If you are in Heraklion, you must visit the archaeological site of Knossos, preferably not with a tour group so that you can take your time. It is 3800 years old, part of the flourishing Minoan Civilization known for its palaces all over the island. Legend has it that Theseus, the son of the king of Athens, came in person to defeat the Minotaur. For a long time King Minos had exacted tribute from Athens of 7 maids and 7 youths, who were invariably sacrificed to the Minotaur. With the help of Minos' daughter Ariadne, who strung a thread so they could get out of the labyrinth, Theseus killed the Minotaur. He left triumphant, then dumped Ariadne on an island (men!). He had promised his father, the king, that when he returned (if alive) he would have the sail the changed to white, but he forgot and King Aegeus supposedly jumped to his death in sorrow from what is now Cape Sounio.
The Minoans were a seafaring people who depicted youths, bulls, ladies with coiffed hair that got some of them dubbed Les Parisiennes. The site was excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in the early 20th C. who as you'll see, got a little carried away with his restoration, but the original frescoes are in the Archaeological Museum. Their writing, Linear A, has never been deciphered, and many scholars believe the civilization was a matriarchy, since there are two thrones that appear to be made for a queen and extensive queen's rooms in the central courtyard area.ini
By all means do so, gm1! There has never been a better time, and there are signs of improvement in the Greek economy, though slow. However, the islands were never hit particularly hard by the problems because of tourism. Plus if you rent a car on Crete there is another Minoan palace site at Phaistos plus beautiful beaches and mountains. It's spectacular landing there because you can take it all in from the sky. Having been to mainland Greece, Crete, Mykonos for a week (spectacular beaches - but known for the nightlife in which I did not participate), two short cruise ship stops on Santorini, the great monastery and Cave of Saint John of the Revelation on Patmos and some islands near Athens, I can say without question that while Venice is my favorite city, Greece is my favorite country. And my Greek is starting to improve!
profchiara This brings back such great memories too!! I will need to dig out my photo album tonight. Thank you for recounting the legend, as I don't believe I knew the full story when we visited. I do remember having one of the best meals of our lives right near Knossos - I will try to dig up the photo and scan it (yes, we went in the pre-digital days).
The legend has a few different versions, including the 7 youths/7 maidens sent to fight the Minotaur every 7 years before Theseus intervened. There's also Ariadne's younger sister Phaedra, who got a very bad reputation thanks to a lot of later playwrights. But to continue the legend, here are some old photos I took from Cape Sounio, where in legend the king threw himself from the hilltop temple into the sea when he saw the color of the sail of Theseus' ship. I wasn't there at sunset, but that's the best time to visit.
Cape Sounio is one of the most glorious places on the mainland, after Delphi! I have decided instead of going to Paris next month I'm going to spend a week in Imerovigli, Santorini. Thanks to a FF business class flight (Alitalia again!) and hotels.com dollars, it's not going to be nearly as expensive as should be the case in late June for the one truly expensive island in the Aegean.