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About Me

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  1. We had a comparatively early start to the day today, with it still being dark when my alarm went off at 06.30. While I wouldn't normally choose to get up at that time on holiday, it felt like a good decision today because we were planning to visit the archaeological site of Knossos. Knossos is certainly one of the most visited tourist attractions in Crete, if not in the whole of Greece, and I'd read online about people standing for hours in queues to get in in the middle of the day. That sounded like no fun at all to us, so we planned to be there as soon as the site opened at 8am. Knossos is only a few miles from the centre of Heraklion where we are staying, so in theory it ought to have been a straightforward journey. But first of all we had to walk to the robotic parking, with our fingers crossed that our rental car was going to reappear in one piece! This is the turntable which you drive the car onto when you arrive... ...and here is our car happily emerging from a lift after we recalled it by scanning our parking ticket at the machine. Phew! It only cost €5 to park it overnight, which wasn't too bad. All that then remained was to negotiate the rush hour traffic out of Heraklion. It wasn't the most fun in the world, the usual bad driving being exacerbated by the fact that we were clashing with the school run, but we made it to Knossos for shortly after 8am. There were no queues at that time of the morning, but I'd already booked our tickets online in advance to be on the safe side, so we were able to walk straight into the site. Knossos is a Bronze Age archaeological site, often referred to as the oldest city in Europe. A large palace was built here by a civilisation called the Minoans, originally around the year 1900 BC. They lived here for around five centuries, before mysteriously disappearing in circumstances which aren't fully understood. It's thought that Knossos might have been destroyed by an earthquake, which Crete is prone to from time to time. The site was discovered and excavated in the early 20th century by a British archaeologist called Arthur Evans. His work here was controversial, because he reconstructed and restored Knossos based on his vision of what it would have looked like. These frescoes, for example, have obviously been repainted. They were fascinating to see though! We had definitely had the right idea to come early; at this time of the morning we were able to explore the site with almost nobody else around. As we made our way towards the central court, which connects different parts of the palace to one another, there was barely any other tourists visible. From here we were able to peer down into ancient rooms with colourful decorations. This is the grand staircase which leads down to the rooms below. As we peered over we could see that the site is really deep and there were several different storeys. Still not many other people around! Our next stop was the Throne Room. I'd read online that in high season you might have to queue for an hour to be able to get inside. We walked straight in! I was a little underwhelmed by the wooden throne to the side until I realised that was a reconstruction, and the real throne was in the room beyond. There were some beautiful frescoes in this room too. Outside again, we got a glimpse of probably the most photographed part of Knossos: the north entrance. This is where visitors coming to Knossos by sea would have entered the palace, via a road leading up from the harbour. The wall here is decorated with an amazing fresco of a charging bull. A bull is particularly appropriate for Knossos, because according to Greek legend the palace was the home of the labyrinth that held the minotaur. Still can't believe we managed to take all these photos and have the place to ourself (If you do an image search for "crowds at Knossos", you'll see what I mean! One of the slightly frustrating things about the site is that there isn't a lot of information to tell you what you're looking at. There was a map at the point we entered and a few info boards scattered around, but no explanations of the site's history or helpful arrows to tell you which way to go next. I caught sight of these pots just by accident. I suspect the lack of information is in some way deliberate. In order to get into Knossos, you have to walk through a small crowd of guides who want to sell you their services. I think we managed to see a lot, even without having a guide. Even if we weren't always sure exactly what we were looking at! As we began to come back round in a circle towards the entrance, we could see that the tour buses had started to arrive for the day. Sure enough, once we got back to the car park there were six coaches already in place and a seventh about to arrive. I'm so glad I managed to get out of bed and beat them to it With our sightseeing done we headed back towards Heraklion, where I spent some time enjoying the sun-lounger on our terrace. We also tried out the hot tub for the first time. We definitely had the best of the weather in the morning too, as mid-afternoon the promised thunder storms arrived and we had some rain. It seems to have cleared up a bit now, so we're going off into the centre of Heraklion to get some food
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