We've Been Ruined
Trip Start Apr 23, 2009
17Trip End Jun 23, 2009
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From Sougia, we had a long driving day north, again, to Chania and along the National Highway to Rethymnon (not as crazy with wild drivers as it was on May Day!). Here, we turned south to Spilli where we had lunch near the famous, rebuilt, 24-spouted, Venetian Fountain.
We carried on with our tour to the popular tourist town Aghia Galini, on the south coast of Crete. The numerous hotels are built on a cliff, but the beach is quite tiny and crowded with beach chairs and umbrellas. We could see another community not far away, which appeared to have a beach, too. After several attempts to find the way, we ended up in the agricultural greenhouse town of Kokkinos Pirgos.
There was only one hotel, but each room had a scenic view of the ocean and we were the only clients. It was across the road from the HUGE, long beach, which we had almost to ourselves. After settling into our rooms (30 Euro), we went for a fine swim in the sparkling sea-even Judy-the-non-swimmer! Only a few tavernas were open, but we had a good, fresh fish dinner in one nearby. During summer months, tourists flock to the beach, then head back to their hotels in other communities.
Shortly after leaving Pirgos, we came upon a small village that had an excellent Cretan Ethnology Museum that won an award in 2007. We waited for it to open at 10 AM and wondered if we would get in. Finally, at almost ten min. after, an apologetic woman arrived on foot with a coffee in her hand saying the coffee machine was having trouble! Those laid-back Greeks! The museum was well-organized and worth the wait.
The next leg of the trip will be remembered as "the ruins". Over two days, we visited four different ancient ruins. The first was Agia Triada, a Minoan village excavated by the Italians from 1902-1914. The village was first constructed around 1700 BC, over earlier houses. Many artifacts from there are in the Iraklion Archeological Museum, such as rare tablets bearing the Linear A script, and a magnificent painted sarcophagus.
From there, we moved on to Phaestos, one of the most important Minoan Palaces in Crete. There were two Palace Periods-first 1900 BC, then 1450 BC. Again, many items were discovered, the most famous being the 16 cm round, clay, Phaestos Disk. It is inscribed on both sides with pictorial symbols spiraling out from the centre. No one has deciphered its meaning.
A short way down the road brought us to Gortyna (Gortys), another famous ruin, and former capital of the Roman province of Crete, as well as north Africa. Other than the shell of the old basilica, Ayios Titos, the most impressive remaining ruin was the wall containing the Law Codes of Gortys. This wall of blocks is inscribed with an obscure, early Greek-Cretan dialect in a style known as "ox plough" or "as the plough turns". The letters are written forward and backward along the 10 m x 3 m wall. The laws reflected a strict hierarchical society.
We spent the night in the small village of Aghia Deka, where our rooms were down a country road. After supper in the town, a walk through the village, an ice cream cone, and an email check at a small shop, it was dark when we tried to drive back to our rooms. After several attempts to pick the correct road of the four we could see, and going down a couple twice, without luck, we had to ask the hotel owner at his taverna to direct us again! We saw many feral cats and glowing eyes in the dark as we drove down the dirt roads.
The following day, we visited the grand palace at Knossos. Built around 1900 BC, the first palace was destroyed by an earthquake in 1700 BC, then rebuilt. It is Crete's largest and best-known palace. Arthur Evans is linked to Knossos and began excavating the mythological city from 1900 onwards. http://www.bsa.ac.uk/knosos/index.htm?vrtour Knossos is the object of much controversy, as Evans reconstructed some of the site according to his best information of the time. As tourists, we appreciated getting an idea of what the palace may have been like during the early Minoan periods of 2000-1900 BC. Evidence of human occupation of the area spans 25 centuries. The palace is known for its rich frescoes, which have been recreated on site, as the originals are now in the Archeological Museum in Iraklion. Incredibly, the palace also had a drainage system and toilets that 'flushed'!
Our last three nights in Crete were spent in Iraklion. We toured the museum to see the treasures removed from all the archeological sites throughout Crete. The museum is undergoing a remodelling, so only the most important pieces were on display. Still, it took us three hours to view the artifacts and read the information. Luckily, we were allowed to take photos without a flash. Some of the items were in incredibly good condition.
We walked along the old Venetian Fort wall and went inside the old fortress that defended the harbour. It had a room filled with old cannon balls! The wall enclosed old Iraklion.
The area is very touristy, but good for walking. We wandered through the market area and up August 25 Street, we took photos of the Bembo Fountain, and enjoyed several meals at the local tavernas and restaurants. Our favourite meal was at O Pardalos Peteinos--The Fancy Rooster. David and Gail had turkey with allmonds and apricots, wrapped with thin slices of grilled eggplant, and baked in the oven. Matt and Judy had a shrimp and spinach roll in phyllo pastery, and a spinach, orange, fried cheese, almonds and fennel salad. Delicious!
Tomorrow (May 16), we're taking the Flying Catamaran to Santorini for three nights, then plan on doing some island-hopping. Who knows? We make decisions on the fly!
Thank you Janet, Emmy, Marg S., Joy, Margaret L., Bonnie, and Brenda, for your updates and comments. We love hearing from people, but don't always have a chance to respond individually. : )
8. What is the "Law Code of Gortys"?
9. What are your thoughts after reading these laws?