Touring in Crete – Gortyna, Matala, Phaistus, Chania, Samaria Gorge

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Crete was home to some early inhabitants in the neo-lithic (new stone age) that progressed to the Minoans in the bronze age. The Minoans were very advanced as big regional traders, superb architects, etc. Some big earthquakes around 1700 BC set them back but they rebuilt and some type of calamity (perhaps earthquakes, fires, tsunamis, who knows), hit them around 1450 BC and apparently the society collapsed. Subsequently apostle St. Titus founded the first christian church at this location.

Crete has many ruins worth seeing. Gortyna is one of the prominent ruins that moves through Minoan, Roman and other times. We stopped in Matala, on the south side of Crete, for lunch. Matala is an old beachfront hippie refuge. Back in the age of hippie time, the hippies took up residence in the caves adjacent to the beach and practiced their jewelry making and other arts. Some still reside there although it appears they have vacated the caves for some better accommodations. A pretty little beach town and a great place for a beachfront lunch.

The southern courntryside is pretty, but being sparse on rain, if it is not irrigated it doesn’t grow nice crops. Lots of olive trees similar to what we saw in much of mainland Greece. We wrapped our history lesson up for the day with a visit to Phaistus, a huge royal palace ruin dating back to Minoan times. The ruins include some remarkably modern architectural features and great views of Mt. Ida, the highest peak in Crete. Very impressive site and worth the visit.

On to Chania, a seaport city that has the charm of an old Venetian / Turkish city with beautiful harbor views but with thousands of cruise ship visitors (cruise towns are not my favorite). With John as the wheelman and self as navigator we survived some tight uncomfortable squeezes and a few upset local drivers. Luck hit, we found a premier parking space. With a brief walk around the old city streets we found a super hotel.

Fatma Hotel with 6 rooms, opened since June, gave a couple of walk up customers a bargain price. We decided to stay two nights because John and Kathy were planning to walk the Samaria Gorge the next day. My knees were not up to the task of a 2 mile steep downhill grade and Mary didn’t have a burning desire to do it. John and Kathy launched early friday morning with a bus ride to the headwaters of the Samaria Gorge. The hike was a rigorous 11 miles with a guide shepherding a busload of hikers of all skill levels. They made the hike with no problems only to find the boat that was to pick them up on the coast, to return them to civilization, was delayed with weather. They arrived back at the hotel around 9:30 that evening. A bit tired but they reported the gorge as one of their highlights. With better knees, maybe in my next life, I would like to do the gorge hike.

The parking space we had was so good, I decided there was no need to move the car and visit some other sights around western Crete. I took in the Archeological Museum, the two locations of the Maritime Museum and got lots of photos around the old city. Mary shopped and took it easy. All in a good day

By ukcat; excerpts, edited by Greece Travel Blog

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