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My name is Gerrie Wydeven doing-business-as Wydeven Designs. I have been conducting this small GREEN business since 2004. Wydeven Designs, based in the Atlanta, Georgia area, sells CHAIRS, LOVESEATS, CHAISES, SETTEES and other fine, well-constructed refurbished upholstered pieces. I love to travel, cook, take photographs and generally follow style and decor topics as well!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Visiting the Greek Island of Crete

The island is divided into four major regions - we visited three out of four and stayed in the Heraklio (also known as Iraklion) area. 
My husband and I just returned from a two-week trip to Greece spending the first week in Athens (see last posting). The second week was spent in Crete in a timeshare exchange. Actually, it was getting this timeshare that created the whole Greece vacation plan in the first place. This is a brief description of the great trip!

Crete is the most southern (hottest) and largest of the Greek islands and while it may not be as famous as some of the other islands, it clearly is a great tourist destination. It seemed to us that the whole island is positioned to welcome a hoard of tourists. Fortunately for us, it was not the tourist season and we had no problems getting around and even driving to and parking in the older sections of various cities.  On the downside, many restaurants and some attractions were closed.
The resort is called Village Heights Golf Resort (golf course is actually down the road a bit). It was perched at the crest of a good sized hill with wonderful views of the village of Hersonosis and sea below. There were some Americans staying at the resort but most of the visitors this time of year seemed to be from the U.K.
We rented a little Renault and drove all over the island (seen here after one of the island's infamous wind-storms driving in sand from the Sahara). The major road (the National Highway) connects sites on the north side of the island. Traveling the lesser roads was more challenging. Most were in pretty good condition but signage was almost nonexistent. We got lost several times and had to ask for directions. Because of the size of the island and the mountainous terrain, it took a lot longer to get to places than we had anticipated.
The Venetians controlled Grete from 1206-1648.  It was a valuable addition to their maritime empire and gave them access to the Eastern Mediterranean. One remnant of their ruin are the Venetian Harbors located strategically along the north coast of Crete - places where the ships could stop including a series of "Venetian Harbors".
The Venetian Fortress is reported to be the largest fortress build by the Venetians. 
The Minoan civilization spanned from 3000 BC - 1450 BC - it is considered to be the oldest in Europe. The palaces that can be seen today were built after a 1700 BC earthquake - a period known as the "New Palaces" era. The ruin at Knosses is the most famous (near the city of Iraklion).  The palaces were actually palace-cities with multiple roads, structures, storage and living areas. The palace at Knosses was significantly "restored" by an Englishman who discovered the site in the early 1900's. Much of his restoration was based on inadequate knowledge of Minoan history. 
The ruins at Gournia (Lassithi Region) have not been restored and are a more authentic view of Minoan life. Views of the coast are breathtaking.
Our visit to the city of Iraklion (capital of Crete) started with a series of rain storms. The city's famed Architectural Museum was disappointing because it is under renovation and only a small area was open to the public.  A charming Historical Museum was worth the trip and a great venue in the rain. There are several Venetian structures in the city including an old church and, of course, the Venetian Harbor. 
Finding the Monastery proved to be a challenge because the exit from the National Highway was closed and we were detoured. We discovered beautiful valleys and hillside towns before finding our way (over three hours later) back to the Monastery location. It is famous for its role in Crete's attempt to throw off Turkish rule in 1866 when several hundred people held the Turks at bay for 2 days before killing themselves and their attackers in a huge explosion. A bullet from that skirmish is still visible in the tree above.
We visited a number of villages and cities along the coast - charming locations!
We made frequent stops along the coastal highway to take photos - the views were wonderful!

This was a wonderful trip - we had no preconceived notions about Crete and were just charmed by everything we saw.  I was so excited about this "find", that we've already booked a trip to Malaga, Spain (another timeshare exchange) and will spend time in Madrid for next year. Wish we had more money and time!

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