The labyrinth city

One of the main reasons I chose Newcastle for my MA was the two study trips with Greek and Roman Archaeology. In January, we went to Rome for four days. The planned trip to Greece was only Athens for two days, but since I have dreamed of visiting Greece since I was a six year old reading mythology picture books, I had to see more than just Athens.

And so, Chandra and I planned a ten day trip designed to see as much of Greece as possible - and still spend a bit of time in the sun.

The first place we went was Crete. We flew from Manchester to Heraklion, the modern city from which you can visit ancient Knossos.

Instead of staying in the city, we stayed outside at a nice little hotel with a pool and a short walk to the beach. After all, us Canadians (pale as we might be) are used to a warm summer that we’re fairly certain not to get in the Northeast of England this year, so we had to get some much needed Vitamin D while we could.

Our first discovery from Greece was the wonderful food:

Gemista and Greek salad, photo by Chandra

And a beer named Mythos, which is like, perfect!

Me and a Mythos, photo by Chandra

The next day we headed into Heraklion to find our way to Knossos, the ruins of the legendary Minoan city that dates back to about 1700 BCE. It’s the famous city of King Minos and the Minotaur, of the Labyrinth built by Daedalus. It was excavated by the infamous Sir Arthur Evans, starting in about 1900 CE.

Knossos, photo by me

And why is Evans infamous?

It has to do with both archaeological theory and the ethics of restoration. Evans restored and reconstructed a number of buildings on the site, something that no archaeologist would dare to do nowadays. It wasn’t long before his British colleagues were pronouncing the reconstructions as wrong. To this day, Evans is used as a bad example in archaeology textbooks.

A few of Evans' reconstructions, photo by me

But the people of Crete see Evans in a different light. Unlike many of the antiquarian archaeologists of the early 20th century, Evans didn’t expropriate the artefacts from Knossos to a fancy cabinet of curiosities in England. He left the site and all its finds to the people of Crete. So they kind of love him.

Part of me disagrees with Evans’ reconstructions, but the other part of me recognizes that it makes the site a hell of a lot more interesting to visit. And to take photos of. Like our tour guide said, it’s easy to imagine yourself back in ancient Knossos.

After an educational morning, we retired to spend our next day and a half on the beach and swimming in the Sea of Crete.

Beach! photo by me

Greece is officially my favourite holiday spot because you get archaeology and history and sun and sand.

5 Comments

  • By Wangari M., May 24, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    Wow, never been to Greece or any of the other places you have been on your holiday, but they all sound like fun. They are definitely great to read about. Enjoy the rest of your stay :)

  • By Emily Jane, May 24, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

    I love the stories and pics of the wonderful places you visit :)

  • By Sebastian, May 26, 2010 @ 2:04 am

    Yar — that’s what I hate about visiting historical sites! All the good relics are in a MUSEUM somewhere! Pah.

    In some cases, in Turkey, the findings were in a cabinet of curiosities NEAR the site — that was neat!

  • By S.I.F., May 26, 2010 @ 6:05 am

    Sailing around Greece has long been my dream trip. Ever since (are you ready for this?) I saw The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants (hanging my head in shame) I have wanted to explore Greece!

    I feel as though I am always left jealous when I read one of your posts…

  • By Hezabelle, May 26, 2010 @ 8:07 am

    Seb - Luckily in Greece the museums are usually nearby too. In the cases of Olympia, Delphi and Corinth they were on site.. but in the case of Knossos you had to go back into Heraklion. But at least they weren’t in England!

    SIF - I’ve decided that Greece is the perfect spot for a honeymoon. My friends went to this beautiful small island called Tinos for their wedding anniversary, before we all met up in Athens. I was SUPER jealous. Also - how can you not fall in love with Greece after Sisterhood? 1) It’s BEAUTIFUL and 2) Kostos is beautiful, and you have to secretly dream of meeting someone like him by chance on a Greek island.

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