The Bay at the 'Honey' village

Bali Crete Copyright Rodney Aarup

Bali is a small fishing village set around three small bays at the end of a valley with impressive high mountains to the south. The town lies just 5 km from our holiday house. There are four beaches with sand or pebbles in Bali Bay. The water is crystal clear and the bay is well protected from wind. At Bali you'll find sun beds and umbrellas for sunbathing and plenty of facilities for sea sports. Diving, sailing, canoe, and water-sports are possible and at the harbour you can book day excursions by boat to other beaches and towns. Around the middle bay is the original fishing village. Here is a small port where you find several small, cozy taverns.

The name Bali has nothing to do with the Indonesian island of that name. The local explanation goes that Bali means 'honey' in Turkish and the village got its name because they used to produce honey here. But the explanation is probably quite different, which you can read more about below.

Bali. A photographic journey through 30 years

Bali Crete Copyright Rodney Aarup

Bali attracts more tourists than the neighboring village of Panormos, so in high season package tourism is more prevalent here than elsewhere along this part of Crete's north coast. It has left its mark on the spot. Every year for almost 30 years the Danish photographer Rodney Aarup and his wife Mariann have visited Bali. Rodney's photos documents the development of a period when the number of tourists in Crete grew from approx. 150.000 to approx. 2.5 million people annually.

It is the story of a small place and a small island on the edge of Europe, which has always strived to be 'themselves'. For although Crete in some ways have surrendered to mass tourism demands and conditions, the island's inhabitants still maintain their unique characteristics and lifestyles. The photos document changes - but also the persistance of a culture and a way of life, that the Cretans - and we - appreciate so much.

We have permission to reproduce some of Rodney Aarup pictures so you can see how the development has set photographic traces through 30 years. You can see the pictures here.

The Story of a Name: Bali

Bali Crete Copyright Rodney Aarup

The local tradition will know that Bali has got its name from the Turkish word for 'honey'. But, in Turkish 'honey' is called 'bal' - not 'bali' which means 'depending upon'. And it is a strange name for a place, so the story is hardly true. Another local explanation claims that Bali is derived from 'Vali' - which would mean 'prince' in Greek. But in Greek a prince is called πρίγκιπας '(prigkipas) and so it has been at least since the Middle Ages, so it's not a very likely explanation either. Instead, one must, as with so many other place names go back in history and see what one can find. And then an explanation comes up which is actually much more interesting.

The first written source that names the place is a navigation guide or a 'periplus' from the Fourth century. In this 'Stadiasmus Maris Magni' the place is referred to as 'Astali' or 'Astale' - the seaport of Axos during the Roman period. The name Astali is derived from 'Ταλλαΐοι' (Tallaii). It has to do with the mountains that surround Bali on the landward side. The Kouloukonas mountains were formerly called 'Talea Ori' - or 'Talos' Mountains'. Talos is a figure in Greek mythology, but originally probably an even older sun god dating back to Minoan times. It is also him and his mountains that inspired us to name our house Villa Talea.

In later sources 'Astali' changes as first the ''s' and since the prefix 'a' disappears. A Venetian map of 1615 refers to the bay as 'reduto di Atali' (Atali bay) and in 1651 it is called 'porto di Tali' (Tali port). Even later in 1854 the English archaeologist Edward Falkener tells that the then modern name of the place was 'A Tali'. So the most likely explanation for the place name is that 'Bali' is merely the latest transformation of the ancient name 'Astali', and thus stands in direct relation to Greek mythology.

But how does a 'T' become a 'B'? Well, this then might have to do with the Turks. From approx. 800 to the reform in 1928 Turkish was written in Arabic script. And in this script the difference between 'Tali' and 'Bali' is only three small dots. Here it says 'Tali': تالي - and here it says 'Bali': بالي Two dots above becomes one dot below the first sign in the word. It seems easy to read incorrectly, so maybe that is what has happened.

Παπαδάκης, Μιχ. Μ.:
To Μοναστήρι Μπαλί (Ατάλη) στο Μυλοπόταμο
Προμηθεύς Πυρφόρος, τεύχ. 26, σ.307.

Τρούλης, Μιχάλης:
Ρέθυμνο, Ιστορία- Περιήγηση-Σύγχρονη ζωή
Ρέθυμνο, 1999

Faure, Paul:
Toponymes Préhelléniques dans la Crete Moderne
Kadmos. Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 41–79, 1967

Edward Falkener:
The museum of classical antiquities : a series of essays on ancient art.
Trubner and co., London, 1854