Steeped in Homeric history and culture, scented by wild fennel and basil, Crete welcomes and overwhelms visitors with its wealth of myths, legends and history, a blessed and dramatic landscape, an extraordinary fusion of past and present, and an abundance of choices and experiences.
The legendary birthplace of Zeus, Greece's largest island continues to hold endless appeal despite the mass tourism that has spoilt parts of the island. You can escape the crowds and find tranquillity quickly enough, and the diversity of the landscape makes Crete a delight to explore. Its stunning mountains ranges are dotted with caves and sliced by dramatic gorges, and its rugged interior is interspersed with fertile plains and hillsides blanketed in olive groves, wild flowers and aromatic herbs.
The Palace of Knossos is the most magnificent, intricate and evocative of Crete's Minoan sites. To give an idea of what the palace looked like, its discoverer, Sir Arthur Evans, had parts of it reconstructed - how accurately I do not know. Strategically placed copies of Minoan frescoes help infuse the site with the artistic spirit of these people. The palace is linked to the legendary King Minos, whose name gave rise to the name Minoan. The civilisation name is unknown but was the name attributed to it by Evans.
Minos is associated with the legend of the Minotaur, the monster born of the unnatural passion of the king's wife for a bull. Minos, ashamed of the creature with a human body and bull's head ordered a palace to be built (the famous labyrinth) where the monster would be confined. A hero called Theseus managed to kill the Minotaur and make his way out of the labyrinth with the help of a ball of wool used to mark the way. The palace of Knossos was so large and contained so many rooms that it is speculated that it formed the basis for the legend of the labyrinth.
25 Aug 2004 - Crete (Knossos), GreeceThis day got a little cultural and we visited the world famous Palace of Knossos. We had a guided tour around the ruins of the Palace and while informative, I'm sure there were more than a few inaccuracies but it also provided a few eye openers as well - eye openers of the sort that made me want to stay on the subject of what I was being told and keep asking questions.
To understand the downfall of the Minoan civilisation he explained that "when a civilisation lives a 'good' life and its people work hard, then everything is very good and the civilisation grows but when the civilisation is strong its people get lazy and the men go from laying with women to the stage where men lay with other men and even that both men and women lay with the animals."
STOP! Woah there! Did I hear him right? That the next and final stage in the life of a great civilisation is when 'men and women lay with the bull'? Is this man Borat or was he really telling this to his tour group? Shocking information that he deserved questioning on but then he nonchalantly changed to his next subject! I mean, someone can't be casually told that bestiality signals the end of civilisation, that right now our civilisation is also living life 'bad' and then have the subject switched! We three chaps all were like overgrown schoolboys stifling our giggles but what a great twist to the story of the downfall of the Minoans.
Crete - The palace of Knossos (bull fresco)
Most of the ruins that can be seen date from 1700 BC though the first buildings on here were erected around 1900 BC. After 1700 BC the complex was rebuilt after an earthquake between 1450 BC and 1500 BC. Fire devastated it about 50 years after this which also coincides with the end of Minoan civilisation.
Crete - The palace of Knossos
There is not much on site that informs the visitor what they are looking at so a good guide book and perhaps even being part of a tour would be a good bet. I always wonder how much the guides actually know and how much is made up for the tourists. After all, what qualifications do these people need? Are they local history enthusiasts or archeologists supplementing their wages? Or just amateurs gifted at telling a tale?
Crete - Camping it up in Knossos
Myself and Nick doing a great impression of a couple of members of the homo persuasion.
Crete - Dolphin Fresco
Above the door to the queen's apartments is a copy of the Dolphin Fresco, one of the most exquisite of Minoan artworks. The original is held in the Heraklion Archeolgical Museum.
Crete - Palace of Knossos - Minoan columns
This photo shows the Minoan style of column which are tapered at the bottom.
21 Aug 2004 - Crete (Hersonnissos), GreeceYet another cheap and cheerful resort holiday - this time to Hersonnissos - a resort brimming with Irish running amok, and some crazy but not quite as crazy Scandinavians. I have a definite love/hate relationship with these sort of trips. I love the idea of getting away with my mates to a hot location, eating lunch on the balcony and sitting down with the boys supping a cold beer as the sun is setting. The fight for the shower, mirror and selection of music prior to the evening's fun is actually all a positive experience and goes towards what makes a cheap trip to the sun. It never seems so positive at the time but the memory plays tricks.
What I tend to forget though are the bar touts, shops selling tacky junk, shops selling the world's supplies of towels and crumbling infrastructure held together with grime and layers of posters - not to mention the fields of crickets all chirping away. Actually I quite enjoy hearing the crickets no matter how loud they are but for the light sleepers amongst us they are just another cause for complaint, isn't that right Mr B?
