Crete Ancient Sites
Agia Galini was a good location to explore ancient sites particularly Phaistos and the summer palace at Aghia Triadha. It was amazing to be walking on sites dating 1400 years BC. When we arrived we just stood overlooking the site and marveled. I think the Venetian period in Greece in the 13 to 15 hundreds is old but these sites are 2500 years older than that. Walking up the grand staircase into the palace complex had an unreal feel to it. These are Minoan sites not as famous as their big counterpart at Knossos but have the advantage of not being restored and fewer crowds. It was an exceptionally hot day around 34 degrees C and the sun was beating down hard so we did about an hour walk around and then had to leave.
We decided we had enough stamina to visit one more site. I wondered why they had chosen Aghia Triada as a summer palace as it is quite near the main palace but quickly understood. Though close by it was on the opposite slope of the hill and caught a cooling breeze. We actually spent more time here than at Phaistos even though it is a much smaller site.
We realized we were close to Matala so headed there to see the caves however it was a Sunday and the whole town was packed with people and cars. Since it was still 34 we decided to stay with the air conditioned car so I eventually pulled a daring u turn in the middle of traffic and we left.
Gortys or Gortyn
Gortys was a surprise. I had only read that it was the Roman capital of Crete but it predates that way back in history. The archaeological site is primarily Roman with two areas of interest, the Odeum where the Gortyn law code is inscribed and the byzantine church of Saint Titus. Much to my chagrin we missed the Roman statues which are supposed to be near the parking lot.
The site was Ok but the excavated area was pretty small and we completed it in about a half hour. The church site was fenced off as there was some archaeology activity going on so that was a bit disappointing.
I had heard though that the site was actually quite large so we asked a guard if there was more to see. She pointed us down the main road so we set off. As we walked we could see tumbled down walls, pathways and several single columns randomly lying around under the olive trees. We came to another wall with a cobblestone path hidden by grasses and walked deep into the olive grove and discovered an archaeologists dream. Here was the major unexcavated heart of the Roman city. It was a huge area blocked off by a fence but there were columns scattered around what looked like a temple later we realized this was the Roman Governers Praetorium complete with a lonely statue still standing in a field of grass and ruins. We found baths and a partially dug up theater. Hopefully someday a benefactor with deep pockets will come by and expand the rudimentary excavations. We were all alone here. We felt as if we had discovered this place. We certainly got a taste of what it must be like to be an archaeologist.
We continued our trip north to Heraklion. I think it is wore to drive in Heraklion than it was in Corinth. We ended up in small back alleys following a Parking sign and actually found a valet parking lot. Our poor little Hyundai looked rather pathetic beside the Mercedes, and Volvos that used that lot. We started walking in the center of Heraklion and I took a picture at each intersection hoping they would lead us back to the car.
We were able to find the excellent and newly reopened Museum and then in the heat of the day also visited Knossos. I am glad we saw that last. Our visit to Phastos gave us the fundamentals of a Minoan palace but was just bare bone ruins while Knossos provided us with more detail of what it might have looked like. I won’t join the debate of should the site have been partially restored or not. I was just happy to see some form that gave us an impression of the grandeur of what Knossos may have been like. This is our 4th visit to Crete so we made it a priority to get to Knossos. Better late than never I guess.
Crete Ancient sites
Coming up: our last week in Naxos
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Crete Ancient Sites