I happened to have just read “Mythos” by Stephen Fry and then started reading the second book of the series, “Heroes” (on Greek mythology) when we went to the island of Crete, Greece for summer vacation.
We stayed in Heraklion the entire time. We were tempted to go to Chania for a few days and then come back, but we thought we’d be more relaxed if we just stayed in one place for a while. We worked the first two weeks we were there, so we really needed to relax and enjoy the warm weather. Norway was not too warm, so we were happy to be away for some weeks.
Crete reminded me a bit of home (Puerto Rico), it being a small island and all, but it was still Greece. It was my first time to Greece and it is a different travel experience than I’ve had before. We kept everything very simple, went sightseeing, worked, and relaxed either at the beach or at the hotel swimming pool.
I enjoyed seeing the Minoan Palace of Knossos, which is the largest of all Minoan palatial structures, but there were not many ruins left, so they have ‘refurbished’ a lot of it. Minoan, named after King Minos, relates to the people of Crete during the Bronze Age ( c. 3000–1050 BC). The sea was the basis of their economy and power.
I also enjoyed the Venetian Fortress of Heraklion, which is also called Koules (meaning ‘fortress’ in Turkish), built by the Venetians in the early 13th century, when they conquered the town.
The Archaeological Museum and the Historical Museum I loved, especially because the later had some paintings by Cretan artist El Greco. Τhe Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is one of the largest museums in Greece and one of the most important museums in the whole of Europe. Its exhibits are authentic reflections of Cretan prehistory and history (about 7000 years), from the Neolithic Age until the Roman Empire.
I love churches and their architecture, so had to see the Saint Minas Cathedral and The Church of Saint Titos. Saint Minas is the patron saint of Heraklion. The church of Agios Titos was built at that time in order to reawaken Orthodox influence and tradition on the island.
Of course, had to see Lion’s Square (officially called Eleftheriou Venizelou), with its famous water fountain, part of an aqueduct built by the Venetian Doge Francesco Morosini. The square is surrounded by cafés and restaurants, which is a great way to see how Heraklion’s historic monuments are incorporated into modern life.
Last but not least, one of my favorite restaurants of all time, and my favorite in Heraklion, Crete, is Peskesi restaurant. Before dinner, they give you some of the most amazing bread and tasty sauce to dip the bread in. Then after your delicious meal, they provide you with a natural herbal hand cleanser, give you some fresh Raki and a sweet dessert, on the house. One day I only went there to have a bit of soup, but they were still warm, welcoming, and giving with all of it.
With all of these great things to do in Heraklion, Crete, the beach and relaxing are what I believe the best things to do there. It is very hot in the summer and it’s a small place, but full of heart and soul.