Crete: beaches, fortresses and a 2,000-year-old robot | The traveler


It is very romantic to say that you rent a car and visit an island like Crete, but I have always preferred the tours with a good guide: they explain things to you, you invent the right thing to do. To the city of Knossos you can go with the image of the labyrinth, Icarus plummeting or the rowdy relationships of the woman from Minos with a bull, but the reality is much more amazing. Expect a palace with over a thousand rooms, four entrances, dead end, air conditioning (of the time), anti-seismic systems, bathtubs, drainage and water storage areas, a first theater concept. The labyrinth is the palace. From there to invent a minotaur for whatever reason, there is only one step.

Ancient Knossos was unearthed by the British archaeologist Arthur Evans At the beginning of the 20th century, laudable work despite some Disney-type license in recreation. It is very close to Heraklion, the capital of the Greek island, through which Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans have passed —Patrick Leigh Fermor, in his book Roumeli (1966) well established the double soul of the Greeks, formed by classical and modern heritage. Now, Crete is occupied by the Germans, who had already tried it in 1941 with the first parachute invasion in history, but who finally found it much more efficient to spend their money on jugs of Alpha beer and good stuffed. Dancing in the pools to the rhythm of reggaeton is one of those things that, I suppose, they prefer to keep a discreet apart.

On Heraklion is a lot to see, of course, but first you can opt for a visit to the tomb of the writer Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957), on the walls of Martinengo. The author, known for his novels Zorba the Greek O The last temptation of Christ, has an effective epitaph: “I fear nothing, I expect nothing, I am free.” From there, the city is bearable and you can go to see the magnificent Loggia (25 de Agosto street), built in 1626 by Francesco Morosini, the center of Venetian power on the island. The inexcusable Archaeological Museum is just a five-minute walk away, in Chatzidaki, with the best collection of Minoan art in the world; But there are more special discoveries, like the Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology. Inside I remembered a fragment of the Iliad in which hephaestus He has golden robots to help him in his work, and I always wondered where they got that concept – robots – that wasn’t invented until centuries later. In the Kotsanas you will find the answer: automatons that served wine, alarms for houses, automatic door openings… Greek ingenuity was very impressive. Just as surprising as his ability for languages; two, three at a time, without disheveled. Their merchant soul is evident. You cannot leave the Cretan capital without visiting the beautiful Koules Fortress, a 16th century stronghold overlooking the harbor and in excellent condition.

Have I already told you that my command post was in the town of Amoudara? From there I moved left and right, and I was about to go towards Vouves, a town where, they say, the oldest olive tree in the world: around 4,000 years old. But there is no time for everything and, reading the Venice history, from John Julius NorwichThe intention of visiting two Venetian fortresses to the north-west of Crete was able to do more.

The beaches in the direction of the city of Rethymno They are very long —some up to 12 kilometers—, with lots of eucalyptus trees that surround them. And Rethymno itself is perfect; neither the hubbub of the capital nor the saturation of tourists that awaits in the city of Chania. There is balance, restaurants that hang over the sea on the Via de Kefalogianni, where you can have a Mythos beer, some fish or dip bread in a good tzatziki —Typical sauce based on cucumber and yogurt. A very secluded old town; the beautiful Rimondi fountain, in the square of the same name; the inevitable Loggia -connected with the Dogo de la Serenísima, although not as beautiful as the capital city-, and, above all of them, my goal: the fortress of fortezza. It is huge, so much so that inside it houses another city; a pentagonal drawing that the Venetians also raised in the 16th century against the always dangerous Turk. A construction that is still alive, both for the music festivals that are held inside and for the plays. The panorama from its walls is magnificent, and when you are also reading Mothers and sons, from Theodor KallifatidesI remember a fragment that speaks of stoicism, which consists of small joys palliating enormous sadness. Well, this works, I tell myself.

The two faces of Chania

I continue my journey to the west of Crete. The blue sea is always with us. And we got to Chania, which the natives pronounce “hania”, with a soft and drawn ax. The city is like that old Roman god who had two faces in his head: on the one hand, the Venetian port is possibly one of the most beautiful places to be enjoyed; on the other, the line of restaurants for tourists that run through it, with their owners trying to get customers, distort it.

Anyway, let’s focus on beauty. Following the Kountouriotis route we find the Firka fortress, which is not as painterly as the previous two. Then, the Maritime Museum, with an interesting memorabilia that shows from sailor knots to torpedoes, and in the same route you find the perspective of the port, fantastic, with its characteristic corner lighthouse and, on the other side, the ovoid figure of the mezquita de Kioutsouk Hasan, which grabs all the attention for its Martian appearance. Before the restaurants there is a wonderful bookstore, well stocked with titles ad hoc: The Alexandria Quartet, de Lawrence Durrell; The battle of Crete, by Antony Beevor; the ubiquitous Leigh Fermor, a selection of classical and contemporary Greek authors … As soon as you are within reach of the hoteliers, although they are somewhat heavy, there is certainly offer to give and take, and finally you can choose the menu you prefer, because always, when you finish, they will offer you a bottle of north ice cream and some glasses. It is an aniseed pomace that goes in alone: ​​in the heat, it should be forbidden, but in Crete there is almost always a restorative breeze, so things continue their natural way.

Ignacio del Valle He is the author of the novel ‘When the dead turn’ (Algaida publishing house, 2021).

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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