Thursday, July 07, 2011

European Travels

Click on the links below to read more about what I did and what I saw during my European Travels:


The last stop on our cruise was the island of Santorini. This island has a very interesting geological history. It is basically the remains of a large volcanic eruption that occurred 3,600 years ago. Prior to the eruption, Santorini resembled any other island - It was round. Since the eruption, Santorini has looked like this:

The eruption left a large caldera surrounded by ash deposits. That's why all the beaches in Santorini are black sand beaches. Many historians believe that this eruption caused the end of the Minoan Era. Historians believe that the eruption created a large tsunami that destroyed the Minoan navy. Because of this destruction, the Minoan Empire declined and was taken over by the Mycenaean Empire (see my posts on Mycenae and Heraklion). Many historians also believe that the legend of Atlantis is based upon the volcanic eruption and destruction of this island.

When we arrived in Santorini, we took a bus to the city of Oia. This city is one of the most photographed cities in Greece. It's what most people think of when they think of Greek islands.

Our cruise ship entering the caldera.

Taken from our ship as we're heading into the caldera.

Taken from the bus as we drive to Oia.

The eight of us. I'm the bottom right :)


Me and Oia

The buildings were beautiful

Colorful shop entrance

The setting sun over Santorini.

Heraklion, Crete

The next day of our cruise we headed over to Greece's largest island, Crete. I was the only one of the girls who wanted to visit the archeological site of Knossos Palace so I departed from my group and headed there. Knossos was very similar to Mycenae, in that people don't know where the actual historical facts end and the mythology begins.

  • The Palace of Knossos was built between 1700 and 1400 BC. It spread over 6 acres and had over 1300 interlocking rooms that were connected by hallways of varying size and direction.
  • In the middle of the palace was a large courtyard used for games. In one of the games an athlete would grasp the horns of a charging bull and vault over the animal's back.
  • Knossos had two common symbols - The bull and the Labrys, a double-bladed axe.
  • Knossos was the ruling city during the Minoan Era (2200 BC - 1300 BC).
Based on the facts, can anyone guess the myth commonly associated with the Palace of Knossos? If you guessed Theseus and the Minotaur, you would be correct.

In Greek Mythology, Zeus transformed himself into a bull and kidnapped the beautiful, Europa (Fact: The continent of Europe is named after her). He took her to the island of Crete where she was made the queen. She eventually gave birth to Minos (Fact: The Minoan Era is named after King Minos) who grew up to be the king of Crete and the ruler of Knossos Palace. King Minos had many children. One of his children, Androgeos, traveled to Athens where he participated in and won the Pan-Athenian Games. The Athenians were so upset over Androgeos's victory that they killed him. When King Minos discovered this, he declared war on Athens.

To avoid war, the king of Athens, Aegeus (Fact: The Aegean Sea is named after King Aegeus), agreed to send seven boys and seven girls to Crete every nine years to be sacrificed (Pop Culture Fact: This myth was part of the inspiration Suzanne Collins used when writing the novel, The Hunger Games). These Athenian youths would be forced into a maze, or Labyrinth, where they had to face the Minotaur, a half-man/half-bull creature who lived in the middle of the Labyrinth (Fact: The word Labyrinth comes from the maze-like design of Knossos and it's symbol, the Labrys). After several nine-year intervals, Theseus, the son of Aegeus, volunteered to take the place of one of the sacrifices and go to Crete to kill the minotaur. Upon his arrival in Crete, Theseus entered the Labyrinth and made his way to the middle. There he encountered and killed the minotaur. With the help of King Minos's daughter, Ariadne, he then made his way out of the Labyrinth (Pop Culture Fact: In the movie Inception, the character, Ariadne, designs mazes in the dreamworld). He joined the other Athenian boys and girls and they all sailed for home.

Carvings of the Labrys, or double-bladed axe,
can be found all over Knossos.

Symbols of the bull can also be found.

Reconstructed Fresco from Knossos Palace.

Fresco depicting an athlete jumping over a bull.

Many believe this fresco depicts the prince of Knossos.
Could it really be Androgeos?

Some of Knossos's 1300 rooms

More of the rooms

Can you see why people thought it resembled a maze?

The Throne Room

The Queen's Room

In addition to being the setting for the myth about Theseus and the Minotaur, Knossos Palace is also the setting for the myth about Daedalus and Icarus. In this myth Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth, and his son, Icarus, try to escape the island of Crete. To do so, Daedalus creates wings made from feathers and wax. Daedalus and Icarus strap the wings onto their arms and fly away. Daedalus had warned his son not to fly too low or too high. If he flew too low, the ocean would get the feathers wet and he would fall into the sea. If he flew too high, the sun would melt the wax and he would fall into the sea. Icarus did not listen to his father and flew too high. Because of this, the wax melted and he drowned in the sea. My guide in Knossos said we should live our lives based on the message of this myth - In our lives we should not fly too high or too low, but keep a nice balance. I loved that.

As you can see, Knossos was an awesome place to visit regarding mythology, but there were other things about it that made it remarkable. Knossos also had running water, the oldest surviving theatre in Europe, and the oldest surviving road in Europe. How awesome is that?!

Terracotta water pipes ran under the entire city.
People didn't have running water 100 years ago in the USA,
but they did 3000 years ago in Knossos.

The oldest theatre in Europe.
My guide said it looks like little more than stairs,
but the idea of having a theatre more than
3000 years ago is what's impressive.

Another angle of the theatre

The oldest known road in Europe.


The next day of our Greek Cruise was spent on the island of Rhodes. This was my second favorite island we visited (my first being Mykonos). Rhodes is most famously known for the Colossus of Rhodes. It was the 3rd of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World we visited.

During the morning, we went on a walking tour of Old Town. The Old Town is the oldest inhabited medieval town in Europe. It was built in the 14th Century by the Knights Hospitaller. The Order of the Hospitallers was founded in Jerusalem in 1023 to care for the sick pilgrims who came to the Holy Land. They operated there until the Holy Land was conquered by Islamic forces. The Knights then went to Rhodes, where they became known as the Knights of Rhodes, or sometimes the Knights of Saint John.

On the Island of Rhodes, the Knights became a military force defending the island from pirates, an Egyptian Sultan, and an Ottoman Sultan. The Old Town was built inside ancient castle walls, complete with arrowslits for defense, non-functioning drawbridges, and a dry mote around the wall. The old town is littered with old canon balls the size of basketballs. Modern day stores have been built within the castle walls, but they all have an old medieval look.

The medieval wall surrounding the Old Town.

The main entrance to the Old Town.

Ali, Chelsea, Amanda, Me, & Steph

The Palace

The Knights of Rhodes Shield

More Old Town

More Old Town

Check out these cobblestone streets!!

A Medieval Fountain

Beautiful Building and Foliage

I loved it. It reminded me of Robin Hood.

Sandra, Steph, Chelsea, Tanya, and Me

In the afternoon we left the port and Old Town and went to the most gorgeous beach. The water was crystal clear. We could see the bottom of it even after swimming out quite far.

Beautiful Beach!!

Me and the Aegean Sea.