26.03.2015 - 27.03.2015
We seem to have a serendipitous knack for arriving in places during times of celebration. Heraklion, the largest city in Crete is very lively today, as this is their Independence Day, when the Greeks defeated the Turks some 200 years ago. Despite the less than ideal weather, everyone is eating and drinking outside, and very friendly. The owner of a restaurant saw us glancing at the food, and offered us a taste of charcoal broiled octopus, and some of the local hooch, raki.
We stopped to hear some music being played by some young people in a small piazza. It was all acoustic, with several lute like instruments, and mandolins, or similar sounding, and a small drum. Another young man, Migueles, told us that they were playing to raise money for a friend who needed an expensive surgery for an aneurism. We made a small donation, and then continued to talk with him. He helps to run an adventure travel agency in Crete, which takes tourists on hikes and sea kayaking around the island. He also has a brother who lives in Denver, and has been to the US on a couple of occasions to visit and travel.
The next day, also cloudy, windy and rainy, although the worst of it held off until we completed our visit to 2000 BC Knossos. The Capital of Minoan culture, which predates the Greeks by a 1000 years or so, was home to more then 100,000 people, and the residence of King Minos. Knossos is also said to be home to the Minotaur, who was locked in a labyrinth until he was slain by Theseus. On arriving, we met a young Indian couple from Mumbai, although they have lived in Cambridge, near Boston for the last 8 years. And of course, the conversation first revolved around the snow in Boston this past winter, as well as our visit to south India last year.
Many parts of the ruins were reconstructed by Evans in the late 19th century, but it is still difficult to get a sense of the grandeur of the place as much of it is incomplete.
There are some frescoes, also reconstructed from small pieces found on location, and these help to show how advanced Minoan culture was at that time.
We continue to find the Cretans a very friendly bunch. For example, we stopped in a small cafe for cappuccino, and they gave us a big plate of cookies, no charge, to go along with it. Faces light up when we attempt to say hello and thank you in a botched form of Greek, and all of the staff in our hotel, as in Victoria Inn in Athens, are helpful and engaging.
Although we have only spent a few days in Greece, it is easy to see that they are much less concerned with appearance than the Italians. As in Italy, most stores close in mid-day for several hours, which is when the biggest meal is consumed.