Crete is the largest atoll of the Greek Islands. It is not only renowned for its significant economic and cultural heritage but is also regarded as being the centre of the once prosperous Minoan civilisation (the earliest recorded civilisation in Europe). The island itself has magnificently fresh seafood and soft sandy beaches stretched along its surrounding coasts but also its proximity to the other much smaller Greek islands.
And that’s where my Greek Tour Began
With a trip to the accessible tiny atolls surrounding Crete, including Gramvousa (Kastelli) opposite the Balo lagoon that has the remains of a military buildings left behind by Cretan rebellion armies forced to live as pirates during the Greek War of Independence (Greek Revolution) against the Ottoman Empire that had taken over many European regions.
Farther AlongAfter visiting the forts and Venetian castles upon the mini-islands, we got back on Cretan mainland soil and boarded a bus tour to take us to Heraklion, passing through the bustling town of Chania as we moved eastward past Mount Ida, through Gazi and arrived at Heraklion (which is a city near the Minoan ruins). I booked into the Moevenpick Resort rather than a nearby B&B because I was planning on spending the remaining days of my Cretan holiday in style, on sand and in the azure waters for sure.
Central Heraklion seems to be Crete’s main town (from what I’ve seen passing through the others), it’s a little busier and more contemporary that the other rustic coastal towns but still retains its Cretan essence. We were taken to the Lion (Morosini) Fountain, Church of Agios Titos and the Koules Venetian Fort (the town has a lot of Venetian influences, some in the food and some in the architecture…) before popping down to Crete’s Pièce-de-résistance (I would say it in Greek, if I could) the Knossos Palace in an air-conditioned tour bus.
Getting to Know Knossos
The main archaeological and historical attraction on Crete is the Knossos Palace and nearby ruins and ongoing excavations of its maze of rooms and corridors. The sites are around six Euros to enter and are well worth every pence…uh…Euro-cent.
The original Palace was built by the Minoans originally around 1900BC, but due to an earthquake, it was rebuilt to a much grander extent with shrines, treasuries, storerooms, lavish chambers and a believed to be magnificent central court. You get the feel for its extravagance through the reconstruction (based on excavations by British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans) that highlights the Minoan civilisation’s glory days during the Bronze Age.
The Minoans seemed to be great believers in Greek mythology and it seems quite deeply entrenched in their culture as there is reference to Theseus’ battle with the Minotaur and the depiction of Minoan sacred holy beasts in the Throne Room.
The site is filled with impressive architectural feats such as the Central Court’s grand staircase, pillar work and arches. The artistic and decorative beauty of the frescoes around the historical site is also somewhat awe-inspiring.
The last part of the half-day tour is to walk the labyrinth of corridors to interesting rooms where some bring insight into the daily life of these people and other rooms can only be speculated upon in knowing their purpose. A room speculated to be a theatre could once have housed linen and textiles, there is no evidence left of what or who was in the room and therefore will remain a mystery, like so much of the Minoan civilization.
Later, that Same Day…
Walking the ruins in the sun (I thank Zeus for the invention of the hat and sun block) definitely brings out the ravenous appetite I have and I was so excited to try some traditional Cretan foods and sweet treats. I hopped back on the bus with everyone else and when they dropped my off at the resort, I headed straight for the restaurant and savoured every bite of fresh and delicious course that was served. I headed back to my room and planned on spending the last two days by the sea.
It’s now even easier for all tourists who want to visit the Greek Islands and especially Crete, due to its steady popularity, all major airlines and travel agencies such as flythomascook for UK residents offer frequent and cheap direct flights to (and from) Heraklion and other Greek island capitals. No need to take multiple ferry rides on tumultuous waters to experience the beauty of Crete and the magnificence of Knossos.
( this is a guest post)