Kato Zakros


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A long, winding road takes us downhill from Zakros, through rugged pebbly terrain.  About halfway through, the skyline turns into a series of mountains.  I can see the red face of Zakros Gorge peering through the foreground cliffs.  Surely, a hike I’ll want to do, but not today, because today I’m riding a car with friends to go to an archaeological site by the beach.

When we finally reach the beach, we stretch our legs a little, then stop by a small cluster of tavernas where we have a large glass of ice-cold fresh orange juice.  I don’t know what is in Greek oranges, but such a sweet and tangy taste is impossible to replicate.  I make a mental note regarding the need to find a stall that sells Greek oranges when I get back to London.

We can now see the remarkable ruins of a Minoan palace just past the tavernas, and we decide to get in.  We’ll return to the tavernas and the beach later, when the archaeological site closes past midday.

This site was first discovered by a British explorer, I’m told.  David Hogarth started excavating the edges of the settlement surrounding the palace in the early 1900’s, but tragedy befell his team, and they left.   In the 1960’s, a curious man, Nikolaos Platonas, found a few ceramic pieces in the collection of a friend, and thought that their refinement could only have been attained by a royal atelier.   The idea became a bee in his bonnet and he did not give up despite all sorts of difficulties.  He apparently pock-marked the area, excavating the gorge, then different spots across a vast area.  The search revealed that some caves in the gorge had been used for burials, and he unearthed a few treasures before he finally hit jackpot when he verified that his hunch was right.  It took thirty years to complete the excavation that revealed this magnificent site.

The discovery was awe-inspiring.  The village and the palace remained untouched.   Ceremonial vessels made out of quartz, fine faïence pieces, urns made of ivory and objects made out of obsidian, marble and alabaster came to light.  The site seems to have been abandoned suddenly due to a volcano eruption.   It’s not a case of petrified corpses going about their daily activities, but of an entire small city’s population that somehow fled in advance of a natural disaster.  Tools in workshops were left, with semi-processed material lying around.  In people’s homes, cookery utensils, pots and pans were left.  In temples, libation vessels remained.   Astonishingly, archaeologists found a small cup of olives which were somehow preserved almost intact by grace of the soil covering them for 3,500 years.  Wine and olive oil presses found in the site attest to the value these industries have had for Cretans throughout millenia.

If you would like to visit this amazing archaeological site, contact Karma Travel!  They will be happy to organise any travel services you need, from guided tours, to car rental, transfers and accommodation in this area to the east of Crete.

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Glyka Nera, near Sfakia

Beach Glika Nera,near Sfakia

After following the E4 path from Loutro,  I ended up in Glyka Nera Beach (Sweet Water beach). The seascape in this secluded beach is absolutely gorgeous, but there is yet another remarkable detail about this beach, which is also the reason for its name:  there is a fresh water gurgling spring just by the sea!

This beach is not busy at all. I was coming from the beaches in Chora Sfakion and Loutro, which had a fair share of tourists. Having been in other places with massive beach resorts, I really feel I need to clarify that I was pleasantly surprised to discover that at the height of summer, Cretan beaches I visited were busy, but by no means teeming with people. This said, I was looking for solitude, which I was very pleased to find at the pebbly shore in Glyka Nera.

The beach was not deserted, though.  There were quite convenient parasols and loungers for rent, and a simple Taverna, where  you can buy a delicious Greek salad, sandwiches or snacks.

If you wanted to get to this beach without walking the E4 path along the cliff, I recommend contacting Karma Travel for advise. I am told that you can reach it by boat, too.

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