Tuesday May 7th, 2013. Iraklion (Heraklion), Crete, Greece
Once the centre of the Minoan civilization, as well as the largest of all the Greek Islands, Crete has a rich cultural history that forms a large part of the overall tapestry of Greece. According to Greek mythology, goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus in a cave on the Island where he was subsequently reared by nymphs who protected him from his enemies. It was also on Crete that Zeus took the form of a bull in order to seduce the maiden Europa.
After another early posh breakfast we alighted the ship and walked to the main bus station where we purchased our tickets and caught the no 2 to Knossos which is about 5 km outside of the town of Iraklion. The Minoan Palace is the main site of interest at Knossos, an important city in antiquity, which was inhabited continuously from the neolithic period until the 5th century AD. The palace was built on the Kepphala hill and had easy access to the sea and the Cretan interior. According to tradition, it was the seat of the wise king Minos. The Palace of Knossos is connected with thrilling legends,
such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur, and the story of Daidalos and Ikaros.
We joined the queue and purchased a double entry ticket (one for the archaeological site and one for the museum). D got half price again.
The first excavation of the site was conducted in 1878 by Minos Kalokerinos of Iraklion. This was followed by the long-term excavations of our fellow countryman Arthur Evans who uncovered virtually the whole palace. He worked out what each bit could have been and this is evidenced as you wander around the site reading the signs. Evans contended that the original structure would have been a multi-storey building covering an area of 20,000 sq metres. The building materials used were various, including painted plaster and marble. The Minoans demonstrated an advanced level of technology and this can be seen in some of the original structures such as the light wells and the use of beams to reinforce masonry as well as the complex drainage and water supply systems. The palace is set around a large Central Court which would have been used for public meetings. There were rooms for religious activities, the most outstanding of which
is The Throne room with its alabaster throne. (We didn't bother queuing for this as the line was too long and it was baking hot!)
The original Minoan frescoes remain on some of the interior walls and several columns remain intact. One of the most impressive of the remaining structures was the South Gate with its fresco of the Prince of the Lilies. The east wing was the residential quarters and included two large reception rooms, the Queens Hall and the Hall of the Double Axes both of which were approached by the imposing Grand Staircase. On the north side of the site the entrance gate is decorated with a Bull Hunt Fresco and a large stone road, (known as the Processional Way or Royal Road) would have led from this gate to the city of Iraklion. Adjacent to this gate there was also an open air theatre. one of the most impressive finds were the West Magazines (storage areas) where there were huge jars, taller than a man, still intact.
We caught the no 2 bus back into Iraklion and walked to the Archaeological Museum which houses numerous finds from the Palace at Knossos. These include high
quality art, pottery, vessels, figurines, the archive of Linear B tablets and the original wall-paintings. We found out that entrance was free today as it is still part of the Easter Holiday. That was a waste of a combi ticket!
We strolled around the old town for a while, stopping off to visit the Town Hall and Ayios Titos Church. We then continued to the harbour area where we sat on the seafront and had a Mythos each. We visited the Koules Fort which was built by the Venetians and stands imposingly at the harbour entrance. It was closed for renovations but we were able to walk around the exterior. We finished our visit to this ancient city with a stroll along the city walls before returning to the Noordam.
D went to see the 6.30 pm show while M had a sleep. D reported that the entertainer, billed as a Comedy and Variety performer, was not up to much, was a bit non PC and had people walking out of the auditorium. We went to the Captain's champagne (fizzy plonk) reception at 7.30 and then stayed on to watch the next show as M was interested to
see how terrible (or not) this entertainer was. His name was David Deeble and he is American and he was as dreadful as D had reported. This was despite the fact that D said that he had changed some of the jokes that he had used in the first show. We had a good dinner as usual. We are really looking forward to a day at sea tomorrow so that we can recharge our batteries.
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