Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Two Very Different Cretan Cities

Well, "cities" might not be quite the right word.

As I wrote in my last blog post, I have just returned from a yoga retreat in Crete. As well as meditating and doing lots of yoga everyday, we went on a number of excursions to explore historical and fascinating areas of Crete. The first two excursions were to the Palace of Knossos and to Matala.

The Palace of Knossos

The Minoan city of Knossos on Crete is thought to be the oldest European city. It is located only a few kilometers from Heraklion, the largest contemporary city on Crete. Probably inhabited from neolithic times, this bronze age city was the centre of Minoan civilization. The first Palace of Knossos is thought to have been built around 2000 BC, and at its height, the palace and surrounding city had a population of 100,000 people. The total inhabited area was 10 square kilometers. The palace was abandoned around 1300-1100 BC.

The Palace of Knossos is in the Middle of a Wide Valley
The Palace of Knossos was rediscovered by British archaeologist Arthur Evans. Excavations began in the early 1900's. Today some sections have been restored. My photo below shows the restored north entrance. There is a fresco that depicts a charging bull partially visible behind one of the columns.

Some Sections of the Ruins Have Been Restored
The Palace of Knossos is famous in Greek mythology because of the legend of the Minotaur. The Minotaur was a creature that was half man and half bull who was kept at the centre of a labyrinth constructed by Daedalus underneath the palace on the orders of King Minos. Theseus entered the labyrinth and fought the Minotaur. Theseus was able to find his way out of the labyrinth by following the thread given to him by Ariadne, the king's daughter. Then Theseus and Ariadne fled from Crete.

A Painting of the Minotaur
I can't believe I was actually there, in this historic place I had read about in books!

On the afternoon we were there, it was very hot, or so it seemed to this northern gal. After we had wandered all over exploring the ruins, Theo gathered us together in the shade and led us in a meditation. He had us visualize entering the labyrinth. For me, this and the subsequent meditations were powerful experiences.

Matala

A few days later, we travelled to Matala on the south coast of Crete. The cliffs of Matala have many caves, ranging in size from small ones that could fit a couple of people to the ones the size of a large room. It is not known how the caves came to be there, but it is most likely that humans dug them out to use for habitation. In the 1960's hippies descended on the community and lived in the caves.

We made use of one of the caves for our daily meditation session, much to the consternation of some swallows who had nests on the cliffs.
Climbing Up to the Caves of Matala
After we came down from the caves, our group split up. I went with three others to have a cold drink in a beachfront bar. Then we explored the little town.

The hippie presence was everywhere, from the colourfully painted sidewalks, to VW vans parked all around and represented in murals, to tributes to John Lennon painted in the square.

 
Goofing Around with Nura





Exploring Matala


We had a lot of fun browsing in the shops. But at this point, we didn't dare buy anything because we had no suitcases in which to bring stuff home! (Click to read about the lost suitcases.)

After shopping, we went for a swim in the Libyan Sea (the part of the Mediterranean Sea south of Crete). The water was so refreshing -- a wonderful feeling on a hot afternoon. Theo's tent provided some welcome shade. 

Our Tent on the Beach with the Caves Behind

We ended the day with a beautiful dinner at the Sunset Taverna, so named because it offered a spectacular view of the sun going down. After dinner, we walked back to the beach and I took the photo below. Idyllic.

 
A Beautiful Sunset
 
But, the day was not over yet. We still had a long drive back in the dark to the place we were staying, over mountains and around hairpin turns. We stopped high on a mountaintop and all got out of the cars to look at the stars. It was an amazing day.


21 comments:

  1. Hi Jude - I love the legend of the Minotaur. It's awesome to be at a place that you've read about in books and see things in person. Very interesting caves and beautiful sunset. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Hi Natalie. Yes, it gives me a huge thrill to actually be in a place that I had only ever read about in books. When my daughters were young, they loved to read about Greek myths, and now my grandson loves reading about myths and legends too.

