Monday 24 June 2013

Greece: Day Six - Crete, Santorini

This morning Brian and I had booked a shore excursion to the Minoan Palace of Knossos in Crete. we were up early after much to little sleep due to being out late the night before; but we made it. Once we docked in Crete we were let off the ship and taken to a tour bus. For this excursion it was just Brian and I as the others opted to remain and sleep in for a change. 

(Photo: Crete) 

The bus ride was quick, the guide pointed out a few different sights as we passed but it was a bit boring. Crete was an island I had wanted to visit ever since taking mythology courses at UofT. It always looked like this beautiful, magical island full of history and mythology. The myth and history part were true, but it wasn't anywhere near beautiful/magical. Maybe it's because of where we docked or because we were limited to only 3 hours on the island and in a small area, but it was a let down. The guide was also awful - you could barely understand her and she was incredibly boring. 

We got to the Palace and I was very annoyed to see the price. I understand and accept that shore excursions are expensive. But we paid €49 for this tour, and admission cost €6. There is no way that all of the €43 remaining went to covering the cost of the guide and bus (for 3 hours). There were at least 50 of us on the tour... That's one insane mark-up. 

The Palace itself was also a let-down (All of Crete was to be honest....). Maybe it's due to the amazingness of yesterday's excursion to Turkey and how breathtaking the sights and ruins were there and at the Terrace Houses.  But this palace was essentially rocks. It is also pretty much all replications - with the originals being kept in various museums around Greece/Crete that weren't on the itinerary. It is fascinating when you sit and reflect on how old these places are, and the amount of time and detail that went into their construction. I know it took 2-3 years to build my parents house and that was with modern machines, materials and crews. these places just had hard, manual labour. It really makes me wonder about another 5000+ years from now. What will be ruins? Would something like the White House or CN Tower be in shambles with guides escorting people through explaining a history to them that they can't even begin to fathom? It's just crazy to really think how much things have changed and how they continue to. 

From Wikipedia: 
"Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and considered as Europe's oldest city. The palace was excavated and partially restored in the 20th century. Its size far exceeded his original expectations, as did the discovery of two ancient scripts, .The palace of Knossos was undoubtedly the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. It appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and storerooms close to a central square. An approximate graphic view of some aspects of Cretan life in the Bronze Age is provided by restorations of the palace's indoor and outdoor murals. The palace was abandoned at some unknown time at the end of the Late Bronze Age, ca. 1380–1100 BC. The occasion is not known for certain, but one of the many disasters that befell the palace is generally put forward. The abandoning population were probably Mycenaean Greeks, who had earlier occupied the city-state. The hill was never again a settlement or civic site, although squatters may have used it for a time." 

(Photos: Palace of Knossos) 

(below is what the palace is believed to have looked like) 

(Photos: Brian and I)

I ended up heading back from the tour a bit early and sitting in a little market/cafe for 45 minutes. The heat was starting to get to me, as was the guide who you could barely understand. At the cafe I had the BEST fresh squeezed OJ ever. It cost €4.50 which was a shock (that's like 6.00 for an OJ) but it was worth it. Plus the cafe had free WiFi so I was able to start my tripadvisor reviews! 

We got back to the ship about 15 minutes before it set-sail, and I had initially planned to use the pool. However all the long days/little sleep caught up to me and I basically passed out for a few hours. Our next stop was later in the afternoon to Santorini, which had always looked really cool. It's the place where most of the tourist images/pictures you associate with the Greece are taken... You know the ones, white buildings, overlooking the ocean with blue roofs. It looks exactly like that - minus the blue roofs which weren't in the area we ported at. 

When we pulled in we had to dock out in the ocean and then use tender boats to get in. From the ship you could see these little villages atop cliffs. 

(Photo: View from the ship - the white is the villages) 

We all got off together and tendered over to the dock where there were a view shops and restaurants to, but overall nothing there. Everything else is up high - thousands of feet above. I am not sure why, but it never really occurred to me that this would be the case, or how one gets to the top. I assumed there would be cabs to take us where we needed. Turns out there are no cars that go up there... At least not in the area we were in. We had 3 options:

1. Walk up the mountain which was about 500+ steps. 
2. Ride a donkey up
3. Use a cable car

None of these options were all that appealing, considering my fear of heights but we did the cable car. I kept my eyes glued shut the entire way completely terrified, and was squeezing Brian's hand so hard it hurt. But I made it up, and the view was amazing. 

(Photos: Santorini) 

We wandered the town for a bit and split up, but all ended up at the same restaurant overlooking the town and water for dinner. We got to sit on the highest level of the restaurant which was awesome. We had a fantastic view of the water, town as well as the sunset while we were there. Dinner was excellent - and a good time was had by all. 

(Photo: A hair clip Brian surprised me with) 

(Photo: Charlie decided to go Euro on us)

(Photo: Alex showing off his new haircut - he cut off the Bieber hair the night before) 

(Photo: Sanatori) 

(Photo: Ally) 

(Photo: Jenn, Nick, Mikhali and Alex)

(Photo: A view of the death trap (a.k.a cable car) we took 

(Photo: Brian and I) 

(Photo: Sanatori streets) 

Most of us took the cable car back down, but some opted to walk the steps.nDespite my fear of heights, walking down a mountain wasn't very appealing so I got back in the cable car. Once back on the ship we had to start packing in order to leave our luggage outside before midnight as we were disembarking the next day. Once I got everything organized I bought some stamps and worked on postcards, then hung out with my nephews for a bit... (One of the great things about this trip is how much time I get to spend with family I don't see very often.) 

I had trouble sleeping that night and by 2am I was awake and reading until we pulled into port. Again, not the best decision considering the crazy busy day ahead, but I quite enjoyed my book! 

(Photos: Sunset/Moonlight Cruise Photos) 

(Photo: cruise towel animals - one of the best thing about cruises!)

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