Thursday, October 23, 2014

Athens - Heraklion

The trouble with traveling via tagging along on business trips is that there just isn't much time. After our first full day in Athens, we slept tremendously well on our scrumptiously comfortable bed and the next day...we left for Crete. Athens: a city with thousands of years of history - time to go! good bye! Our flight wasn't until late afternoon, so while Kevin hustled to various meetings in the morning, I headed out to explore the Temple of Olympian Zeus.


It's ginormous. It took 650 years to build, and wasn't completed until Roman Emperor Hadrian's watch in the 2nd century AD. 



After the Celts invaded Greece in the 3rd century AD the temple was abandoned and assumed a new role as the Home Depot of Building Supplies. 


And why not? It must take a pretty concerted effort to quarry, transport, carve, and assemble such enormous columns. Why not reuse and recycle? Now, each fragment is roped off. "Don't get any ideas", the signs seem to say.



Ah yes, the intricate Corinthian style of column I remember learning about in 5th grade.


That's the Acropolis in the backround.

I then explored the National Gardens of Greece. It consisted of a wonderful maze of little paths and the occasional covered walkway. I didn't come across any actual gardens. Somehow I missed the gardens in the national gardens. 



It was still delightful. 

I had some lunch in the Plaka neighborhood and reconnoitered with Kevin back at the hotel just in time to grab a cab to the airport for our flight to Heraklion. Our cabby knew one word of English: "COWBOY!"  After a while it became easier to just go with the flow and admit that yes, we were cowboys, from New York. It made the conversation easier.

The next cabbie we encountered, in Heraklion, was Stellos, who spoke English so melodiously and in such a beautiful voice that we succumbed easily to his suggestion that he pick us up the following afternoon to take us to the Palace of Knossos. Most tourists who come to Crete, he told us, come on the cruise lines and are transported everywhere by bus. The successful cabbies are the ones who double as tour guides. With two grown, semi-employed sons living at home - hello, Greek economy - Stellos needs to hustle to get by.

Our hotel was right on the harbor. We wandered around Heraklion and had dinner at our own hotel's restaurant, on the roof. I had "restfully sautéed rabbit", which consisted of many little rabbit bones. Note to self: Um. Try something else next time. 


The next morning we went to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, to do our homework before our date with Stellos. 

Note to self: bring a bib next time to catch the drool.

Without further ado, some of the pottery on display. I did a terrible job documenting which pottery is from which era - in GENERAL, this stuff is all around 2,300 - 2,700 BC. You read that right. The Minoans had their act together WAY before anyone else.














I'd brought my copy of Merlin Stone's "When God Was a Woman" with me so seeing the Snake Goddess (who's on the cover of that book) was truly jaw-dropping.




And now, for the room containing both bathtubs, and large clay containers in which people were buried:





Note the skull.

After yes, an hour and a half, we were toast. We had to leave. Even knowing that we were abandoning whatever was on the second floor - my guess would be the original frescoes from the Palace of Knossos.

We wandered around Heraklion a bit more but got back to the hotel in time for our date with the lovely Stellos. 

The Palace in Knossos is huge. I'm glad I'd had a look at the model at the museum first:


By now, only a suggestion of most of those walls are present: the site is mostly open, in other words.


Few full-on structures remain, and the parts that do, such as the two-stories underground private chambers of the royal family, are not open to the public.


Around us were private tours being conducted in French, German, and Italian. We were the only Americans, as far as we could tell.

On our way back to the hotel, Stellos gave us a tour of the wall that surrounds Old Heraklion. 


It's three kilometers long and 15 meters (about 50 feet) tall. When he was a kid, there was hardly any development outside the wall but now, modern day being modern day wherever you go in the world, it's sprawl sprawl sprawl. 

That evening, we had dinner at an outdoor cafe near the Lions Square in old Heraklion. 


Twas lovely. And the bed in our hotel was even more comfortable than the one in Athens, which didn't seem possible but there you are.