Today was the longest and therefore earliest tour we had booked. We got up before dawn and had our special breakfast brought out. We gulped it down and I swallowed my motion-sickness-pill along with it. I figured if anything went wrong we could always ask the guide to translate the notice. It was supposed to take an hour before it kicked in, but the bus was already there. Again a big one, but no guide. We took our seats with the other sleepy tourists and headed for Iraklio.
In the middle of the city, somewhere along a busy street, the bus stops and our tour guide jumps in. She immediately introduces herself and starts talking. She has lived in Germany for a few years, so she knows the slang and how to talk to us. Plus, she really knows her Cretan history. All day long, no matter how far apart the stops were, she always had something to tell. And it never got boring! She was upbeat and sarcastic – I liked her.
Our tour starts in the most known Cretan tourist attraction: Knossos. Usually described as a palace, it was actually an administrative building. This is the famous “labyrinth”, named that way because of the 1400 rooms it was made of. For the time, the architecture is really astounding. Everything was built with a strategic purpose. They had a cooling system, sewage lines, everything! Some frescoes were still preserved with the vibrant colors and the myths surrounding the culture were fascinating. I even bought a book about Greek tragedy at the museum shop. We walked through ancient pathways and got to see inside the “decision room”, where the main chair was carved right into the stone wall.
After that, our bus led us over the serpentine of the Dikti mountains to the Lassithi plain, which is a very important place for the Cretan agriculture. It is also known for it’s big white windmills, but we didn’t see any. We stopped at the little town of Psichro, where a stone path leads up a mountain (same rocks as in Samaria, same blazing sun) to a big flow-stone cave. And I mean BIG. I don’t remember ever being in such a cave, but either way it was impressive. There were huge stalagmites and stalactites and moss everywhere. It was pretty steep, moist and very dark, and it got cold almost immediately after the entrance. But the best part is the story that goes with it: this was the cave in which Zeus was born.
This was one of the many occasions on which we had to pay entrance fees. Actually, I had to pay an entrance fee. Because before we left, The BF and I had a talk about what to bring with. Since we didn’t want to lose anything valuable, we emptied our wallets. I also left my student card behind, since I thought I wouldn’t need it. Turns out all the entrance fees are free for students. I could have saved a total of 14 euros and the Greeks favorite question: why? With a sly grin the ticket guy at Phaistos had asked me why I didn’t take my card with me. He was the only one who let me in free anyway. At Zeus’ cave, they checked twice, and this time The BF had to explain: why? Why was his ticket free? Like we somehow bribed the first (grumpy) guy.
Once everyone was back down and enjoyed a freshly squeezed orange juice, we headed to our next stop. Which was too bad, actually, because the tavern with the juice had some nice local specialties to eat as well. But apparently our lunch had been prearranged. Our last stop for the day was in the middle of nowhere (literally). We didn’t have much time, so when the group got there the waiter just started shouting out the dishes we could choose from (about five). I had the moussakas, which was pretty heavy on the bechamel-sauce. After that we took a digestive walk down the only road, but there wasn’t much to see. Then we all piled back in the bus and braced ourselves for the very long trip back to the hotels. I fell asleep half-way, even though our guide was still narrating some interesting stuff. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel sick this time. I was hoping it was the medicine that simply lasted all day, but the guide said that their friendly bus driver paid attention to drive in a way that wouldn’t make anybody nauseous. We got back in time for the dinner buffet.