Heraklion and Knossos
We took a 13 hr overnight ferry from Rhodes to get to Heraklion at 5am. For such a long ride, we thought it’d make sense to upgrade to a cabin and double it as accommodation. It wasn’t worth it. The boat was rocking so much that we barely were able to sleep much.
Anyway, we got there at 5am and quickly cabbed it to our hotel. The hotel let us check in right away. Good, now we can reclaim the lost REM sleep from the ferry! After our long nap, the day was still young to roam around town.
Heraklion has the largest population of any island and the biggest island also. The first place we walked to was the main square with the landmark lion fountain. It would have been a better sight if the fountain was actually running. There were traces of garbage in and around it so you think that maintenance was not a priority.
From a tourist standpoint, this location is the benchmark to go around town. About 6-8 paths radiate outwards from here. In the center you have cafes and restaurants just meters away. To the East is the main shopping street. Up North would lead you straight to the harbour area.
Routinely, we went to take a walk at the harbour. There is an important Venetian fort that sits along there. It was under development so we couldn’t go in unfortunately. As we walked past the fort, a really long pathway extends for a km where you can be surrounded by the sea at the tip. We just walked half way as it’d take a while to get there and back. At midpoint, you look back and get a beautiful landscape of the city, mountains, and ocean.
Most of you have heard of the myth about the Minotaur and the Labyrinth. Well Knossos palace is the where that story exists! Actually the Minoan civilization pre-dates the Greeks and it was the Greeks that created this myth. More about this in a bit.
Knossos was only 5km away from Heraklion so it was easy to take the public bus there. Upon arriving and paying for admission, there were several tour guides asking people if the like a guided tour. We were approached and it was €10 each so we went for it since the price was reasonable. It would help to understand certain details of the palace that otherwise wouldn’t be pointed out on the info boards. We’re totally glad we got the guide. She was very thorough and great at educating us about the Minoans.
One thing I want to mention: At the end of the tour, not only did she thank us for doing the guided tour, she expressed how grateful she was that we decided to visit Greece amongst the political turmoil. It’s the media portrayal and poor government policies that are influencing tourists to not visit and not the people. I couldn’t agree more. Every island we’ve been to all the locals have been very friendly and helpful. We thank you for making us feel welcome despite the problems that are looming the country. We wish Greece a positive turnaround and looking forward to visiting again 🙂
Now back to Knossos. The palace was originally founded in the late 1800’s. Then an archaeologist by the name of Arthur Evans continued the excavation for 35 years to uncover the whole palace. All the artifacts dug up are held in the museum in the city which we’ll see shortly. The palace had 1400 rooms! It was huge! A lot of things have been reconstructed but it gives you a clear picture of what it use to look like. Now the pics:
First major entrance area.
Frescoe is fake here. Museum has real copy. One thing to note is that red painted figures are male and white painted are female (later pic).
Original base is 5000 yrs old. Pillar are reconstructed with stone but used to be wood.
Bulls were symbolic to the Minoans and were of religious meaning as well. These are horns and you can see the left side is original.
Clay pots that stored wine and olive oil.
Underground storage area. The squares you see also housed jewelry and precious stones.
As mentioned before, white figures are females. They had exposed breasts to show fertility.
The original is also in the museum but this painting is where the minotaur myth comes in. The painting shows the art of bull jumping. This shows the sequence in 3 phases. You can see that both male and female participate and demonstrates the equality of the genders back then. This was an annual event where boys and girls compete. This was where the myth comes in where the half-bull half-man kills/eats 14 boys and girls every year.
The royal throne! And it’s the original.
Griffin painting on the wall. Bird head to represent the sky, body of a lion for land, and tail of a snake for underground. Cool!
Royal apartments area
What was surprisingly one of the most impressive is how advanced this civilization was. They already had a drainage system in place! What you see here is the original clay pipes that dates back 5000 years old!
See where the water suppose to run down in the middle?
The queen’s room.
The room for political meetings.
Giant clay pots used for trade with Egypt and Cyprus. They got rich from trade!
You can see what was original and reconstructed.
Double axe inscription. Apparently you can find these all over the palace. The double axe stems its relation with the bull horns as well. The Greek word for axe is labrys. So the myth of the labyrinth comes from the large Knossos palace and the axes.
Famous North entrance with the bull frescoe.
This is the OLDEST theater in Europe!
The OLDEST road in Europe! This was considered a royal road where it leads to a smaller palace (possibly where it housed the prince)
This was a fantastic site and should be one of the top things to see while in Greece besides the Acropolis in Athens.