It has been said that natives of Crete will say, “We are Cretans, not Greeks!”

Crete is the largest and most southern of the Greek Islands.  Crete has a unique dialect and is known for its Matinada poetry, music and dance among many other cultural distinctions.  It is famous for being the birthplace of the Minoan civilization (2700–1420 BC).  The Cretan Sea is to the north; the Libyan Sea is to the south, the Myrtoan Sea is to the west, and the Karpathian Sea is to the east.

The island of Crete was annexed to Greece in 1912 with a treaty.  The treaty came to an end in 2012 and there was talk that Crete would vote to separate from Greece and become an independent country. Crete produces the most GDP and taxes of all of Greece and is one of the few islands in Greece that could be autonomous. As of today, Crete is still part of Greece and the EU, but that could change.

The name Crete first appears in Homer’s Odyssey.   There are thoughts that the name is derived from the Luvian word kursatta (kursawar for “island”and kursattar for “sliver”).  This would make sense because of the long and thin shape of the island; it is 260 km (160 mi) from east to west and is 12 km (7.5 mi) at its thinnest point 60 km (37 mi) at its widest point.

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Crete is a 4 hour high-speed ferry ride from Paros, but it passed by quickly.  If you ever are traveling within the Greek Islands try to use high-speed ferries.  It will cut your travel time in half and the ride is very smooth and luxurious.  It is almost as if you are in an airplane.

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My ferry docked at Heraklion on the northern coast of Crete.  Heraklion is the largest city and capital of Crete.  It was about a 20 minute walk along the water from where the ferry docked to my Airbnb, home to a very sweet girl, M and her adorable dog Roomie (as in roommate).

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Roomie

From the sidewalk that runs along the water you can see the old Venetian port with the wall (which the locals call “the mole”) and the fortress of Koules reaching out into the Cretan Sea. 

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This is a beautiful spot to walk along on a sunny day or to sit and watch as the sun sets.

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The fortress of Koules with the “mole” extending into the Cretan Sea.

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The island of Crete has many wonderful sites to visit and included in those wonderful sites is Knossos Palace which is in the city of Heraklion itself and very easy to reach by taking the #2 bus.

Knossos is considered Europe’s oldest city.  This Minoan site was first discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos.  Excavations were started in 1900 by Sir Arthur Evans and continued for 35 years.

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The whole palace, built on Kephala Hill which is 279 feet above sea level, covers an area of 6 acres and has 1300 rooms connected by corridors. The first and grand palaces were established from 2000 to 1400 BCE.  Water supply came from the Kairatos River which today is diverted into the city of Heraklion.  Knosses and the immediate areas remained the most populated until about 900 AD when the population began to move to the Heraklion area then known as Chandax.

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The entrance ticket to Knossos also includes entry into the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.  It is one of the most important museums in the world containing collections of Minoan artifacts and history.  This is a lovely museum with a nice café overlooking the city of Heraklion and that displays many of the original beautiful murals, artifacts and jewelry found at Knossos.  Such as the one shown below.

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“Ladies in Blue” – Knossos Palace, Neopalatial Period 1600 to 1450 BCE

Walking through the city of Heraklion is quite lovely.  There are little cafés in the parks under the cool shade of the trees, pedestrian shopping streets, beautiful sculptures and ancient ruins.

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25th Agoustou Street – Pedestrian street with a view of the sea
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Bembo Fountain
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Statue of Aretoussa and Erotokritos

Yes indeed.  As an Athenian told me, “There is Greece and then there is Crete!”  Whatever the Cretans decide to do in the future in regards to politics it won’t change the fact that Crete is certainly unique and it is well worth visiting.

 

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