Greece Part 1. Crete: Hersonissos, Lassithi Plateau, and Knossos Palace

Back in June I got a chance to attend a work event in Crete. I seized the opportunity to also travel a bit there. After 6years living in Europe, this was my first trip in Greece, especially in Crete. The trip was perfect it terrifies me to put it into words. I’m afraid to skip details – as I usually do – but I’ll try my best.

The whole trip lasted for seventeen days including six working days. I started the trip from the east part then moved to the west part of the island. During this trip I also visited Athens that I am less fond of. This is the first part of a four stories that I plan to write. This first part took place during my work event. The second part would be about the walks and hikes that I did on the south-west part of the island. The third part would be about Chania, and I would finish with Athens in the final part. At the end of the story I will try to summarize the trip with some helpful links. 

Crete is the largest island of Greece with surface of about 8303 km2. Spread horizontally over the mediterranean sea, it reminds me of Java, only not tilted. I arrived at Heraklion airport on a sunday afternoon. Heraklion is the capital of Crete. The airport is located at the north-west outside of the city. The shuttle bus was scheduled for 2pm but since the luggage delivery was very slow we were delayed for about an hour.

Hersonissos

From Heraklion the bus took us to Hersonissos, where my working even was held. The bus rolled on the main island road that connects main cities of the island. The trip took about 30mins before the bus dropped me on the main street close to my hotel. The scene of the trip reminded me of my trip to Sumatra with yellow-ish houses with important distance between houses. It looked dry and somehow deserted.

Of course it changed drastically when I arrived in Hersonissos. Before coming to Crete I asked lot of information from my Greek friends. The advice they gave to me about Hersonissos was: “It’s where german girls like to get drunk so not the best place if you want a calm place.” My first impression was that the town was full of teens or young adults, they were like everywhere. The main street was full of souvenir stores.

I went to my hotel to put my luggage. My hotel was nice. There were one lady and one man on the reception; both were nice. My room had a balcony. They said that in Greece, or at least in Crete, no matter how small your house is, you need a balcony.  I took a nap before I explored the town. Around my hotel were again souvenir stores, some branded stores, restaurants, sea-side restaurants and more souvenir stores. It was amazing on how many stores and restaurants there were for such a small area. In the evening, the town seemed quite calm. I went to a nice tavern called Mythos, close to the hotel that was recommended by my travel guide. It was a family tavern that became quite famous. I went there relatively early  so I got a seat. Everyone worked there was very very nice, and I mean genuinely nice. I even became acquaintance with the lady in the reception during my stay. The food was amazing!

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Hersonissos

When the night fell, the tavern was full. The town that was calm started to get more crowded. I wondered where were all these people before. Well, without a doubt, they partied whole night. My hotel room was facing the street and so the noise surprised me the first night.

Lassithi Plateau

During the event I took an excursion to the Lassithi plateau and the palace of Knossos. I was surprised at the beginning. I expected an excursion with only people from the event, however, it turned out to be a guided tour with a lot of people – something I usually avoid.

But, our guide was great! In fact it was the only time I enjoyed a guided tour. The lady had clear articulation and she explained everything in details. So Lassithi plateau is a plateau located in the west of the island. It groups about seven small villages in the area. Things that stroke me immediately was windmill and pottery. I think when you go with a guided tour they will always bring you to visit a pottery maker in the area. They showed you how they make it, and you can also try it by yourself. They also sell the pottery for a relatively not expensive price, I would have bought it if I didn’t plan another trip after.

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Windmills on the road — more for decorations

On the way to the main site of attraction we passed by Kera monastery, an eastern orthodox monastery. I still don’t know much about the orthodox religion that the majority of Greek people seem to embrace. After several visits to other orthodox chapels, I thought in general, they are smaller than catholic churches. Gold color seems to dominate the chapel filled with statues of different saints. The lady explained us that we would find statues filled with stickers showing different parts of the body or images that are put by the fidel when they have problem described by the image.

The main site to visit in this area was the Dikteon cave. I believe it was on of the most important cave in Crete. At the time of Olympus gods, Dikteon cave is believed as the birthplace of Zeus, the ruler of Olympus and the head of other gods. Zeus mother gave birth to Zeus in this cave so that he would not be eaten by his father, Chronos. The bus dropped us to Psycrho village, where the stairs up to the mouth of the cave could be found. The entrance fee was 6€. The cave was absolutely impressive.  From the mouth of the cave I took the stairs down, following the path inside the cave. Stalactites and stalagmites were found, forming this geological site. The cave was humid. Waters dropped here and there. The cave looked green to me, probably due to the mix of some green moss and the lighting they put inside the cave.

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Dikteon cave

Palace of Knossos

From Lassithi, the tour took us to the palace of Knossos. The palace of Knossos located near Heraklion. For me you need a guide to visit this site, or else it would only be some ruins without meaning. This is the most ancient Minoan civilization to be found dated back to 3000BC. The palace itself is believed to be built around 1900BC. Looking at this ancient site with magnificent pottery, the architectural of the site, on how since this old old age, they were already very advanced, shivered me. The separation of King and Queen rooms and palace, the drainage for the toilet, their adoration for dolphin, olives, taurus. This site alone really really impressed me. The site survived two to three great incidents (fire and Santorini’s earthquake),  which after each one they rebuilt it again from zero. The aim of the civilization at the time was to create beautiful things. However, after surviving these incidents, the occupation by the people from the mainland, pushed the native citizen towards the eastern part of the island. To have a complete insight of the history, I recommended to also go to the Archeological museum in Heraklion that would complete the whole knowledge and where things found on site are kept.

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Palace of Knossos

 

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6 thoughts on “Greece Part 1. Crete: Hersonissos, Lassithi Plateau, and Knossos Palace

  1. Pingback: Greece Part 2. Crete: Hikes around the south-west part of the island. | johanes.chandra

  2. Pingback: Greece Part 3. Crete: Chania and Elafonissi | johanes.chandra

  3. Pingback: Bonus: Street animals in Crete and Athens | johanes.chandra

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