Heidi is taking the week off, and so we have
a guest today. H. S. Stavropoulos was born and raised in a small Greek Village
in the middle of Oakland, California, and writes about being born in America to
Greek immigrant parents and living between those two worlds. A frequent visitor
to Greece and having hundreds of relatives there, H. S. Stavropoulos writes
stories that describe life in Greece, Greek food (of course!!), the wealth of
Greek culture, mythology and traditions, and the complex and wonderful Greek
wonderful thing about visiting my family in Greece is that when I need to
escape for a weekend getaway, I have hundreds of islands to select. I’d always
wanted to see the Palace at Knossos, so Crete it was.
in and grabbed a cab to my beachfront hotel. I spent the day swimming and as
the day drew to a close and I walked along the shore listening to the gentle
sound of waves lapping against the sandy beach, a single white flip-flop was
tossed among the waves. I reached it and kicked it onto the beach, continued my
walk, and eventually headed back to my hotel.
|Sunset over Heraklion|
awoke to the sun shining into my room. I opened the window to admire the sea
view. But today was not a beach day, today was for an archeological tour. I
hopped on a local bus and headed into Heraklion, where I transferred to
another, headed to Knossos. Arriving at Knossos, I walked the short distance to
the gate, paid, and entered the heart of the Minoan Civilization.
day was hot and dusty and filled with the cries of peacocks. I’d never seen
peacocks in the wild and for a time I was enthralled watching them, almost
forgetting that they weren’t the reason I’d come.
walked to the palace with its red columns and frescoes of dolphins, bulls, and
bull-jumping youths. The colours were bold and vibrant and the artistry
walked around the complex and was amazed that the site covered 20,000 square
meters. The palace is a multi-storied structure with multiple floors,
innumerable corridors and colonnades. I wondered as I peered down several
levels with zig-zagging staircases that reminded me of an Escher painting
whether this wasn’t the basis for the myth of the labyrinth.
Palace of Knossos features in many myths about the Minotaur and the Labyrinth.
In Greek, minotaur, means the “bull of Minos.” Minos was the King of Knossos.
King Minos commissioned the great architect, Dedalos to build the labyrinth to
house the Minotaur. But the King kept Dedalos prisoner to prevent him from
revealing the layout. Dedalos fashioned two sets of wings from feathers and
wax. He and his son, Ikaros, escaped by flying off the island of Crete. Ikaros
flew too high and the sun melted the wax and he plummeted into the Aegean Sea.
myth surrounding the Palace is that of Theseus slaying the Minotaur. Crete
required a tribute from Athens of young men and woman to be sacrificed to the
Minotaur. Theseus, the son of the King of Athens, vowed to kill the Minotaur.
If he succeeded, he would change the sails on his ship to white to alert his
father, Aegeus. When Theseus returned, he forgot to change the sails, and his
father jumped to his death from the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, thereby
giving his name to the Aegean Sea.
theory is that the word “labyrinth” can be associated with the double headed
axe, the labyrs, used throughout Crete.
walked about the palace, I thought of these rich stories filled with symbolism
waited in line to view the alabaster throne, surrounded by reclining griffins
painted on the walls of the room. I saw ceramic jars taller than myself. A
double horned limestone sculpture, the symbol of the sacred bull, stood in an
open area with tourists vying to be photographed in front of it.
|Double horns at Knossos|
spending the better part of the day at Knossos, I returned to Heraklion, where
I toured the open exhibits of the Heraklion Archeological Museum. The museum
houses the actual frescoes from Knossos along with many of its findings. Items
from other sites on Crete are also included. The Phaistos disc has always
fascinated me with its hieroglyphic symbols arranged in a spiral that has never
next day I explored the city of Heraklion, once owned by ancient Venice. Along
the stone walls built to fortify the city, I wandered past a large structure
with vaulted ceilings and arches then walked to the old harbour. At the end of
the pier I came to the Venetian fortress. I entered the cool and dark stone
fortress and then walked up to the top of the battlements overlooking the sea.
|Venetian fortress in Heraklion Harbour|
walked back towards the city and entered a pedestrian street filled with shops.
I wandered through a pedestrian mall and cross streets until I reached a
magnificent fountain in the center of the shopping district surrounded by cafes
Morozini Fountain is an ornate 17th-century Venetian fountain used to supply
water to the fortified city. Water flows from the mouths of four lions into the
base of the fountain.
eating lunch, I went to the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, the writer known to most
Americans for his story, Zorba
the Greek. He
is supposed to have lost the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature by one vote to
Albert Camus. Camus is reported to have said that Kazantzakis deserved it more.
is buried outside the walls of the city of his birth, as he requested, since
the church would not allow him to be buried in a cemetery. The epitaph on his
grave reads, “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”
at a seaside restaurant as the sun glowed orange as it set over the sea. That
night, I mused over the sights I had seen on this too quick jaunt to Crete,
knowing that there was much more to see and experience on the largest of
Greece’s islands. The next day would see me on a plane returning to Athens.
that white flip-flop I found on the beach? It inspired a story that will be
published in Fish Nets, the second anthology of the Guppies
Chapter of Sisters in Crime, which will be released in early May 2013.