A peaceful moment in Heraklion…sea breeze playing with my hair…the freshness of the air filling my lungs…the seagulls floating in the air, so elegant and carefree…the goats playing in the marina…
The streets of Heraklion are empty in the morning and the past is strolling around the harbor, reminding of the long forgotten years when wooden ships were docked in the port.
That magical atmosphere requires simple and casual clothes, not too bright and not too dull. This also resonates to my personal style, always being an advocate of less being so much more. A clean blue top, favorite pair of shorts, adding my lucky Pandora bracelets and a studded bag, and the lovely espadrilles bought the other day from one of my favorite shops Super Dry founded in Agios Nikolaos. That is pretty much my idea for one of the thousands of perfect mornings we can have in a life time.
There is no need to reintroduce my deep love for traveling. If there is one thing I always look forward to when I’m traveling, is to discover new beautiful places, that make me feel free and peaceful. The lovely Heraklion harbor overlooks the sea, so quiet and enormous compared to the size of one human being. The sea can be many things, the beginning of life or the end of it. Looking at the sea is like looking at the sky at night, it seems so close, but is so infinite and full of mystery and beauty. The town is built on the site of the ancient roman town of Iraklia, the seaport of Knossos, which in 824, after the Arab occupation of the island, became one of the busiest ports of the Mediterranean Sea.
Heraklion is also the biggest city of Crete, as far as the number of inhabitants and the administrative and commercial center of the island. The quay is lined with dozens of small fishing vessels, larger yachts in the marina and the breakwater with it’s small Venetian fort “Koules” that provides an impressive backdrop. Located on the eastern side of Crete, Heraklion is the most popular region of the island. It hosts many busy places with intense nightlife, including Malia, Hersonissos, Ammoudara and Agia Pelagia, but also many peaceful family places on the southern side. As Heraklion Greece was the main field where the Minoan civilization flourished, you should not miss a visit to the Minoan Palaces of Knossos and Phaestos. A drive around Heraklion in Crete will also bring you to traditional villages, Medieval castles, Byzantine monasteries and nice beach places to relax.
There are many corners in this busy capital which bring to mind memories of its tempestuous past, like the Old port. Here you will see the Venetians walls, the most important fortifications of the Venetian period. Today, seven ramparts still stand, as do two of the four gates: the Chania gate on the western side of the castle precinct, with the winged Lion of St.Mark carved in relief, a carved bust of God Pantocrator and a Greek inscription on its exteriors face. From this gate, Candia communicated with the whole of western Crete. On the southernmost end of the precint, within the walls, is the rampart of Martinengo and, on a flat hill, the modest grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, with a plaque on which are inscribed the words of the world-famous Cretan writer:
“I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free.”
The view from this spot is magnificent. The Castle or ‘Koules’ was built at the entrance of the Venetian port in order to protect it from raids. On its sides can be seen fragments of the carved lions of Saint Mark which used to adorn the wall. The Castle is open to the public and, on the top, an outdoor theater has been built. The name ‘Koules’ is a Turkish name. The Venetians called it Rocca al Mare.
Deciding to take a stroll along the breakwater towards the fortified ramparts provided a pleasant surprise as there was an exhibition with posters portraying a film called “El Greco.” The breakwater is popular, locals and tourists enjoying the walk and views in the morning sun. A busker playing his accordion obviously had picked his place well, his spot was filled with coins, numerous passers by taking pleasure in his tunes and dropping him some change.
Heraklion has undergone a significant makeover in recent years. This is a result of being chosen as an Olympic city and mostly because of the city’s increasing prosperity.
There is probably a great deal more to share about the city of Heraklion but it will have to wait until my next visit in Greece. This pleasant morning was spent dawdling in the lovely Harbour and the afternoon visiting the famous Knossos Palace.
See you tomorrow with another story about Knossos Palace.