      Jude

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  2. Hey Jude! I loved hearing more about your trip and your photos as usual are great. It is evident you had a wonderful time and a wonderful experience. Thom and I went to Greece years ago but never made it to Crete. You're making me want to! ~Kathy

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    1. Hi Kathy. Sorry for being slow to reply. We have been camping on the west coast of Vancouver Island in places where there is no cell service or wifi. So I’m just catching up on replies now.

      I haven’t been to any other part of Greece. I was very impressed with Crete, and it makes me want to go back to explore other parts of Greece, including some of the other Greek islands.

      Jude

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  3. Hi, Jude - It's wonderful to hear more about your trip. I've never been to Crete before. It sounds magnificent .... especially that last evening under the stars!

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    1. Hi Donna. Everything about the trip was wonderful. One reason it was such a treat was that Nura and Theo had organized *everything*. Accommodations, restaurants, transportation, excursions, beach visits, and of course the yoga and meditation sessions. Usually I organize my own trips, so I really enjoyed being able to totally relax and not worry about a thing. Of course, we all had the option to opt out of any activity or excursion if we wanted some free time to do something else (and I did that one afternoon).

      Jude

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  4. Knossos was a highlight of our trip to Crete. We didn’t get to Malala.

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    1. Anabel, I was so busy the weeks before we left to go to Crete that I hadn’t done any advance research, even though I knew that the Palace of Knossos was going to be one of the excursions. So it was a delightful surprise.

      Jude

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  5. I'm finally getting around to reading past posts now that we've returned from our trip to VI. I was we had had more time during our meet-up to hear more about your trip... it sounds amazing! I've never been to Greece, but it's definitely on my list.

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    1. Hi Janis. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your holiday. It was so wonderful to get to know you a bit when you were here, and the time sure did fly by! I had always really wanted to go to Greece ever since we studied Ancient Greece in Grade 7 Social Studies. I think going to Crete just whetted my appetite to see more of Greece!

      Jude

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  6. Such amazing experiences you had on Crete, Jude. Meditating in caves and near buildings of historical significance must have been powerful, indeed. I love how you could see the caves from the beach. The sand and water look mighty attractive.

    I went to Greece for five weeks with a boyfriend when I was in college - a long time ago. But, we never made it to Crete, which is where my parents went on their honeymoon. I’m sure a lot has changed since then! :-)

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    1. Liesbet, it was truly amazing. I didn’t know what to expect of Crete, but it was better than anything I would have imagined. Apparently Crete has become one of the most popular holiday destinations for Europeans in the last couple of years. Heraklion, Rethymno, and Matala were quite touristy cities as were the beaches near them, but the remote south shore of Crete where spent most of our time was not. I’m so glad I went.

      Jude

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    1. Mage, thanks for commenting. Yes, it was really wonderful.

      Jude

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  8. Hi Jude, I know very little about Greek mythology, although I have heard of the legend of the Minotaur. I cannot imagine the feeling of actually being in these historic places. The meditating likely felt surreal. I may have felt transported to another time and kept one eye open:)

    I don’t know whether you spent much time researching these areas beforehand. Your photos are interesting and stunning! Like you say, the sunset is “idyllic.”

    We have not been to Greece.......yet. Thank you for sharing an informative and fun post:)

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    1. Hi Erica. When I travel to places I haven’t seen before, whether nearby or overseas, I always feel that I get so much more out of the visit if I learn a little about the history of the place that I am visiting. As you remarked, it was strange to meditate at the Place of Knossos ( we did a guided visualization about the labyrinth and Minotaur), and in a cave on the side of a cliff. For me, it really stimulated a synthesis of my experience in those places, my imagination, and my feelings.

      Jude

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  9. I was just in Crete last month too and I love how you retold the story of the Minotaur. Great pictures too

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Wasn’t Crete amazing? It sounds like we were there around the same time. Maybe we crossed paths in Heraklion or Rethymno.

      Jude

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  10. Oh beautiful Crete, I would go back there if I could. Knossos is magnificent and your visit sounds restorative.

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    1. Terra, thanks for commenting here. I agree — Crete is a beautiful island! Turquoise water, flowers blooming everywhere, the rugged rocky hills... I really fell in love with the place.

      Jude

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