Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Travel Project: Greece Day 4


This site was difficult to reach. In the nearby town we stopped at a museum with sacrificial horse skeletons. Then we drove near the site and got out and walked. Our prof decided to take us on a "short cut" through weeds and nettles. Fun stuff that. When we finally reached the fence, the gate was locked. So instead of leaving the way we came, an executive decision was made to jump the fence. We actually ended up jumping several fences/stone walls but you didn't hear it from me. The walk up there was gorgeous though. There were about a million wildflowers on either side of the dirt path and the air was heady with their scent.

There wasn't much to the actual site as you can see but, for those interested, there is no evidence of an altar with these temples.

The Church over the Valley

You can't tell from this photo but this church is standing on the top of a mountain. Again the walk over, completely gorgeous, with the murmuring of bumblebees in the background. The low wall you see, happened to be something of a hazard as we didn't realize the drop. I almost sat down on it before looking over the side. The view is amazing though. You can see the whole valley and I only wish I'd taken a picture of it to show you.


This is the paved courtyard of one of the Minoan palaces. By the time we got here the sun was high in the sky. We stood in the shade of a wall to listen to the presentation about the site. At one point in time the palace was destroyed by an earthquake. Fortunately for the inhabitants, it was rebuilt. Also, this is where the Phaistos Disc was found, a clay disk with an undecipherable hieroglyphic text on it.

Ayia Triada

This was our lunch site, not far from Phaistos. This is the site of the Ayia Triada Sarcophagus, painted with scenes of Cretan life. This settlement proved to be a treasure trove of artifacts. The Boxer Vase, the Harvest Vase and the Chieftain's Cup were also found here. For the rest of us, there were a lot of bronze age drains that made my prof happy as well as a lot of stone cut stairways which made my day.


It's hard to imagine how the ancient equivalent of someone's tupperware could be considered beautiful but I think this storage jar comes pretty close.

The Ayia Triada Anomaly

This beautiful little church sat on a hill at the back of the site. I'd already seen everything I wanted to. I'd taken pictures of the bronze age drain, the various gorgeous stone cut stairways, the decorated storage jars. The area was gorgeous. Just behind me was a bench underneath ancient olive trees, providing a great place for an afternoon nap. I hiked up to the bench and then saw this building that obviously didn't fit in with the rest of the architecture of the site. So I decided to hike around the front and find out what was what.

Inside the Church

I decided to see if I could get inside and to my surprise, there was no door. I walked in, confronted by these beautiful, disappearing saints. The frescoes must have been vibrant once and I could still pick out the faded faces, despite the damage. To my surprise this church, small as it may have been, was still in use. The altar had a small lace handkerchief covering it, a pot of flowers stood to the side, a censer hung on the wall and a few paintings sat against the walls, perhaps to supplement the wall saints. I started to wonder at the people who must visit and worship at this tiny church, who they might be, how far they must come from.

Ruins across from Ayia Triada

I spotted these buildings across the way from where we were. It was too far away to hike to so I decided a picture would have to do. I don't know how old the buildings were but it's fascinating to think that all over Crete there are ruins. Some have been abandoned, others forgotten, some excavated, some waiting for funding, some not worth the time and effort.

Kommos Beach

The southern part of this beach contains the archaeological site of Kommos, a Minoan harbour. It most likely served the palace at Phaistos. After an explanation of the site we had "beach time". Of course we were only told this after we boarded the bus so I spent my time on the beach or wading. I tried to read and nap but ended up getting a burn the shape of my hand. By this point we were well versed in the art of sunscreen application but I managed to miss one spot on my shoulder and spent the rest of the trip with a sunburned hand print. Hilarious I know. Other than that, it was an amazing day. The sun blazed down and a slight breeze was coming off the ocean.


This is a shot from my room in the Idi Hotel. Zaros is a beautiful village tucked into Idi Mountain. Just as the sun was setting we walked up the street to a taverna. Close to our table there was a giant aquarium full of various fish that I suspect served as a buffet for customers. I ordered the salmon but was surprisingly adventurous with my food. Someone ordered an appetizer of snails in olive oil and I pried one out of his shell. One of my friends told me the place to eat great escargo was Crete. Unfortunately the snails were bland and chewy, much like raw octopus. I also tried swordfish which I highly recommend. It was more substantial and less flaky then my salmon. I also ordered my first beer. I'm not big on beer but I figured while in Crete, take every opportunity to try something new. Being back in Canada, I think I prefer the Greek beers. We saluted one of our group's birthday with ouzo later that night. I can tell you now I have no love for that drink. It was also during this time that we heard gunshots, the sound growing steadily closer. For our own safety we decided to turn in for the night. The next day as we were leaving we found shell casings next to the fence surrounding the hotel's patio. It turned out there was a military graduation last night and it apparently included bullets. Comforting.

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