Sometimes I go to the market through Candia Street, specially if I have to stop by the pharmacy. It is a very banal, unassuming, somewhat dark, even ugly street. There is no big architectural plan here, the styles of the fifties' buildings mix happily with a too modern sports center. The street itself is not too long, two small blocks, it links two other streets that themselves are not of big importance either. There is nothing historical or of interest, and there is no sign with the explanation of the name of the street.

This anonymity strikes me every time I take it. In fact, the small stret is named after a major battle between two ancient powers, legend says that even a Pope died of sadness because of its results. In the sixteenth century the Ottoman empire besieged Venetian Candia for twenty-one years, in what is perhaps the longest siege in western Europe. It was of capital importance for Venice to hold on to Candia, the main city of the island of Crete in order to stop the expansion of the Ottomans in the eastern Mediterranean sea and Europe.

The Venetians eventually lost Candia, and the eastern Mediterranean sea to the Ottomans. As it happens, it was of little importance. At the same time they fought this tiring and capital battle, the Portuguese were bypassing both Ottomans and Venetians to buy their spices and silk directly in Asia. Two centuries ago Venice, the longest lasting republic in history was finally crushed by Napoleon and a century later the mighty Ottomans were overthrown in the aftermath of the First World War. Its territory was happily divided between the French and British. Venice has disappeared as a state, Ottomans as a dynasty, Portugal is since long ago a regular country, France and Britain are leaving the limelight of the big powers. History follows its course.

As I finish my short walk through Candia Street and my digression on ancient geopolitics I conclude that in some dusty office sits a wise city planner. After all, the style of the street goes well with forgotten battles. And for those who know how to read it, it is a short reminder of our right place in the overall order of things.

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