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Published: July 20th 2013
Vai Beach on the northeast coast of Crete.
We never planned on visiting Crete this time, but our week there was great. We began with Sitia, in the northeast. This was a quiet little seaside village with few tourists and a very nice sandy beach. Nearby, at Vai Beach, was a natural palm forest which is unique to the Greek Islands.
About 2 hours north, (by bus), along the coast, was the pretty town of Agios Nicholas. It was from here that we visited the island of Spinalonga. The British author, Victoria Hislop, wrote a book about Spinalonga entitled The Island
. This was the story of the leper colony that was established in the Venetian fortress on the island in the early 1900's. I read the book in 2010 and was touched deeply by the story of a young woman forced to leave her family and live on "the island" due to this disease. Our two trips to the island were emotional and informative. We did the tour boat/tour guide route for our first visit. Then, the next morning we took the local ferry from Plaka and explored the island on our own. The residents and the workers tried to maintain a sense of dignity and a provide
Palm Forest at Vai Beach
This a natural palm forest located behind the beach.
a sense of purpose during their forced internment. It is an incredibly beautiful spot with a very interesting past.
From Agios Nicholas we took the bus north to Heraklion. This is probably our least favorite place in all of Greece. But, we wanted to visit Knossos again and this was the departure point for our ferry to Santorini. As usual, Heraklion was busy, congested, dirty, and chaotic. The Knossos archaeological museum was being renovated and only a tenth of the collection was available for viewing. We were able to see most of the important pieces.
Our last visit to Knossos was close to 15 years ago. Many areas are now closed to the public due to the large number of visitors. The Queen's rooms, where I previously sat on her throne for a photo, was now off-limits. No queen for a day for me!
Replicas of the murals decorated the wall of the palace. The tales of Theseus and the Minotaur were represented by the giant bull horns and the brightly painted bull relief.
Heraklion's Saturday market was a true cultural experience. Vendors tried to out shout each other while advertising their products. To gain an
advantage over the many shoppers, some vendors were standing or sitting on their tables in the midst of their merchandise. It was CRAZY!!!
After 2 days in Heraklion we were ready for a relaxing week at the beach on the island of Santorini. This is one of our favorite places in all of Greece. We spent our week in the town of Kamari enjoying daily strolls along the black sand beach. The local buses provided great day trips to Thira, Oia, the ruins at Akrotiri, and to the Red Beach.
Mykonos was mainly just a stopover to catch our Easy Jet flight to Geneva. This is such a picturesque place. It's so sad to see how the many motorcycles and the mass of people have changed this traditional village. I think we need to delegate this island to off season travel only!
We spent the past week back in Switzerland. The weather was amazing and the hiking was excellent. We even went sledding up on the Jungfrau!
Our departure from Geneva for Corsica was a travel story you just have to laugh at. As typical of our budget travel, we had a room at the cheapest
hotel near the airport for our short 10 hour stay. The cab ride from the airport to the hotel cost more than the room. Dreading the thought that we had to pay that again at 4:15 am, we booked a taxi when we checked in to the hotel. At 4:15 the taxi arrived, but it was a LIMO, complete with an espresso machine, wine, mini-frig, interior multi-colored running lights, and a flat screen TV. At 4:15 am what are you going to do, but take it? I couldn't stop laughing the entire way to the airport. So, we ended up paying over twice as much for a 3 mile ride to and from the airport than we paid for our room. Moral of this story: avoid Geneva taxis at all costs, because they REALLY do cost.
Corsica is a new destination for us and is proving to be an interesting and scenic adventure. We will be here for 5 days before heading on to the next stop.
PS - click on the "i" in the top right corner of the videos for more information.