Sunday, December 09, 2007

Crete: Knossos

While the sea journey to Thera had been pleasant, the next leg, to Crete, wasn't: the boat was much smaller, and the waves were much larger, and it was all I could do to keep from vomiting. I kept staring out at the horizon the entire time, while in the periphery of my vision people kept running past me to the bathroom or to the stack of vomit-bags at the concession, which needed to be replenished more than once.

When we finally landed in Iraklion, we walked the few blocks to the Kronos Hotel, and I laid down on the bed for half an hour, until I felt myself again, and we headed out to the seaside to have a bite to eat. The next morning, we tried to enjoy breakfast in the lobby, as clouds of tobacco smoke lingered. We rented a car, and waited for it to be delivered, as the extremely friendly clerk became more and more annoyed that it had not arrived yet. He called the driver several times (I never did figure out from where it was being delivered) and spoke briskly into to phone, and then hung up, and smiled at us, and offered more complimentary water.

Our first stop was Knossos, which is just a short drive from the city. The parking lot was crowded, and we walked through the palace complex, as though out of obligation; it was not my favorite site, especially among throngs of people, who also must have felt obligated to go there. I don't mean to sound too down on the place: it is one of the most important locations in the ancient world, and I am fascinated by Minoan culture. I am interested in the site as center of exchange with the Near East, in the culture which could imagine a capital with no defensive walls, in its relationship with mainland Greece, as the location of significant remains of Linear B, and, especially, in the remnants of myth, like the Labyrinth, and Adriane, Minos, and Daedalos, plus its appearance in other stories, such as the Hymn to Demeter and on the Shield of Achilles. But the reconstructions are more distracting than helpful, in my opinion, and are of debatable vision. It was sometimes difficult to determine what walls were authentic remains, at least for someone like me, with an unfortunate amount of archaeological knowledge. Plus, the reconstructions of the Hall of the Double Axes, and the Dolphin mosaic, were closed for repairs. (You will see a bit of this mosaic in one of the photos, for which I had to jump a barrier, and kneel down very low to the ground.) My favorite part was the staircase and long roadway that approaches the structure.

Afterward, we headed back into Iraklion to see the Archaeological Museum. It was difficult to navigate the roads, and even more difficult to park, and when we finally arrived at the Museum, the entire thing was closed; it had been closed for almost 7 months, and it would remain closed for several more. I was terribly disappointed, since it is the second largest archaeological museum in Greece, and there were several things I wanted badly to see. I'm still unsure why the entire museum had to be closed, and why they couldn't leave some exhibits open in rotating sequence, but I'll assume there was a good reason.

The next adventure was to cross the island of Crete to the south coast; the countryside was beautiful, and the drive pleasant, and the south coast promised to be less crowded and expensive. I came to learn later, that several of my fellow graduate students were excavating at that very time at a site in central Crete, by which I passed very closely.


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