Cruising the Aegean Sea: Crete

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April 3rd 2009
Published: September 15th 2009
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Inside the Minoan PalaceInside the Minoan PalaceInside the Minoan Palace

My niece is particularly proud of this shot.....and rightly so. She had to tiptoe and squeeze her cam in between poles for a good shot of these pieces of antiquity in the Palace of Knossos.
The Republic of Crete? This is the biggest of all Greek islands and Heraklion is the capital.

From the port, it is just a few minutes to the city center where protests or rallies seem to be the order of the day. Our guide warned us about it, while at the same time telling us that we would be heading straight for the Palace of the Knossos before coming back to explore the rest of the capital.

Palace of the Knossos

This is the most important Minoan site excavated in Crete. Our bus parked in some corner and we walked towards the area discovered by Sir Arthur Evans whose bust welcomes all visitors to this tourist site. A civilization with extensive trade routes as far away as Afghanistan and Scandinavia was found here. The traded goods came by sea and entered through the North Propylaeum Gate which served as its Customs House. Much of this structure remains today, a testament to a prosperous, advanced civilization inhabiting Crete between 3000-1400 BC. The Minoan civilization, so called after the legendary King Minos, was truly a base for sea power and
A Treasure From the Minoan CivilizationA Treasure From the Minoan CivilizationA Treasure From the Minoan Civilization

The Palace of Knossos was discovered by Sir Arthur Evans only in 1900. Many of the finds proved how far advanced the Minoan civilization was. Imagine a flush toilet more than 2000 years ago!
trade with Mesopotamia, the rest of Asia Minor, and Egypt..........all thriving civilizations at that time.

The Palace itself was first built in 2000 BC but was rebuilt after an earthquake destroyed it, not once, but twice. The excavated site discovered by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900 revealed ruins of the 2 palaces, as well as Europe's FIRST amphitheatre, and hold your breath.......evidence of the earliest drainage system and the first flush toilet in history!!! These folks were really ahead of their time. We found many huge storage jars supposedly used for storing wine, cereals and olive oil, as well as a Throne Room supposedly for King Minos. The paintings revealed Egyptian influences as 'profiles' were the order of those days. The guide made sure we also understood that of the many excavated ruins, museum and other art galleries, it is only here that one finds many paintings of ancient folks WITHOUT any weapons. Looking around, it really looked like those guys simply painted scenes of parties and other happy events. No vestiges of war or armored folks preparing to battle. This theory supports claims that the Minoans comprise a peaceful breed of civilized folks.

Where's the Minotaur?Where's the Minotaur?Where's the Minotaur?

Legend has it that King Minos' son was a half-man, half-bull monster who preys on young people, kept hidden in the underground labyrinth of the Palace.

The Myth of the Minotaur

This blog will not be complete without mentioning the myth of the Minotaur.

In mythology, King Minos was the ruler of Knossos. He was born from the union of Zeus and Europa. King Minos' wife, Pasiphae, bore a monster son. Called a Minotaur, this monster-son is half-bull, half-man. The labyrinth pattern by which the Palace of Knossos was built was allegedly done to hide the Minotaur, who was kept in an underground labyrinth and "fed" with young people from Athens who were brought to the island as human sacrifice. These humans were brought to the underground labyrinth to "get lost" and meet with the monster-son who preyed on them.

One day, Theseus arrived and managed to kill the beast. How? He met and fell in love with King Minos' daughter, Ariadne, who helped him find his way out using Ariadne's lovely hair which he dropped throughout the labyrinth.

Some love story, huh?

Heraklion, the Capital of Crete

The Liberty Square in Heraklion is one big square littered with
Happy Folks!Happy Folks!Happy Folks!

Paintings all in profiles --- an Egyptian influence. No paintings of people in battle, mostly people having a party or feast. No worries?
so many protesters now. By itself, the square is already crowded with Heraklion's youth and outdoor cafes and tourists who have all arranged to meet in the "Fountain Square". Well, that's some warning. Next time around, don't make the mistake of meeting here with your friends.

But the fountain itself is a beauty. As a center of arts and culture under the Venetian rulers then, the island is teeming with works of art. This fountain is one. Intended as a replica of the Piazza San Marco in Venice, the fountain is decorated with lions and mythological scenes. Another piece of art is the Venetian Walls of Heraklion. Spanning a length of 4 kilometers and 7 ramparts, this structure stands proud today for all to see. We would have wanted to spend more time around the city center but............. a pair from our boat group went missing. A young, smart lady in her early twenties and her grandmother. We all helped to look around for them. But as i said, the Liberty Square is not a good place to meet. Add to that the fact that Shelly and I also got lost for a while. We were
King Minos' KingdomKing Minos' KingdomKing Minos' Kingdom

Minoan civilization is so called after Minos, who reigned King during that time.
told that we can take another street which "parallels" another street which we were sure will bring us back to the square. No luck. When we reached the end of the street, nothing looked familiar. Barely a few minutes to the appointed meeting time, we took long strides, hardly talked, and sprinted all the way back. We bumped into many while sprinting back to the square, oblivious to the many protesters marching all around the plaza. Oh dear!

Our guide decided to leave grandma and young lass, as we drove back to the pier. When we reached the boat, we noticed we didn't leave for another fifteen minutes. When the boat finally left the harbour, we prayed grandma and young lass were onboard. As they were.........phew! We soon learned that they couldn't get past the crowds as they found themselves in the middle of a rally. Of course, Grandma can't move as fast to extricate themselves from the unruly crowd. By the time they reached the corner, no bus waiting for them. So they took a cab and headed for the pier. They made it. Fifteen minutes late. And now I long would the boat
A Customs House?A Customs House?A Customs House?

Knossos was an active trading hub, where boats dock and carry supplies through a lone gate where this Customs House holds fort.
wait for late passengers?

Additional photos below
Photos: 14, Displayed: 14


Ancient JarsAncient Jars
Ancient Jars

These jars were used in storing olives , cereals and wine.

We got lost somewhere here and almost missed our bus back to the port. Rallies everywhere!
Lions SquareLions Square
Lions Square

Traces of Venetian rule. A word of warning, don\'t ever ever set this as your meeting place. This , and Liberty Square.....unless you don\'t want to meet your friend.
More Paintings of Happy FolksMore Paintings of Happy Folks
More Paintings of Happy Folks

Hakuna worries! I love this race.
This is not LeninThis is not Lenin
This is not Lenin

No, this is not a statue of Lenin.....but it certainly looks like him. Found in Heraklion. IDK who he is.

8th November 2009

Great history lesson
Loved your bit on the Minotaur and yes, what a fascinating love story....too bad for all of those young Athens kids....ugh!! I would have loved to see the 2000 year old flush toilet....unbelievable.....LOL!!! Again my friend, great photography....

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