Sipping hot chocolate in a coffee bar on the grounds of the Minoan Palace in Konosses, Crete I listened to Nector, the winter time coffee bar manager/summer time German palace tour guide, lament the fact that so few Americans visit Greece, the birth place of democracy. According to Nector, 260,000 Americans per year visit Greece while 5,000,000 visit Paris. I attempted to interject that only 12% of the American population have passports; therefore, the vast majority of Americans never leave the country. But, he would have none of it. He went on to say that the Minoan civilization practiced equal rights for women; that the Minoans were peaceful because they had a great erotic life. An active sex life tempered the war-like tendencies in men. Nector delivered this narrative in a very forceful manner. I had no doubt that he believed every word and had facts to back up his statement. Frankly, I didn’t care about the accuracy of his narrative, I was delighted with the passionate delivery. It all seemed very Greek to me.
The visit to the site of the great Minoan Palace occurred on the third day of our six day visit to Crete. This great UNESCO site provided the impetus to visit Crete in the first place. Many believe that the Minoan civilization was the very first civilization. The excavation of the 20,000 sq. ft. palace, the Minoan center for religion, commerce and politics, makes a good case. The excavation and the treasure trove of artifacts found in the Archeological Museum in Heraklion make one stand in awe of these ancient people. The materials, designs and workmanship of the artifacts are breath taking. The above made this three plane-24 hour travel trip worth every uncomfortable second.
Speaking of comfortable, for the first time, I booked our stay through Airbnb. When booking accommodations in a private apartment, one must remain flexible. While I remembered to ask if the apartment was heated, I neglected to ask on which floor the accommodations were located. Climbing four flights of twisting, marble stairs was our first surprise. That night we discovered that “heated” meant switching the air conditioner units located close to the ceiling from cool to heat. As heat rises, we froze the entire night. In spite of adjustments by the landlord, we continued to sleep in our clothes for the rest of our stay. Then, there was the hot water situation. We had to turn on the hot water warming system for 40 minutes before taking a “shower”. My friend, a lot younger and quicker, took a 30 second shower each day. I preferred to “wash around” at the sink as one never knew exactly how much hot water was available. I did not want an instant change in water temperature from hot to ice cascading down my back.
Actually, the apartment was very nicely appointed, had a lovely balcony and a great view. It was clean and comfortable with a full kitchen which we used to its fullest. All in all, using Airbnb proved to be economical and safe. I recommend trying it.
This trip to Crete was the culmination of a four- year island hopping odyssey. Over that time period, we visited Majorca, Malta and, now Crete, all islands with long and rich histories