As much as I love Pitsidia, and I really do, I have found myself missing city life a bit recently. I think it’s partly because I know I’ll be moving back to the city soon, but also because things have become even quieter here now that tourist season is over. I know, I’m never happy: when it’s peak season I get annoyed with the crowds and now they’re all gone it’s too quiet.
I decided to mix things up a little, and booked myself a night away in Heraklion. I got a good deal on a hotel right in town with views of the harbour from my balcony and I drove up on Friday morning. On the drive up, I was listening to the radio, and I kept hearing the mention of Black Friday…and then the dreaded word símera. Yep, I was heading into the city centre on possibly the worst day of the year, but there was no turning back now.
I arrived at the hotel and my room was ready – bonus! I dropped off my bag and headed straight out. I took a look at the map and located the spot I wanted to visit – the Archaeological Museum of Crete. Because of Black Friday, I tried to avoid the shopping areas of the city so I wandered through the back streets instead, taking in the atmosphere and sounds of the city in the background.
In the museum, there must have been more members of staff than there were visitors, I would guess twice as many of them even. So I wandered round the museum practically on my own apart from the guards sat in each room. I felt so excited and, for some reason, proud when I saw an artefact from Phaistos or, even better, Komos.
The Phaistos Disc was a particular high point as I’ve read so much about it at the palace of Phaistos itself. I was surprised at the size of it. I thought it would be the size of a wagon wheel but I would say it was no bigger than a CD (does using a CD as a reference mean I’m old?). I’d love to know what is written on it, but nobody has quite worked it out yet. My guess? It’s a children’s nursery rhyme. Perhaps it was a teething ring. No? Okay, maybe not.
Upstairs at the museum were a load of frescos partially rescued, but the gaps had been filled in so you could see what it would have looked like. I was surprised that there were images of monkeys and exotic birds as it didn’t really occur to me that the ancient civilisations would have travelled overseas to see such sights, but of course they did.
One of my favourite pieces was the tablet depicting Hercules on one of his Twelve Labours. He was carrying a live boar over his shoulder and Eurystheus (who set Hercules his challenges) was terrified and hiding inside a storage jar. Love a bit of ancient humour!
After the museum, it was still early so I decided to wander around a bit. I found myself at the harbour and decided to visit the Venetian Fortress. When I got there, it was closed, but the harbour wall continued on beyond it so I kept walking. It is a longer wall than you think, I reckon it must have been about 1.5 miles long, but it was a nice day so I didn’t notice the distance.
On the return walk, the sun was setting and there were rowers out on the water, and it all looked so magical.
In the evening, I went to a restaurant outside of Heraklion which I had been told provided great views of the city, and it really did. It was a panoramic view of the entire area, and it was amazing, but my iPhone camera didn’t really do it justice.
I have been given a few more recommendations for Heraklion: the earthquake simulation room at the Natural History Museum, the best fish restaurant, a great little coffee shop and a classy cocktail bar. So I’ll have to go back again before I leave the island.