My birthday week in Crete

On September 22th 2018 Tommaso and I flew to Crete, with the Aegean Airlines company, for the week of my birthday accompanied by our precious Lonely Planet guide.

We have chosen a seaside town where we can stay, called Analipsi, east of Heraklion, and we have booked through Booking at Galazio apartments & suites. These consists of a series of very pretty small apartments arranged in front of equipped beach awarded with the “Blue Flag”.

We arrived in the late afternoon, so once we were settled in the apartment and refreshed we went to search a typical tavern, and we found it successfully. We went to Sirtaki Traditional Family Tavern, which perfectly reflected the expectations of both cuisine and atmosphere.

The next day we granted ourselves a day of relaxation at the sea, to recover the energy lost during the several months of pipeline and transfer to the Lodi area. In the evening, after renting a car, we went to explore the surroundings. We came across the characteristic Piskopiano, where we discovered the very good tavern of Kostas, an authentic gem located on the edge of the square where the church stands above the main street of the village.

Monday we headed to the Palace of Knossos in Heraklion, but as we were told, it was a big disappointment. The Palace is all restored and not very organized, there are no indications and despite the map purchased we probably missed some areas. Despite this it was exciting to be able to see things studied during the school years.


In the afternoon, after a delicious Pita Gyros, we strolled around Heraklion exploring the monuments and buying souvenirs. Then, we came across the Venetian Fortress of Koules, which for 21 years helped keep the Turks away. Then, it became a prison for the Cretan rebels under Turks’ domain.

On September 25th we went to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This was completely rebuilt and opened in 2014 and I must say that it is one of the most beautiful museums I have ever seen. My enthusiasm was not only for the materials, which are unique, but for the museum layout, the organization and the path proposed. The exhibition is divided into 27 rooms, arranged between the ground floor and the first floor, and show the archaeological finds from the Neolithic to the Roman age. Obviously this museum is one of the most famous in the world for the masterpieces of the Minoan civilization.

On Wednesday, we decided to participate to an organized trip to visit the northern coast of the island. The day was not climatically the best, the temperatures dropped a lot and there was a lot of wind. Anyway we went by bus to Elounda, a fishing village, which took on a higher profile thanks to the hotels frequented by celebrities like U2 and Lady Gaga.

From here we took a ferry with which we reached a small beach where a barbecue was organized. In addition to the cold, that did not allow a bath in the sea, the beach was not the best, it was undefiled from the housing perspective but at the same time dirty and not very pretty (I don’t think I will make an organized exit anymore!).

After lunch we headed to the small island of Spinalonga. The fortress that stands on the island was built by Venetians in 1579 to protect the bays of Eloùnda and Mirabéllo. Later, in 1715, he surrendered to the Ottoman army. In the post-Ottoman period, between 1903 and 1955, the island was transformed into a leper colony to house the Greeks who fell ill with Hansen’s disease. After touring the island with a guide, we set off for Agios Nikolaos, which stands out for its bars, traditional taverns and elegant clothing stores. These are contrasted by fish markets and rustic kafeneia.

For my birthday we decided to go to the heart of Crete. As a first step we passed by Gortys, where two of my archaeologists friends, that stay there for an archaeological mission of University of Bologna, were waiting for us. After a quick greeting we headed to the archaeological site, which covers an area of about one square km. The site is divided into a fenced area and an unfenced area where some of the complexes are scattered among the olive fields of the Cretan peasants. The site is something spectacular, shame about the non-museum part that is not very comfortable to reach, especially if you have sandals. In fact, the paths are not cleaned and cared how they should.

Afterwards we headed to Phaistos, but before going to visit the site we stopped at the tavern of Agios Ioannis where we eat an exquisite fried rabbit.

After the delicious lunch we entered the archaeological park of Phaistos, which is the second most important palatial complex of the Minoan culture, and among the sites of the time it is the one that still enjoys a suggestive position, with a panorama that sweeps over the Plain of Messarà and on Mount Psilorìtis. Festo has also undergone restoration works, but unlike Knossos, where it has not undergone reconstruction, it remains immersed in an aura of mystery.

As a last day of vacation we decided to take it very calmly. We went to have international breakfast at Votslakia Restaurant, and in the meantime we have planned the last trip of the holiday. We decided to visit Mallia, a contemporary site to the other two Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaistos.

Mallia has given me many more emotions than the other sites visited previously, it is much less restored, much more organized with panels and signage and much more realistic. From this site comes the famous gold pendant with bees kept at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.

After this last visit, we went to relax on the beach before returning to Italy and to work above all, and we enjoyed the last moments on the beach and the end of our summer.

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Sunset #birthdayweek #crete #sunset #cristianagoestocrete

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