2015/01/18-19: To Irakleon and Museums
After feasting on buffet breakfast, we headed from Tzermiado across the plateau and out of the basin by a pass much lower than the one we’d used to arrive from the south. We can’t have had to climb more than 100m! Then it was mainly fast and furious downhill to the highway along the north coast to Irakleon. We’d booked a hotel near the centre of town where the streets are really narrow, so final navigation was tricky.
Since it was to be our last night in Crete, we went out for a fine Cretan dinner. We’re getting accustomed to the fact that restaurant meals here always seem to include a few “extras” which appear without having been ordered. When two small glasses of raki appeared, I steeled myself to down something I had till now found rather harsh. To our surprise, we tasted something delicately flavoured with essence of a local wildflower. When we expressed our appreciation, we were given a small decanter of the stuff to take home.
Leaving our bikes in the hotel’s luggage room, we first spent time at the archeological museum, and later went by local bus to stroll around the peaceful and near empty site at Knossos. The site was discovered, purchased, excavated, and partially reconstructed in the early 1900s by Sir Arthur Evans, archeologist, journalist, and curator of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. This Bronze Age site holds evidence of the mature and sophisticated Minoan civilization that existed in southern Europe at the same time as the pharaohs ruled in Egypt some 4000 years ago. Some argue that Evans let his imagination run away with him during the reconstruction.
Retrieving our bikes, we pedalled to the ferry terminal and met Lisa and Mathias as expected. We proceeded to the passenger deck before they did, and installed ourselves in the seats we were assigned with our tickets. We had not taken a cabin.
As I began to knit, passengers who seemed to be travelling in a very large group entered and installed themselves in nearly all the other seats in our salon. They all seemed to know each other, and they were very very loud. I pointed out to Chris, oblivious as always, that they were speaking a language other than Greek ….one that I didn’t recognize. They were a group of Roma (aka Gypsies) on the move.
Gold-toothed women crowded around me, kids in tow, demanding to inspect my knitting. I was working on a basic child’s hat, so I held it up to an urchin of about the right size to show my intentions. They seemed satisfied and we were left in peace, but I felt more comfortable when we moved to another area to sit with the French cyclists and a Japanese motorcyclist.
Was I guilty of profiling to be concerned about spending the night in that room? Perhaps I was, but we had been seriously cautioned by several Eastern European friends. We were down by one wallet already, Chris having been separated from his in the metro in Istanbul as we were on our way to the airport before Christmas.
Along with Lisa and Matthias, we got a bit of shuteye on Thermarests on the floor. Arriving in Piraeus, we found coffee and cheesey pies before heading our separate ways. They were headed east across the Peloponnese on their way back to a car parked in Southern Italy. We were headed into the centre of Athens, and our own trip’s end.