|The Parthenon- Acropolis|
There was a melee at the check in counter when we arrived at the IGI airport in Delhi. The reason was not clear and instead of the regular queue I saw a group of passengers talking to the ground staff in agitated voices. Soon I learnt the reality that the Austrian Airlines flight to Vienna had been cancelled due to a technical snag and the airlines were trying to allocate the passengers to different airlines based on their destinations and further connections. Some lucky ones got earlier flights by other airlines and by the time our turn came, we were allocated KLM flight via Amsterdam. Instead of leaving past midnight, we finally boarded the flight in the wee hours of the morning. We arrived at Amsterdam and got the bad news that we had just missed the connection to Athens! We would have to wait till late afternoon so the only option was to dump the luggage at the airport and head for the street. We passed through the immigration and went to explore the lovely city of Amsterdam as the sun was just rising. Later in the afternoon, we boarded the flight to Zurich and arrived two hours later, but not before witnessing the glorious sunset behind the Alps, covered with snow!
|The view of Heraklion|
Sapped, we boarded another flight to Athens and by then I had lost track of the time. Groggy and tired I realized that past midnight the aircraft had landed in Athens. The final destination was Herakilon, Crete so one more flight to be taken and this time a change of airport was involved too! Past midnight we boarded a taxi to the local airport and were informed that our baggage had been waylaid and would reach us later. We arrived at the local airport in Athens to board a domestic flight. The taxi zipped passed the neon lit street with hoardings in Greek and believe me it all was Greek, not a word understood!! First time the Greek currency Drachmas exchanged with taxi driver to settle the bill (prior to Euro days!). The day was breaking when the small aircraft took off for Heraklion! The Mediterranean and Aegean Sea kissed sands were alluring from up above as the aircraft descended into Nikos Kazantzakis Airport! The airport is named after the famous author of the classic ‘Zorba the Greek’, who was born here!
|Paintings at the Knossos|
A short ride of 5 km through the small quaint town brought us to the sprawling hotel complex overlooking the Venetian port next to the Archaeological Museum. Two nights had gone by to reach this part of the world! One of the longest flying times including transit without ever crossing Atlantic or Pacific oceans!
Heraklion is the capital of Crete, the biggest of more than 1200 islands, and one of the Mediterranean region's most fascinating and vibrant cities. It is full of places to discover. The city is linked with the Palace of the Knossos, Byzantine churches and the Venetian fort. Knossos was the legendary seat of the Cretan King Minos and has excavated ruins, a crumbling palace, beautiful paintings and Labyrinths. It was in a cave of Crete where the goddess Rhea hid the newborn Zeus. In that cave, Zeus was brought up by the nymphs while the demonical Kouretes would strike their shields loudly so that Cronus may not hear the crying of the baby Zeus and eat it. It was also to Crete that Zeus, disguised as a bull, took Europa so that they may enjoy their love together. Their union produced a son, Minos, who ruled Crete and turned it into a mighty island empire of the seas. The stories of the Greek mythology are as fascinating, as of any other culture and I was allured into buying one such book ! The city has a number of Museums which depict the history of the bygone era and one needs at least 2 to 3 hours to go around and get soaked in the Greek history and mythology.
|Excavations at the Knossos|
Amoudara or the city beach is a long stretch of sparkling blue sea and pristine sand. The sundrenched beach with holiday makers is a delight to spend time lazing around and enjoying the sunshine. There are a number of islands like Myknos, Rhodes, Corfu etc where one can visit in the boat. To get a firsthand experience of this, we took a boat to a nearby island for a splendid journey! The boat rocked in slightly choppy sea and on reaching the island we were awestruck with the beauty of the uninhabited place. The group decided to take a plunge in the water and one of the newly married couple ventured a bit farther soon to realize that there was no sand under their feet! We managed to rescue them before it was too late!
The hotel room overlooked the sea and there was thick foliage of trees. As the night fell, there was a natural humming sound which was quaint. We were told next day by the hotel staff that the musician insects were Cicadas!! The trees around abound with colony of the insects which were otherwise harmless!
There are many more places of interest in the quaint town and a visit to a Greek restaurant for the food is a must! The Greek salads, Feta Cheese and Olives are very inviting!
We had planned a stopover at Athens where one friend had a house! So the group bundled into his house and ransacked the kitchen as he and his family was away on vacation to India! A visit to Parthenon, the Acropolis, and the spectacular views of the city was memorable. The place is full of tourists at any time of the year and the thousands of years old structure conforming to the ‘golden ratio’ leaves one spell bound in awe!
The local flea market around the Acropolis hill is fascinating where one can buy traditional items like fur shoes, golden pottery, olives, jewelry and a horde of other things!
One can never have enough of Greece and the place is full of mystery and aura which serves like a magnet to the rest of the world. I feel that this is surly one place one can visit anytime for the things it has to offer, besides ever smiling friendly people.