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Ierapetra

The town of Ierapetra (in the local dialect Gerapetro) is located on the south coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional centre. With its 11,450 inhabitants (1999) it is the most populous town in the prefecture of Lasithi, and the fourth town of Crete. Ierapetra is popularly known as the southernmost town of Europe, nicknamed "bride of the Libyan Sea" because of its position as only town on the south coast of Crete.

Ierapetra has had a place in the history of Crete since the Minoan period. The Greek and later Roman town of Ierapytna was on the same sight as present day Ierapetra. In the shallow bay remains of the Roman harbor can still be seen. In the Classical Age Ierapytna became the strongest town of eastern Crete. This ended when it was destroyed by the Romans in 67 BCE. It was rebuilt, but was soon surpassed by the city of Gortyn. In 824 CE it was destroyed by Arab invaders, only to be rebuilt as a base for pirates. In the Venetian Age, from the 13th to the 17th centuries, Ierapetra - now known by its present name - became prosperous again. The fortress of Kales, built in 1626 to protect the harbor, is a remnant of this period, although local myth says it was built by the Genoese pirate Pescatore in 1212. In July 1798 Ierapetra made a small step into world history: Napoleon stayed with a local family during his voyage to Egypt. The house where he stayed can still be seen. In the Ottoman period a mosque was built in the town, which has now become the town music school. Finds from Ierapetra's past can be found in the local Museum of Antiquities, formerly a school for Turkish children. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a well preserved statue of Persephone.

Present day Ierapetra consists of two quite distinct parts, Kato Mera and Pano Mera. Kato Mera is the old town on the southwestern headland. It is characterized by a medieval street layout with narrow alleyways, cul-de-sacs and small houses, creating a village-like atmosphere. The former mosque and the "house of Napoleon" can be found in this neighbourhood. Pano Mera is the much bigger new town, with wider streets and three and four storey houses. Pano Mera is still expanding towards the west, north and east.

Ierapetra's main shopping street is Koundouriotou. In the centre the town hall, the museum and two cinemas can be found. The local hospital lies in Pano Mera. To the west is the southern headland with the fortress and a port for fishing boats. Further east is a short beach with bars and restaurants, followed by the quay for ferries to Chrissi. Further on lies the main boulevard with hotels, bars, restaurants and souvenir shops. At its end a new promenade leads alongside Ierapetra Bay's long beach.

The local government has planned the development of a new international port. This plan is being opposed by some citizens who think it will destroy the local environment and scenery. They are supported by Ecocrete.gr, the local environmental tribune.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ierapetra

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