includes models, instruments, and paintings of ships.
As it is known though, the history of Chios is inseparable from the history of Oinousses. The Maritime Museum of Oinousses, is located in the center of the harbor. It was founded in 1965 to house ship models, paintings, nautical instruments, documents and books about the maritime tradition of Oinousses. Inside the museum you will travel back in time and see the sailboats which sailed the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and their worthy captains who thrived in trade and navigation. The museum “narrates” the transition from sailing to steamships up to the post-war fleets unfolding the great maritime history of the island.
The Maritime Museum of Oia, in Santorini. It is a museum of a great historical value. In its halls, the visitor will see drawings of Santorini’s shipyards, figureheads, naval carved chests, rare documents, maps, charters, marriage contracts and wills, sextants and various small items of daily use from old sailing ships.
The Maritime Museum of Milos, is housed in the harbour of Adamas. The exhibits date back to the prehistoric era up to the naval battle of Salamis ending in recent years. The most interesting are rare maps and the famous wooden boat ‘Irene’, a typical example of a Cycladic boat, that attracts many visitors.
The Maritime Museum of Andros is housed in an elegant Neoclassical mansion in Chora, in the square of the Unknown Soldier. The Maritime Museum of Andros was established in 1972 and has a rich collection with nautical items from the ancient until modern times such as shipping documents, models of old and new vessels, nautical dairies, costumes and many other exhibits that depict the strong connection of the locals to the sea.
The Naval Museum of Symi, an island that has a long tradition in manufacturing wooden ships from the ancient times (Argo, the ship of the Argonauts, according to the tradition, was constructed in Symi). It is housed in an elegant neoclassical house where the central shipyards of Symi were housed in the past. The Museum displays old maps, ship models, diver suits, nautical tools and other exhibits that depict the long marine and sponge-fishing tradition of the island.
For the fans of a more cosmopolitan holiday, there is the Aegean Maritime Museum in Mykonos. It is housed in a traditional Cycladic building of the 19th century and was the first ever Greek museum to restore living historical exhibits as they were originally designed and built. Exhibits that are living restorations include the ‘Armenistis Lighthouse’ (built in 1890), and the ships ‘Thalis o Milesios’ (built in 1909) and ‘Evangelistria’ (built in 1940), exposed at Flisvos, Athens. At the same time, the exhibitions offered by the museum to its guests are impressive: models of ships from the pre-Minoan era to the early 20th century, historical shipping documents, rare engravings and maps, ancient artifacts, naval instruments, and coins with naval themes from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD... Special mention should be made in the Museum’s Library, consisting of about 5,000 rare books.
The Ionian Islands, have more nautical and maritime museums, two of which are located in Zakynthos (Zante). The Historical and Maritime Museum of Zakynthos, is in a historical district of Zakynthos, in Bohali. Paintings of our naval tradition, miniature ships and nautical instruments are exhibited there. The Milanio Maritime Museum in Tsilivi, includes watercolors that reveal the whole evolution of shipping to our country and contains a wide variety of Byzantine ships from the beginning of the Byzantine Empire until its destruction in 1453 by the Turks.
In Corfu, in Benitses, there is a different museum, the Corfu Shell Museum which has received a merit from the Research Institute I.R.E.D.A. of Italy. Its collections include shells, fossils, sponges, corals, embalmed fish, lobsters, crabs, snakes, sharks, shark jaws and sea urchins, from the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
It would be odd if there wasn’t a naval museum on the island of the protagonist of the epic poem, Odysseus (Ulysses). On the island of Ithaki, one can find the Maritime- Folklore Museum of Ithaki, housed in the former Electric Power Station, constructed in November 1923. The Museum includes, a collection of paintings of ships, naval instruments, uniforms, and other objects from the rich maritime history of Ithaki. The engravings of J.H.W. Tischbrein (1751-1829) with figures from the poems of Homer, was an offer of the Centre for Odyssean Studies and have been included in the museum’s material, since 1996.
Galaxidi, located in Western Greece, was also one of the largest Greek naval forces. The wealth brought by the sea to the place is evident today, judging by the key and architecture of the city. The building that now houses the Maritime Museum of Galaxidi, was built in 1868-1870. The Museum has one of the largest collections of navigational instruments in Greece. Weapons and heirlooms from the revolution of 1821, figureheads and paintings are also exposed. But the museum’s gem is the famous "Chronicle of Galaxidi," (one of the most important post-Byzantine manuscripts) which was published by K. N. Sathas in 1865 and narrates the story of Galaxidi from the 10th to the 18th century.
On the island of Crete, on the Firkas Fortress, by the city port, which was built by the Venetians, the Maritime Museum of Crete is located. In its halls, hundreds of exhibits from the Venetian Occupation until the post-war period, are presented. The first one is the partial restoration of the Dockyard Moro, which currently hosts the exhibitions of the Greek Traditional Naval Architecture and the Ancient Naval Architecture. The other one is the reconstruction of the Minoan Ship. It was implemented in four years, and the whole project included the construction, launching and experimental voyage in an amazing journey, from Chania to Piraeus.
In ancient Neapolis, the first land-based shipbuilding units on the northern shores of the Aegean were created, with timber from Thassos. Today, the Navy Museum of Kavala hosts three traditional boats that incorporate elements of local shipbuilding tradition and have been designated as monuments by the Ministry of Culture.
Our journey of the Minoan Ship ends in Litochoro and its Maritime Museum, where the crew members would be able to see the full range of the wooden shipbuilding history of Greece, from the Minoan era to the 20th century.
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