Despite heated and immediate moaning from Nick upon seeing the (poor) quality of the room it was a good trip - well mostly (he had a point I suppose but to me the room is just somewhere to sleep and it was a cheap package trip after all so shouldn't expect much). I had a cold on the last night so refused to go out but unlike most holidays with Pat I managed to keep my body from breaking down and had the stamina to match him with the drinks. Anyway I digress, the room issue nearly made Nick decide to fork out more cash to get a room on his own but didn't in the end. Witnessing how short Bawn's fuse is was amusing, particularly his attitude to the patronising hotel rep who gave his welcome speech as though he were addressing a room of star struck 17 year olds on their dream holiday - not the cynical over 30 year olds that we are.
This holiday also saw Nick live life to his new motto - seizing the day and doing and seeing as much as he could. He even found a gym and went running up hill in the early afternoon heat. I thought that last bit was absolute madness but admire his will to do it - definitely brings to mind a saying though about the sun, midday, Englishmen and mad dogs. For myself, I prize the chance to take time out from busy working life to do very little but to enjoy the things I don't have time to do back at home such as read a book and numerous papers and magazines in the day and to relax in the shade.
As mentioned earlier, Hersonnissos tended to fill with Irish and Scandinavians. This gave a different feel to the pure carnage of the Brits abroad type of resort ie Malia 10 miles down the road. No shortage of bars and touts however but being older and wiser we worked out that the best tactic was to make a couple of bars our regular and get to know the reps. Good business, we helped them do their job of selling drinks but then they also rewarded us with regular and free shots of the strong stuff - not the fruit juice shots being offered to the kids as an enticement to enter the other bars. The bars we made our regular ones were not too busy as this ensured good attention from the reps and their freebies.
Malia I can't even be bothered describing. I've been to too many clones of the place but the night was a good one. Time to be a Brit abroad and go silly. Bawn was a dog with two dicks, I lost my footing on a walkway and mimicked the comic book style of slipping on a banana (but I still kept my drink from spilling). Pat chatted up an ex police woman while I played wingman but hey, what are mates for? Once I had fulfilled my duties to Pat I disappeared and reconnected with Bawn.
Pat continued this romance back in the UK but with her being an ex rozzer with well developed listening and enquiry skills coupled to a good memory, Pat kept getting caught out on things he had said days, even weeks previously. The funny thing was that he wasn't even trying to lie to her! Heh heh, Pat has got to the stage where he doesn't even know when he is fibbing anymore.
The night ended with the with sun just about to come up which was a mighty impressive thing for us so myself and Pat made our return to Hersonnissos. Bawn had gone AWOL, presumed to be sniffing muff somewhere
The next day we heard what had happened. Bawn had indeed stuck lucky and proved to us mockers that spending an hour straightening his hair before going out was time well spent. He went back to the hotel of a young lady only to be told by the hotels owners, "No!" No joy for Mr Bawn then and after an angry exchange of words fuelled by the frustration generated in his leaden sack he had to get a taxi on his own back to the hotel.
Not to be defeated though, while waiting at the taxi rank, My Bawn in true porn film style got chatting to another young lady also returning to her pit. Direct and to the point, Mr B said;
- "Sooooo er, I'm er, kinda horny right now...fancy a...you know...a fu*k"
- "No, erm I'm a little tired"
Quality Mr Bawn, absolute quality. You've got the balls we all lack. It doesn't end there though. Bawn makes his own entertainment and in the taxi the driver was upset with Bawn for some reason and began ranting in Greek. Nick knew a few words though and understood so he just gave it back to him in his own language. Dodgy thing to do when you are alone but he got away with it this time.
Crete - Malia
Malia is the British resort about 20 minutes away from Hersonissos by car. The place is full of crowded bars and bar touts offering fruit juice strength shots, clantily scad shots girls (real shots) and excitement for those in search of it. After asking one of these girls to take our photo the whole entourage decided to be part in the shot. No complaint there.
Crete - Hersonissos, on our hotel terrace
Though the hotel was definitely not of the highest quality, we did occupy the top floor and so had use of the whole terrace which we treated as our own balcony.
Crete - Sunrise in Hersonissos
After an all nighter in Malia, I returned with Patrick as Nick was still in Malia in search of flesh. This shot shows the day just beginning far over the horizon as the streets of Hersonissos are still in night time darkness. After retiring to bed, Nick soon arrived with an amusing tale of locals refusing him entry to the hotel complex of a English lass offering a hint of the promise of sex. Imagine his frustration...and his language...
Crete - Malia beach
Hersonissos does not have a big beach but Malia has hundreds of meters of beach and oiled teenage bodies in varying states of undress.