|Heraklion mole and fort protecting the harbour.|
Travel Dates 12th-16th July 2013
I arrived without drama at Heraklion Airport and took a cab to the Kronos Hotel. I booked it months in advance after reading many positive reviews on the web. In the main they were accurate, with some minor exceptions. It is in a great location near the harbour and an easy walk up the hill to the centre of town or along the foreshore to the mole or harbour-side restaurants.
The room I eventually accepted after a problem with a smoky-smelling first offer was small but comfortable with an oblique balcony view of the sea. I enjoyed my stay there. The only jarring note was the sign in the bathroom advising that used toilet paper must not be flushed down the toilet but placed in the bin. The lady managing the hotel told me that the plumbing system would be blocked if paper is flushed. Later, when I visited Knossos and was reminded that the ancient Minoans were one of the first civilisations to develop indoor sanitation I wondered why the modern Cretans did not seem to have moved far in that field since.
Apart from seeing Knossos I had no plans for Crete. My main intention was to take it easy and relax. Although there were many tourists, Heraklion was more laid back than Rhodes. The average age of the tourists appeared to be ten to twenty years older than Rhodes, with fewer teens and twenties and more in their forties and fifties. There were even some fossils of my own vintage.
Despite the tourists the harbour and the sea are still the focus of the town. The giant ferries bring most of the tourists to town, the fishermen still sell their catch on the mole and the harbour is packed with boats of all sizes.
I walked a lot over the next few days, covering most of the central town within the old walls.
There did not appear to be an 'old town' preserved in the same way as those I visited in Iberia, Morocco and Rhodes. Instead various old structures were surrounded by modern buildings. The ancient harbour docks are the structures on the centre right of the picture, well above the modern waterline.
Several old sites such as the old dockyards were restored or in the process of restoration and some sites, such as Agios Petros monastery near the hotel, appeared to be active archaeological sites.
For most lunches and some dinners I again chose the tasty delights of Greek gyro pitas. A 15cm (6”) circle of pita bread formed into a cone around a filling of marinated gyro-roasted lamb with onions, tomato, possibly other vegetable choices and garnished with tzatziki. Cheap fast food but always delicious. I didn't encounter a gyro pita I didn't like. I usually washed it down with the local beer. A full meal for under 5 Euros. Better still, my blood glucose meter approved the meal an hour after eating.
When I got tired of gyros there were wonderful fish and seafood choices. One of my favourites in mediterranean countries is mussels.
At one stage while wandering in the western outskirts of town I walked into a bar that was a step back in time. The only sign of modernity was an old TV flickering on the wall. The service was similar to Spanish tapas, with a snack appearing automatically together with my order of a glass of inexpensive but very good house red wine, ordered by sign language as he spoke no English and I spoke no Greek. After a few glasses of wine, along with the Greek 'tapas', I no longer needed lunch. This was a bar that would rarely see a tourist. After a while another customer appeared who spoke good English. I had an enjoyable chat about many things, none of which I can recall now. Maybe it was more than a few glasses of wine. Unfortunately, it was my second last day and I had no time to return the next day. Although I may not recall the details of the conversation it was a pleasant afternoon I will never forget.
On my last evening these very loud and cheerful ladies were conducting a protest or demonstration. I have no idea what it was about but the local constabulary appeared to be very concerned as they vastly outnumbered the protesters.
While in Heraklion I visited Knossos. That post will follow this.
After four pleasant days I left Heraklion for Paris on Aegean Air relaxed and refreshed.