By now we were old salts, so we could handle the long voyage from Rhodes to Iraklion in northern Crete with aplomb, almost able to ignore the loukoumia problem; but we were glad to disembark to the frantic accompaniment typical of every busy port we visited.
Our focus was to see the work of a famous alumnus of our college, Sir Arthur Evans, the pionering archaeologist who, from the start of the 20th C. first gave meaning to the ruins of the ‘Minoan’ civilisation; he named it after the mythical King Minos of ‘Minotaur’ fame. The fabled bull was a common feature of the frescoes he excavated and controversially restored in the reconstructed ‘palaces’ – probably a misnoma for rooms and streets occupied by more than just royalty.
At the time we visited the Knossos and Phaistos sites, archaeology was still in progress – unearthing treasures from the Bronze Age dating back to 3,000 BC; and establishing their links with the Greek mainland and the conflict between the Minoans and the Mycenaeans – whose Lion Gate I featured in pt.1. And only a few years before, a scholar named Michael Ventris (et. al.) had deciphered Linear B, an early Greek script discovered in Knossos by Evans, which established cultural links between the two civilisations.
By now we were spending less time with antiquities and more with the hedonistic delights of tourism – the beaches, the sun, the ouzo and the beer. We felt we’d done justice to the college grant and deserved a couple of days R & R too, like every student down the ages. And Crete was completely unspoiled, with the local taverna providing everything available in the way of comestibles. No bars, no beach umbrellas or deck-chairs – no modern, commercialised sea-fronts at all. The open-fronted taverna sat comfortably at the edge of the beach, with a couple of tables outside for early and late occupation usually by local men with coffee and a glass of something stronger. And they would have been surprised if we had not made camp along the beach for the night.
Our ferry took us directly back to Piræus, not as the modern traveller might sail, via Santorini, a half way port. The island is now known to have played a pivotal part in the later history of Crete: its volcano erupting in around 1,500 BC, and destroying the Minoan settlements, including Santorini’s own Akrotiri (shown above, half-excavated), and felt as far away as Egypt and Turkey.
We retraced our journey from Athens via Brindisi, Milan, Paris, Calais and the clichéed white cliffs of Dover – where my lanky companion was stopped and searched by Customs – and declared innocent. Otherwise we returned home bronzed, unscathed and hungry for some of Mum’s cooking. Then back to work with seven or eight weeks left to cram for the exams (known euphemistically as ‘collections’) which would greet us as soon as we returned to college. The main topics were the original thoughts of Plato and Aristotle, a fitting coda to the summer’s Homeric events.
8 thoughts on “Memories of Greece 1963, pt. 4”
Fifty years later I look at the pre-Viking grave, built by relatively primitive settlers in the woods where we live and ponder on the wonder of the ancient Greeks whose first cultural awakening was already underway at the same time, 5,000 years ago.
I have very much enjoyed reading these travelogues, Janus. Wonderful memories.
Thanks, Arrers! Do tell us some of your experiences too, won’t you? People ARE their stories!
It’s been a good and interesting Janus and it’s reawakened some memories of my own youth. Thank you
Oh Dear Janus! You’ve reawakened the travel-bug in me!
The problem is, of course, that the world has changed so much that quiet beaches are a long forgotten past. And I’ve never liked travelling in discomfort!
Thank you very much for this 🙂
Boa, thank you. I’m off to Blighty next week to see the clan – including no. 9. I love travelling to new places too but these days I’m too aware of cockroaches and rats to be very adventurous. I was lucky enough in business to do it in relative style and could even invite Mrs. J along too.
But ref. quiet beaches: the west coast of Jutland still has them and offers pleasant beach hotels and centres with no crowds or hassle.
Ah well, Janus, one can still find deserted beaches here too.
But, if I’m honest I’m not really into sitting on a beach for much longer than about 10 minutes! I get bored and my skin goes puce and painful! I managed to get sun-stroke and dire sun-burn on an overcast beach in the UK 🙂
Looking at the gate at Mycenae, the ruins of Santorini and the remnants of Masada and Qumran are far more to my liking.
A story which might amuse!
A few years ago I went on a Mediterranean cruise with my mother. The passengers were, mainly, Americans. It was very well organised in that we travelled from port to port overnight and trips were arranged so that one had a full day outing every day. On arrival at Athens, I chose to go to Mycenae again… this time with a guide who really knew what she was talking about – since I did not have the benefit of your particular education!
The trip had been advertised as being to the Acropolis of Corinth and then on to Mycenae…
Half way there an American approached me and told that he had organised a ‘takeover’ of the coach and intended to force our guide to return to Athens where we would see THE Acropolis…
I wasn’t quite sure what this guy wanted to do. But, it sounded pretty horrific to me – and I’m not that easily intimidated! I tried to explain what an acropolis was – and got no where! The guide looked pretty scared too!
Then along came another American couple who looked exactly like Daisy and Onslow in ‘Keeping up Appearances’.
What an absolutely fabulous pair… The guy, whatever his name was, poked his enormous finger into the would-be-rebel’s chest and told him to shut up and be grateful that he’d learned something new. He said that he felt a bit stupid that he hadn’t understood what he’d signed up to, and so should anyone else who’d been so ignorant…
The guide’s face returned to a normal colour and the day ended quite happily – with each and every one a great deal wiser 🙂
Crete sounds quite fascinating.
Beaches don’t do anything for me either, unless there are interesting strata revealed or curious wave cut platforms. Haven’t sat on a beach since the 80s. I have to admit to encouraging the boy to holiday without his parents from a very early age! I remember waving him a fond farewell at Heathrow going to visit a friend in the Middle East for the Easter hols at the tender age of 9! Couldn’t pay the fare quick enough!
However, was known to be super adventurous in renting a holiday place in Polruan, collecting all the cousins and carting them off for a few weeks together, five teenaged boys for a month was more than enough excitement! Made Ulan Bator look easy!!
Good blog, thank you.