Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Iraklion is the third largest city in Greece, and the largest of Crete, with a population of around 120,000 souls (before the cruise ships dock). I arrived on a cold and wet Saturday and was... well... less than impressed. I've tried to come up with something positive to say about the city, but haven't been able to find anything, sadly. For the first time in all my years of roaming, I actually found myself freezing at a crepery, lost, with no sense of direction and little hope of discovering my location on the map without divine intervention as over 90% of the town in covered in scaffolding. Not the greatest start. After wandering through the Iraklion Archeology museum, which has been reduced to the highlights while the original structure undergoes a major renovation, I was set to track down some Minoan ruins.

Day 2 started crisply with clear skies as I booked it onto a KTEL No.2 towards Knossos. Despite lying 5 km south of the city, I was hard pressed to find the city limits as the bus ambled under the over 40m thick Venetian walls which protected the city in days gone by. Knossos was discovered in the late 1870s, before being excavated by Sir Arthur Evans at the turn of the century, effectively bringing the legends of King Minos, the Minotaur and labyrinth to life.

According to the Evans school of thought, excavation was accompanied by reconstruction rather than conservation... Something, which has created a bit of a farce. Situated on a lovely site, the ruins appear as a jumbled warren chambers, hence the legends. Due to Evans' recreation and predictions, sadly the site comes across a bit 'Disney-fied' for my liking. In my opinion, ruins should either be left as-is or recreated whole-hog, not the middle ground which Knossos represents.

Surprisingly, I had the place almost to myself (unheard of due to its fame) but the caretakers were keen that all tourists were escorted from the premises promptly at 1430 rather than the advertized 1500. (Note to self: Just because the sign says so, doesn't mean it is so.)

Dissatisfied for the second time in under a week (I'll get back to the Acropolis in Athens later in the trip), I decided to adventure further afield...

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