This was a crazy morning. We woke early and headed out before sunrise. Crete, it turns out, is a large island, and some of the most ancient things we wanted to see were at the far end of the landmass away from our hotel.
We first traveled East, then South. We hadn’t eaten breakfast, but nothing was open. Greeks, it seems, are not morning people. Eventually in the town of Silos we found a bakery open where we bought two cheese Danishes, a hot dog wrapped in phyllo, and some sweets. The transaction was a bit confusing because the little old lady who ran the bakery didn’t speak much English. We muddled through with a mix of “thank yous” and “good mornings” with satiety and bliss as an ultimate end point.
Two hours of driving after leaving our hotel we found ourselves in the parking lot of the ruins of the ancient Minoan palace at Phaistos. A light rain was falling, so we decided to take a brief nap while the weather cleared. Given that the seats in the rental were shockingly even less comfortable than the seats on BA, D actually folded the rear seatback and napped in the hatchback. It was ridiculous.
After 20 minuted, the rain had abated to a light drizzle, so we gathered our things and headed up the ramp toward the ticket booth. This adorable pooch followed us the whole way. The gentleman at the ticket booth stated that there are a number of strays around. With the economic crisis in Greece, many families have brought their pets out here and released them. He states the staff here tries to feed them and provide veterinary care when possible.
She has clearly been part of a family, and I think is looking for humans to call her own. A few other dogs are on site, but she has clearly claimed us for the day, following us around wherever we go, inspecting the ruins, and scouting the landscape. When she is nearby the other dogs won’t approach. We have found ourselves inadvertently a part of the dog hierarchy.
The palace at Phaistos, we are told, dates to 1900 BC, which makes it about 4000 years old. This is the old theater on the left. I think of how many theaters I’ve seen, but this one is 1,500 years older than the next oldest. The thought blows me away.
These ancient pithoi are impossibly detailed in their workmanship.
The dog guides us to a viewing deck, but mostly we view her.
From here we can see the valleys around us spread out for miles, planted with olives and grapes and grains, and echoing with the disharmonious clank of goats bells. This is land that has been worked and terraced for millennia, and I am confident that if the Minoans returned, they would recognize much of what they found.
The dog stands waiting for us in the King’s Megaron.
This is the Queen’s Megaron.
At the end of our visit we stopped for a visit in the gift shop. We didn’t buy anything but on exiting, she had gone. We assume she has found other humans to follow. I hope she finds a good family to take her home. I think she would be a good dog to have around.
Next up after Phaistos is the Minoan Palace at Knossos. This is a one hour drive north from the south central part of Crete to the area outside Heraklion, and at the end of the drive we break for lunch. It is still early, and not much is open, but I have grilled pork and it is delicious.
This is Easter Monday, which is a big holiday here, so the site was rather busy. After a bit of a wait we finally entered the grounds and found ourselves crossing beneath this long Arbor into the palace area.
As it turns out the “palace” may not have truly been a palace, but instead was an astoundingly large complex of municipal buildings. This room, for example is labeled the throne room, but may have instead served a religious purpose. Further, we note that the entire site sits below the surrounding hills – not an easily-defended potion.
Even with all of this, even if the building wasn’t a palace, it’s still pretty darn grand.
The Minoan columns had a distinct structure, being there were thinner on the bottom that on the top, which was a result of them being made out of Cyprus trunks stood upside down.
This site was primarily excavated and “restored” by Sir Arthur Evans. The difficulty lies in that term “restored,” because he was actually rebuilding the palace, and sometimes using his own vision to fill in the gaps.
Finally, walking down steps labeled as a theater (I’m unconvinced) we headed toward the exit and our two hour drive back to the hotel We had found ourselves a bit frustrated by Evans’s additions, but nonetheless it was still a wonderful visit. This is a site from the Bronze Age. Early people lived here, and from this place established greatness. They reached out and touched this earth and worked these weather-worn stones. That type of history is like nothing else I can imagine.
And now all those old texts make a lot more sense to me.