We rented some form of Suzuki SUV for our 10 days in Crete because we needed something with a higher-than-usual carriage for driving on dirt roads. The Beast did most of that driving, which was often very terrifying. I did the rest, which wasn’t a walk in the park. Crete’s interior is filled with mountains, which means multiple switch backs. I’d like to think I became very good at shifting up and down these hairpin turns. There was one moment, however, when I may have gotten carried away. The Beast told me to veer to the left but instead I veered to the right and yelled “SIXTH GEAR, BABY!” just as I shifted into said gear and burned fucking rubber up the hill. Five minutes later, after I made a U-turn on the hill on a road as wide as a credit card, we had a good laugh about that.
And it’s also a really suitable motto for our three days and four nights in southern Heraklion, which is still fairly untouched by tourism. We really hit our groove, packing our days full of hikes, archaeological sites, caves, churches, and swims. From Chania we drove just over three hours to our the south of Heraklion. The drive alone, through endless olive groves on the slopes of Mount Ida, was breathtaking. We made one pit stop at Eleftherna, a Doric Greek site (900 B.C.) which made it practically new compared to all the Minoan ones (circa 2000-1500 B.C.) They’ve just built an incredible museum to house the archaeological finds. (Again, my favourite sort: only one hour to thoughtfully visit!) The real find here was a Geometric grave that sounds exactly as one described in The Iliad: the funeral pyre of Patrocles including Achilles’ HUMAN SACRIFICE of prisoners of war! Afterwards, we had lunch with a view of the ruins at “Snack Bar Tavern Anatoli”.
Tagged Aghia Triada, Agiofarago, Blue Guide, Crete, Eleftherna, Gortyn, Heraklion, Matala Beach, Minoan, Phaistos, Thalori
After Athens, we spent 10 days on the island of Crete–the birthplace of Europe’s first civilization. Everyone knows of Knossos, the legendary home of King Minos and the labyrinth that Sir Arthur Evans discovered. We visited the site last year. This year, however, we explored other fine Minoan sites where one can wander without ropes. Also, if I could go back to grad school, I would study Cretan Byzantine frescoes. There are about 800 frescoed churches on the island, most of which are unlocked and off the beaten track. They are also terribly preserved. Still, I was blown away by their imaginative, fresh style. Some dated to the 10th century and showed a level of artistry that, in my mind, rivalled the frescoes of Giotto–the 14th century Italian painter who I was taught set the Proto Renaissance bar.
But let’s get down to brass tacks. We spent six days in the region of Chania (western Crete) and four in southern Heraklion (eastern Crete).
Tagged cave of Panaghia Arkoudiotissa, Chania, Crete, Elafonisi Beach, Falassarna, Katholiko, Kissamos, Maritime Museum, Menies Beach, Rokka, Sanctuary of Diktynna, Tamam
When we went to Greece last year, we approached it a bit like one might a buffet. On the first pass, sample what you know and think you will like, and on the second pass, return to the things you love.
Our first trip was a whirlwind of checking off sites–the Athenian acropolis, the Oracle of Delphi, Olympia, the Minoan ruins of Knossos–that I’d dreamt of visiting, with a few wild cards–the Mani, Santorini–thrown in. This time around, we spent the majority of our time on the island of Crete, where the food, wine, beaches, and people enchanted us in 2016, where we said “this place is extraordinary. We will come back.” And we did.
We’ve been on a real good soup kick. I made a butternut squash soup the other night using this Thomas Keller recipe, which seemed pretty complicated so I just removed all the complicated bits–the bits that made it a Thomas Keller soup, essentially. Still, it was pretty good.