Fortezza of Rethymnon

By Ross in Travel on Sun 22 June 2014. Tags: Greece

My next plan was to escape from Heraklion to Chania, the so-called spiritual capital of Crete (and the actual capital until 1971). Chania is located on the north coast of Crete, approximately 140 km west of Heraklion. Almost exactly halfway between them is the town of Rethymnon. I had not originally planned on stopping there, but when I was flipping through the guidebook, it described the fortress of Rethymnon as "the largest Venetian castle ever built." I could not resist.

The Fortezza of Rethymnon was built in the sixteenth century as a response to repeated pirate raids. It was built large enough to contain the entire population of the town. Today, most of the buildings in the interior of the fortress are in ruins; the notable exception is a large, domed mosque. The exterior walls are remarkably well preserved.

Here are the walls of the fortess viewed from the outside.

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And viewed from the inside.

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Closeup of a crenel and an arrowslit, both with a view of the water.

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Some of the larger buildings inside the fortress and a closeup of the mosque with it single, large central dome.

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Interior and central dome of the mosque (the dome is so large that the widest focal length of my camera's lens was insufficient to capture its "dome-ness").

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I really like this tree.

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This is the powder magazine.

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Here are some arches outside the underground storerooms. I like how they are juxtaposed from this angle.

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Inside the underground storerooms:

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A view through a grill in the one of the mosque windows.

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Another view looking out from one of the underground storage areas.

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A guard tower and the view looking out its window.

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Two more "window" views:

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On the way out, I took this picture of the water just to show how clear it is.

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Knossos

By Ross in Travel on Sun 22 June 2014. Tags: Greece, archeology

I woke up early to visit the palace of Knossos. The idea was to beat the weekend crowds (it was a Sunday), but I need not have worried. There were a few tour groups, but mostly I had the place to myself. The palace is about a twenty minute drive from Heraklion, and is easily reachable by public bus from the main bus station.

Knossos is the largest and most famous of the Minoan palaces on the island of Crete. The primary excavation was done around the turn of the twentieth century by Arthur Evans who, shall we say, was not shy about sharing his own vision of the palace with the world. Although the field of archeology has changed greatly since that time, the palace stands today mostly as Evans restored it, complete with colorful columns and reimagined frescoes. The names of the buildings (placed here in quotation marks) are those used by Evans, and thus are purely speculative.

This is the "South Propylaeum" (southern entrance to the palace). Evans put a copy of the cup bearer fresco on the wall.

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The "Throne Room" is named for the stone seat found in the chamber. The original wall fresco has been restored and is in the Heraklion archeological museum. This copy was placed here by Evans. The space on the left behind the colored columns has a sunken floor; Evans claimed it was a cistern used for purification ceremonies.

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The "Central Court" connects all the different wings of the palace.

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This is the "School Room", where Evans claims students kneaded clay for clay tablets in the cylindrical mortar next to the bench. More recent research suggests that it was a pottery studio.

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The "Magazine of the Giant Pithoi" contains these giant storage jars:

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This is the "Bastion", or raised colonnade, of the north entrance.

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This is the "North Lustral Basin", which Evans claimed was used for purification before entering the sacred palace; however, it has no drainage system, so it is unlikely it contained water.

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This is the "Theater":

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And, finally, this is the "Royal Road" leading out of the palace.

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After leaving the palace, I took the bus back to Heraklion, where I visited the archeological museum. The museum contains the largest collection of Minoan artifacts in the world, as well as the original frescoes from the palace at Knossos. The sheer number of objects is overwhelming, but here are a few things I found interesting. (I generally find it silly to take lots of photos in museums, especially ones of objects under glass, but I make an exception for things which catch my eye or things I want to remember).

The plate on the right is absolutely adorable:

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Lots of sharp, pointy bronze things:

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Octopus decorations on pithoi and burial sarcophagi. There was no mention of this here, but I learned in the Athens archeological museum that this was a common Minoan theme (a component of the aptly named "marine style").

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These figures of goddesses with upraised arms were placed in communal shrines, and are said to be the earliest known religious images of gods.

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Finally we have a Roman statue of Pluto, Persepone, and Cerberus. I took this picture since I had never before seen a statue of Cerberus.

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Heraklion

By Ross in Travel on Sat 21 June 2014. Tags: Greece

On the advice of Chris from Atlantis Books, I headed next to Crete. When I went to the travel agency to buy my ferry ticket I was presented with a choice: the slower ferry (reasonably priced) or the faster ferry (about twice as expensive). Ordinarily, this would not have been much of a choice, as I am trying to travel as cheaply as possible (while maintaining a modicum of comfort). In this case, there was an added complication: the cheaper ferry was scheduled to depart around 0300, while the more expensive ferry would leave at the more reasonable time of 1745.

I debated with myself for a few minutes (not aloud), and in the end decided to splurge for the more expensive ferry. This gave me a good night's sleep and most of another day in Santorini, which in the end I think was worth it.

The ferry took me to Heraklion, the largest city in Crete. Heraklion is not an especially attractive city (the guidebooks and websites all give the same advice: get out as quickly as possible).

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A short walk led to the older, Venetian harbor, where I managed to take a few nice photos as the sun was setting.

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Farewell to Santorini

By Ross in Travel on Sat 21 June 2014. Tags: Greece

For my last day in Santorini, I decided to walk around and take pictures. Since I had come to the island specifically to see its characterstic colors, nothing else really made sense. I also wanted to photograph Oia in the morning light, since the other two times I had visited were in the evening.

Here are some of the highlights.

A church on the eastern side of Oia.

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Some more blue domes.

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A different blue dome, and a bell tower overlooking the water.

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This is on all the postcards:

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Here are some views of Oia.

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And a closeup of the iconic windmill:

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Here is a bell tower which is not blue:

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Next to it is a staircase:

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It took many tries to turn the staircase into this "white on white" photo.

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On the advice of Lucy at Atlantis Books, I hiked down to the small port at Amoudi.

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In the background, you can see the 300 (or so) steps I hiked down to get to the port.

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At the bottom, I saw this boat crane as well as octopuses (octopi? octopodes?) drying in the sun.

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During my walk around, I took a spontaneous swim near this rock. It was nice to cool off before the hike back up to Oia.

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On my way up, I discovered the secret to the bright white walls of Santorini:

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I took the bus back to Fira in the afternoon, and spent some time walking around there. Here is a photo of the city and one of the old port below the city. You can take a "cable-car" (essentially a ski lift down to the port, but I did not do that.

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I like this picture of the towers and domes of the catholic cathedral of Fira:

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Here is a picture of the bell tower of the cathedral:

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Finally, here are two more photos involving the cathedral, one through an archway and another through a window grill.

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I left Fira in mid-afternoon to catch a ferry to Crete. On the way out, I picked up a pair of clip-on sunglasses, since I was finding the midday sun to be quite overwhelming. Dorky, but effective.


Sunset in Santorini

By Ross in Travel on Fri 20 June 2014. Tags: Greece

Every evening, people gather in Oia, Santorini to watch the sunset.

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The moment when the sun dips below the horizon is met with applause.

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Res ipsa loquitur.

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