WESTERN CRETE (KNOSSOS)

DAY 2: KNOSSOS and THE AMAZING HERAKLION MUSEUM

I’d visited Knossos 40 years ago, when it was situated in wine growing country very rural. No longer!

Heraklion isn’t the loveliest Greek city – it wasn’t on my first visit and isn’t now though the Venetian harbour looked good. My last memory of the place was as a teenager, waiting for the Athens ferry to arrive. It was 6 hours late and hundreds of backpackers were resting on their rucksacks, on any bit of spare ground that could be found as harbour police/army guys patrolled past us with machine guns, looking at us all contemptuously and sneering. I remember them occasionally moving someone’s legs out of the way bad temperedly with their guns, creating a tense unpleasant atmosphere. I was never so glad to leave a place when the ferry finally set sail at 2am.

Got parked at Knossos no problem, in the free car park, very quiet. Spent 90 minutes or so wandering the 3500 year old ruins, the largest of the Minoan Palaces with the famed labyrinth and Minotaur myth; that had always scared me when I was a child! It’s not an easy site to get your head round somehow. There’s no spot where you can look down on the whole place and get your bearings.

I had thought 40 years ago and also now, that the recreation of frescoes and the painted columns looked wrong or overdone. Certainly they didn’t match anything like the magnificence of the real thing in the Heraklion Museum. I must say I have enjoyed other ancient Greek sites much more than Knossos though it’s certainly a ‘must see.’

Grabbed a coffee in the pleasant little café with beautiful ancient items on display around its walls and a pretty garden, then headed for the Heraklion Museum.

HERAKLION MUSEUM

Stunning! Unmissable! What a place.One of the absolute highlights of our time in Crete!

The treasures of Knossos are housed in a beautiful new building and the presentation of everything is just top notch. I could have spent all day in there – usually a couple of hours and I feel my brain has absorbed enough and I need a break but it was all so exquisite, I didn’t want to leave. It’s one of the finest museums I’ve ever been in. The frescoes, the artefacts, the art, the jewellery…my God these people knew how to create beautiful things. The wealth! And artistry.

I would return to Crete for a long weekend just to revisit this superb place.

FODHELE

Detoured off the highway to see Fodhele village, inland from our accommodation in Ligaria. The guide book described a ‘delightful ‘ village but once again, I can’t honestly say it was. A motley collection of modernish buildings with an untidy air about them all and quite touristy looking, Fodhele didn’t make us want to stop and linger. But I’d spied a fine looking Byzantine church further round the winding country road  –  the Panagia Church of Fodhele. This WAS worth the detour , a beautiful place amidst lemon groves and silence. It was closed so we couldn’t see the frescoes inside, but what a gorgeous spot.

Our next accommodation was in the Dora Apartments, Ligaria. They took a time to find as once again, what we thought might be a smallish village turned out have expanded to fill every headland and spare bit of ground around the many inlets of the bay. After 15 minutes of searching we finally found it. Very clean as ever, well equipped, if a tad charmless and the promised ‘beautiful sea view’ was marred by our balcony overlooking a huge piece of derelict waste ground (note to self; stop allowing hubby to book places. He never checks them out enough.) Took a stroll along the shore after enjoying a glass of wine and dinner.There was a nicely done little coastal path up to a viewpoint over the wild, stormy bay. It was actually very pleasant feeling the sea air being whipped up around us.The elements! The sea always raises our spirits.

Nice surprise next morning when the owners offered us a free breakfast because we were their first and only guests of the season. Very good it was too – fresh fruit salad, yoghurt, muesli; omelette and bacon. Toast. And Greek cake though not homemade. But very welcome indeed. And at £40 a night, well, you can’t argue with that.

NEXT DAY: WESTERN CRETE (AMARI VALLEY TO FRANGOKASTELLO)

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