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The Palace of Knossos

July 05, 2007

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Inhabited since 7000 B.C. and home of King Minos, famed Minotaur, Labyrinth and related Greek myths (which Mozart loves) including Daedalus, Icaris and Thesius, we knew we could not miss the Palace of Knossos before leaving Crete. It is also one of the best restored ancient sites available, so we got a little book for drawings for Mozart (pictured above with the Knossos on the cover) and looked for a private tour guide to make the most of the experience.

For those not familiar with Greek myths, King Minos (who was a real, historic person) invited Daedalus to his Palace to create a Labyrinth for his Minotaur (half bull, half man) and then imprisoned him in a high tower after he did that. Daedalus made wings out of feathers and wax to escape, but sadly his son Icarus did not listen to his father and flew too close to the sun, so the wax melted and he fell into the sea. That was Mozart’s favorite myth at two that she wanted to hear again and again and still has a passion for these myths. Later, the Minotaur is killed by the Athenian hero, Thesius. What fun for a myth loving kid to be in the actual spot where these myths were brought to life!

Who knew it was going to be vicious cat fighting amongst the guides just past the entry? We were a little stunned by the intensity of several guides vying for our business, but settled on a sweet older lady who had helped us find a place for our packs earlier before we knew she was a guide. All the prices were less than half of the stated private tour prices, so perhaps the competition is a good thing in the long run. Group tours were very cheap, but we wanted more personal attention for this site and were very happy with the guide we chose.

When one thinks of the time period, the sophistication of this Minoan society is simply awe inspirings. Knossos Palace was as large as Buckingham Palace with over a thousand interlocking rooms. It was most likely the political and cultural center of the Minoan civilization. Since it has a connection with Santorini, it was nice to visit it after our explorations there and the Archeology Museum in Athens.

It is the largest Bronze age archeological site on Crete and was excavated by the very controversial Sir Arthur Evans. The cause celebre seems to be that he “restored” things to a higher degree than is deemed proper today. Personally, I am glad he did as it makes it a very worth while site to see because of that and easier to envision compared to some ruins. But then I am not an archeologist, nor do I know much about these things, so I suppose my opinion does not count for much.

Our guide was very knowledgeable so we learned lots of interesting details about the 3000-1100 B.C. throne room with it’s mystical griffins, its three separate liquid management systems, ventilation, bulls and art in Minoan times and much more. We were there late in the day so it was cooler and less crowded.

Mozart got to play in the oldest theatre in Greece there before we left and was happy to meet a little girl named Athena with her new puppy, before we began which added fond memories. She was quite busy drawing lots of pictures as we toured and the guide went into great detail. You never quite know what a six year old is picking up. I got a kick out of her “Greek Ruins” and “Minautor” pictures when I looked at it later as she had come up with them all on her own.

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