Sunday, 1 November 2015

Crete and the amazing Palace of Knossos

Crete is a big island with lots to see, but since we only have one day on the island, our obvious choice of destination was the Palace of Knossos, the major historical site on the island.   The palace, built between 1700 and 1400 B.C. over a Neolithic town, is considered to be Europe's oldest city and the centre of Minoan civilization and culture.   It was a maze of various kinds of rooms, living spaces, workrooms and storage rooms around a central square.   Some of these are being reconstructed, including indoor and outdoor murals.  Our guide was very helpful, pointing out some of the features and background and what originals we would see in the Archaeological Museum which we later visited in Heraklion.  And there were some awesome pieces of fine Minoan jewellery and craftsmanship on display at the Museum - it was quite a gem.  Check out the photos below.

One of the many partially reconstructed structures on the grounds

The grounds were a maze of rooms, corridors and stairs

This is the original floor in the front of the "Throne Room"

The "Throne Room" with the benches and the throne (believed to be the throne of King Minos) in the place where they were found.  

The reconstructed Room with the copies of the frescoes

The Queen's Megaron with the striking fresco of the dolphins

This refined Bull Leaper in the museum was found in the shrine above the Queen's Megaron.  It depicted the instant when the Bull Leaper leapt over the bull's back in a Minoan ritual - one of the masterpieces of small Minoan sculpture. 

Partly restored first floor of the Royal Apartments
The corridor leading from the entrance of the palace to the central court

The Bastion with the famous fresco of the bull
The double horn symbol was seen everywhere on the Palace grounds

The bull was sacred to the Minoans. This bull's head, in the form of a rhyton or drinking horn, is a libation vase that was filled with libation liquid through a hole in the neck and poured out through a hole in the muzzle.  Another show piece of Minoan art. 

The double axe, which always seemed to accompany goddesses, was the symbol of the beginning of creation.  It appeared everywhere and there were many versions, large and small, in gold, copper and other metals in the museum

A carved leaping tiger 
Gold Minoan jewellery

A most exquisite gold bee pendant from Malia - a pectoral pendant of two bees depositing a drop of honey in their honeycomb.  They are holding the round, granulated honeycomb between their legs and the drop of honey in their mouths.  On their heads is a filigree cage containing a gold bead while small discs hang from their wings and the sting.  A masterpiece of the jeweller's art from 1800 - 1700 B.C.!

Olive groves surround the palace
We were told that the best olive oil came from Heraklion on Crete so stopped by a local products store to get some for gifts.  The town centre was quite pretty but the cruise port was not very accessible. We had to walk through a maze of streets, making many turns before we found our way to the waterfront.  And then the port itself was behind one barrier after another with no car access.  But the detour allowed us to see some of the less touristy parts of town, which is always a treat.

The view of Heraklion from the Museum
Heraklion street outside of the main area

A sidewalk garden

This is supposed to be the Cistern

Almost surreal giant cranes at the port

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