Holiday Journal- Crete, Greece. A secret hidden in plain sight (Part III)

The beautiful Jacaranda tree at the entrance of Knossos, Heralkion, Crete
The beautiful Jacaranda tree at the entrance of Knossos, Heralkion, Crete
 Knossos, Crete- the birthplace of one of the oldest civilisations: the Minoan Civilisation
Knossos, Crete- the birthplace of one of the oldest civilisations: the Minoan Civilisation
The beautiful conference hall of the former Venetian Loggia, currently Heralkion’s City Hall
The beautiful conference hall of the former Venetian Loggia, currently Heralkion’s City Hall
Gian Andrea Paolo Grancini- City Councillor & Deputy-Mayor for Tourism (Italian vice-mayor in Crete)
Gian Andrea Paolo Grancini- City Councillor & Deputy-Mayor for Tourism (Italian vice-mayor in Crete)
The famous beaches around Heraklion
The famous beaches around Heraklion
Gavalas Winery
Gavalas Winery

Last week we were invited by Travel Massive- Crete Chapter to take part in their #Crete4Seasons Road Trip- a huge event aimed at promoting the beautiful island of Crete to travelers in low season. This Photo Journal is the result. Enjoy!

The Road Trip- Part III

Ah, the capitals: the ancient capital of the Minoan Civilization and the capital of modern Crete, separated by 7 km of suburbia, Practically linked in both space and time.

Thousands of books have been written about Knossos, the birthplace of the first European civilization appeared more than five thousand ago. While the rest of Europe was still in the Iron Age, the Minoan civilization was erecting 5 story buildings of magical beauty and color. They gave us the Labyrinth and the Minotaur legends as well as provide, like some scholars argue, the first blueprint of the future European Union: a union built on trade and cooperation, not on wars and conquest.  Fun fact: the entire complex of temples and palaces in Knossos was built without taking advantage of the invention of wheel- hard work indeed.

Around Heraklion we were shown by the intrepid people of Crete Urban Adventures. They do  full day and half-day tours in all major cities of the island: Chania, Heraklion, Rethymno. If you don’t have a lot of time to wonder by yourself, then choosing a tour with them is the best option on the island: they provide an in-depth view into the culture, food, history and lifestyle of a Cretan city. For me the foodie highlight was a visit to Mr. Manouras delicatessen shop in the Agora. Mr. Manouras and his wife come from a village high in the mountains, one of those villages that were never conquered and that kept their cheese making traditions for millennia. You really can’t do better than some Cretan Graviera cheese, some home baked bread, olives and a healthy shot of 40 degrees Raki, all casually placed on a piece of old newspaper. Later in the week we also had a gourmet dinner on the rooftop restaurant of Lato Boutique Hotel, but somehow Mr. Manouras products tasted better, more authentic. Not that there’s ever anything wrong with fine dining and exquisite wine, mind you. But this you can have anywhere in the world.

The other highlight of our visit to Heraklion was the meeting we had in the city hall with the vice mayor responsible for tourism. Apparently the local authorities in all regions we visited were eager to meet with us and discuss their problems but also boast their successes (such as the interactive info office of Heraklion, where you can have a lot of fun with installations and virtual reality devices).

The city hall itself was in the former Venetian Loggia (Heraklion’s Venetian name was Candia) – a sort of Chamber of Commerce from the Renaissance period, restored to historical specifications and still keeping some original windows from the era. It’s really a humbling feeling taking a meeting in the council grand hall, knowing very well that people have been having meetings there for more than 500 years before you.  The vice mayor, believe it or not, was an Italian himself, an accomplished musician from Milan that arrived in Crete in 2008 and ended up in local politics.  Talking to him one gets the impression that the Italians never really left

Heraklion is not just the city, but the municipality as well, including the wonderful hills and mountains surrounding the capital for hundreds of kilometers. On such a mountain road, after aprox 50 km of eye candy scenery, we discovered the Gavalas Winery- a modern affair producing 100% organic wine. Here we had the chance to sample a true Cretan whine: Malvazia di Candia. If our airline would have allowed more than 23 kg of check in baggage, we would have left with at least 5 bottles.

Read part II here

Read part I here