On our final day in Crete, we decided we hadn't seen enough of this beautiful Island. Whilst we got to see the breathtaking Venetian Port in Chania, I still felt I hadn't had a complete first taste of Greece if I didn't get a chance to see some archaeological treasures. Set on a mission, we jumped on a coach bound for Heraklion, the largest city and Capital of the Island.
Being perfectly honest, I expected to sleep for the majority of the journey. It was 7 am and took over 2 hours, so naturally, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to catch a few extra winks so I would be bright eyed a bushy tailed. Things didn't work out like that though. The coach travelled on what I can only describe as one of the most beautiful Motorways in the world, something I thought I would never say. The Old National Road in Crete is an experience in itself, and one that you need to keep your camera ready for at all times. Winding round the Cretan coast, travelling through bays and on the edge of cliffs you suddenly understand why the Greeks had such fascinating mythology. The landscape is simply magical.
Just over 2 hours after leaving Gerani, we made our first stop 5 kilometres southeast of Heraklion. The Palace of Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and is considered Europe's oldest city. The capital of Minoan Crete, in it's day the palace must have been a majestic symbol. You would be correct in thinking that Knossos was the supposed home of the Minator, the half man, half bull creature that lived in a labyrinth, although no remains of a labyrinth have been found. Saying that, that, the palace is sprawling and walking between the different chambers with a guide felt like you were in a maze, so maybe there is some truth in that myth. Fan's of Atlantis on BBC will also love to know that this is the place which the show is based on, with King Minos, Ariadne and Pasophe all part of the sites history. If you have ever been to an archaeological site before, you will know that a guide is a must have. To the untrained eye, and myself, without someone explaining the layout of the palace, you could easily confuse a court yard with a chamber.
I still can't get over some of the details now, even over a month after my visit. See the timber that has been bleached by the sun? It's not timber. It's actually stone painted to look like wood. Something the Minoan's did, only one man is skilled enough to do this on the Island, and he works all year round to ensure visitors can experience the full effect. Whilst most of the rooms are in ruins, the throne room is astonishingly sound, so much so you can really imagine what it was like back then. The throne reminds me of something our of Game of Thrones. If only walls could talk. If ever you do have the chance to go, and I would definitely recommend you jump at the chance, water and suncream is a must. There is next to no shelter from the sun, and it took us nearly 3 hours to explore the place properly.
After feeling like members of Time Team, we hopped back on the coach which took us into the centre of Heraklion. One thing I feel Greece does so well is incorporate the modern world with the ancient. Built high up on the Old Walls, you have an incredible view of the Port alongside one of the many statutes of Eleftherios Venizelos. There really are treasures around every corner, look at this bus stop for example! Once we had grabbed some lunch in a nice shaded cafe off the main square we headed on to our last stop.
Thankful to be inside, with the air conditioning, we headed to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum to look at some of the treasures found around the island. Walking round the huge two floor building, you can't help unless your inner Indiana Jones. I'm completely in awe with Minoan jewellery and will definitely be taking inspiration when I make my own again. It's incredible what Ancient Greek's did with hand, when we struggle to achieve similar results with machines. Things were clearly made to last.
So that's that last of my Crete travel posts. I've been back now about a month and half and have a bad case of holiday blues. Fear not though, more travel posts will be coming later on this year, after I travel round the West Coast of the USA in September with Trek America.