February 12, 2011
Our ferry was at 4.25am and so we were up at 3am packing and getting ready to go. When I say getting up, I mean getting out of bed for me as I’d never actually fallen asleep! As we were leaving the hotel we were given a free bottle of wine from Poppy, the owner, and we were given a lift to the port by her husband. We got to the ferry terminal just before 4am and we ended up sitting around for quite a while as the ferry was late arriving and then had a load of lorries it needed to unload and then load. We eventually left over an hour late. We found two spots where we could lie down and sleep; my spot being on the floor! I had thought the ferry ride was about 7 hours but just before 10am a message came over on the ferry which woke me up and said we’d soon be in Heraklion, the main town of Crete. It was lucky it did wake me as Elizabeth wasn’t entirely awake and didn’t hear the message properly! We quickly grabbed our stuff, headed down to the car deck to get our suitcases and were soon stepping off in Crete!
We had a short walk to our hotel and it would’ve been shorter had the map been a little better. You could argue that it was my map-reading that was astray but I have pictorial evidence, damn it! Still, we soon found the hotel and the one advantage of coming in the off season was again evident – we were able to go straight into our room without waiting for check-in time!
Although we’d had no sleep, or very little, we decided to head out and try and do something so we went to the Archeological Museum. The main museum had actually been shut since 2006 but this small temporary exhibit housed the major items from the collection so we didn’t think we’d be missing too much by visiting the abbreviated version! The exhibit turned out to be really good and had excellent explanations about the history of the island and the pieces we were seeing, many of which were from Knossos which we plan to visit tomorrow. Some of the really amazing things we saw were an ivory seal which was decorated so ornately that it actually contained 14 different seals, all different and all ridiculously detailed, a bull with men climbing on its horns and a hole in the nose to pour drinks from and a large jug covered in an impressive picture of an octopus. The major pieces here though were the Phaistos Disc, the Ring of Minos and the large Ayia Triada sarcophagus. The Phaistos Disc is a clay disc which is inscribed on both sides with hieroglyphic symbols which run in a spiral into the centre of the disc and is dated to at least 1450 BC. The Ring of Minos is a gold signet ring which shows a scene of a goddess hovering in the sky seated in a small shrine inside a boat. This ring was thought to be a royal object and the detail was again amazing. The sarcophagus is covered in frescoes associated with death, worship and the afterlife including a bull sacrifice and the presentation of live bulls to a man in front of a palace. Considering this is over 3,000 years old the detail is amazing and the paint of the frescoes has barely faded. There was also a stunning gold bee pendant which depicts two bees dropping honey into a comb. Again the detail was amazing and to think these items were made thousands of years ago without all the technology and precise instruments we have nowadays and they are still perfect.
The museum didn’t take us as long as we expected and when we were done we had a walk along the main market street and found a Cretan restaurant called Giakoumis Taverna for lunch. Like so many places the menu was useless and we were led to the main counter to pick from an array of meals. Elizabeth went for a bean stew thing and I had some very filling meatballs. I also got to try another of the Greek beers, Alfa, which was even less drinkable than Mythos! Given our lack of sleep last night we headed back to the hotel for a nap but when we finally woke up we’d slept for about 8 hours! We’d gone beyond being hungry for dinner so we actually just went straight back to bed!
February 13, 2011
Today we were still a bit tardy getting up despite the excessive sleeping yesterday afternoon, evening and night. We were heading out to the ruins at Knossos today but just finding the right bus stop proved to be difficult but thankfully the locals were helpful. We had a bit of a wait for a bus but we got there soon enough. The entry to the ruins was free today but as soon as we entered we were hassled by tour guides, both official and unofficial. The official tour guide was asking for €60 for a 75 minute tour of the site although she said we could wait and if another two couples turned up it would be just €10 each! Inside, the unofficial guide offered us a tour for €20 each and then €10 each before offering a tour for €10 for both. We declined all offers though as he’d pissed us off by saying that he knew people as young as us couldn’t afford the full guided tour price. I mean, I guess it is nice to look so young I’m obviously broke but where do people get off thinking they can tell me what I can and can’t afford?
Anyway, inside there were detailed English descriptions which made you wonder why you would need a guide anyway. The site was pretty big and we walked around the entire area but it was very disappointing. The archeologist who had been in charge of the early discovery had decided to reconstruct a number of the buildings to give visitors an idea of the scale and nature of the buildings. However, the reconstructions completely detracted from the ruins and, of course, it was obvious to see what was original. There were so many bright red columns around and these kept catching your eye. This meant that you often missed things as you were too busy looking at a 90 year old column rather than the 3,000 year old palace that is built here. The worst thing was that people had complained about the reconstructions so the archeologist had ceased work on them, leaving most of it half finished and even now the site is full of structures supported by scaffolding. Actually, that isn’t the worst thing. The worst thing was the fact the archeologist had no idea what the building looked like and what each room he discovered was used for and let his own imagination run wild as to what things looked like and were used for. Every time he discovered a “seat” he designated the room as some kind of throne room or room for royalty and each of the information signs around the site explained his views and then went on to say he probably wasn’t correct! Basically, everything we read wasn’t correct and no-one really knows what any of the rooms were used for. They know there was a massive palace here over 3,000 years ago but the function of each room is completely unknown. I’d rather they’d either not bothered guessing (twice!) or just gone with one guess and made it convincing rather than trying to explain everything unsuccessfully!
We tried getting some lunch in a nearby restaurant after we were finished but just like everywhere else they didn’t have much stuff that was listed on their menu. We got a bus back to the city and went to a restaurant called Peri Orexeos which was empty when we arrived but looked quite nice. Most restaurants here give you something to start but most of them just give you bread. This place gave us bread and some small vegetable flan things which were really yummy. For our main course we both had “Stuffed burgers”. Elizabeth went for the beef and I had chicken and mine was basically a chicken breast stuffed with feta and herbs and lightly fried. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in Greece! We had some white wine with our meal and when we asked to pay we were bought a small bottle of tsipouro and some desserts. The tsipouro is still disgusting and Elizabeth drank most of it and she left there quite drunk!
We lazed around the rest of the afternoon until we were hungry again! Elizabeth slept off her drunkenness and had a bit of a headache when she woke up but some late souvlaki soon helped that out!