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Greece (Crete)

I say Heraklion, you say Iraklio

At first, Crete’s largest city threw us for a loop

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Central Heraklion from the top of the Venetian fortress in the harbor.

The arrivals terminals at Crete’s airport may disappoint you.

First, it’s curiously dim. I remember telling my husband it felt like a Walmart store. Its cold LED lighting cast a cool glow on the blue and gray interior.

Second, the ladies bathroom was a mess. Forget toilet seats. Apparently, they were deemed unnecessary. And the hand dryers seemed pointless also. That’s because they blew a softer gale than the one outside. Shaking the excess water from my hands, I left the bathroom and joined my husband to explore our ground transportation options.

As we walked, I asked myself, This is Heraklion? My preconceived ideas of a sunny, bright and sparkling Crete had quickly evaporated and we weren’t even outside yet.

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We flew to Crete on Volotea Airlines, a regional carrier based in Madrid.

But that would change soon enough. After fielding a taxi to our AirBnb, checking in with our host, picking up some groceries at the small corner market, things improved.

Yes, Heraklion, the largest city on Crete with a population of 174,000 and Greece’s fourth largest city threw us for a loop at first. However, it took just overnight for us to become more accustomed to our corner of Greek life in Heraklion’s Fortetsa neighborhood.

Over the next five days, we explored much of Heraklion’s major attractions, navigated its bus lines, and took a daytrip into the countryside south of Heraklion to the Phaistos archaeological site.

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We sat down and surveyed the ground transportation options before deciding to take a taxi to the Fortetsa neighborhood. Our driver had a difficult time finding it. Apparently, the neighborhood is not a regular stop for tourists.
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At the top of Crete’s historical attractions is the Knossos Palace, the center of Minoan culture; read my post for more information. This is the oldest city in Europe and dates from 1380-1100 BC.
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This strolling Greek band was loud and persuasive. The man on the left approached out table and held out his tambourine for a 2 Euro donation.
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If you look deep into this photo, you can see several tavernas and restaurants ready to snag tourists with cappuccinos and gyros.
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This is part of the Venetian shipyards, erected during the Venetian occupation of the port and the island in general, which in those days was known as Candia.
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This sign will fill you in on basic Heraklion history, including a history of Crete in general.
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This portion of the Venetian wall extends into Heraklion.
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This fountain is another relic of the Venetian period.
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Pedestrians pass under and through the Venetian wall on foot or in vehicles. They can walk up the stairs beyond the tree on the right-hand side of the photo and walk on top of the wall.
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This portion of the Venetian fortress extends into the harbor. It protected the city from invaders. Notice the symbol of Venice, the lion, in the relief sculpture at left. For scale, also notice people between the crenellations along the top of the wall.
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I just couldn’t get over the blue-green waters of the Sea of Crete north of Heraklion.
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We walked inside the Venetian Fortress Museum. It was well worth the 2 Euro ticket price to learn a little history along the way.
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This is Morosini Fountain in city center Heraklion. It’s a remnant of the city’s glory days under Venetian influence and rule.

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This is the sunny plaza at noontime just outside the Church of San Minas.
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This statue of Eleftherios Venizelos stands near a downtown plaza. Venizelos is “Considered by most as the greatest Greek of modern times, he is the man whose name you’ll encounter almost everywhere: from the Athens International Airport to hundreds of streets all over the country. Born in Ottoman occupied Crete, he studied law in Athens, took part in several revolutions and fought for the independence and union of Crete with Greece (1913).
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The front entrance to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum in the center of the city.
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Cathedral of Saint Minas
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The interior of the Church of Saint Minas
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Adjacent to the Church of Saint Minas is the Church of Saint Katherine Museum of Christian Art. It showcases a collection of Greek Orthodox artwork, including murals, tapestries, metallurgy, and, of course, incredible icons.
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A detail from a painting inside the Museum of Christian Art. This painting is called
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We rested inside this shady park situated next to a portion of the Venetian wall.
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This outdoor mural in inspired by the “Ladies in Blue,” a fresco originally found at Knossos. The original fragments are displayed inside the Heraklion Archaeological Museum.
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Scooters everywhere!
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Snack kiosks such as this one are ubiquitous in Heraklion. Some of these also sell city bus tickets.
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This is a popular retail district in Heraklion. Notice the brilliant blue of the ocean in the distance.

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The harbor at Heraklion with the Venetian fortress on the left.
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Pottery found at Phaistos, which we visited one day when we took a daytrip south. A post on this daytrip is forthcoming. Stay tuned! Check out this post for how to get to Phaistos by bus.
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The front door of our AirBnb in the Fortetsa neighborhood of Heraklion.
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The street outside our AirBnb. Our taxi driver seemed a little surprised that we were staying here. I guess it’s not the expected tourist neighborhood; however, it was safe and quiet. We felt like we were getting to see the real Heraklion that many tourists may not be privy to.
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We stayed in Fortetsa. Notice the Greek spelling above the Roman or Latin letters.
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Greece held elections on July 7. All 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament were in play, including president. Posters were plastered in bus stops and in other public areas throughout the city.
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I took this photo while sitting in the bus stop looking up into our Fortetsa neighborhood. We were getting ready to board a bus downtown.
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We stopped in at this market a few times during our stay in Heraklion. The melons were perfectly sweet.
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The living room of our AirBnb in Heraklion.
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Another photo of our AirBnB.
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The ceiling in the departures terminal of the Heraklion airport (above) is quite a dramatic difference from the arrivals terminal. The arrivals area was stark and uninviting  in comparison.

Thanks for reading! My husband and I are in the process of moving out of the house we’ve lived in for 25 years. It’s been a job accomplishing the move and writing more about our trip this summer to Greece. I plan to add several more posts over the end of summer and fall. That’s my plan; however, with a new teaching job starting in a little over a week, it will be a challenge. 

 

By marilynyung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

11 replies on “I say Heraklion, you say Iraklio”

Really enjoyed this post, so Interesting. Beautiful area and the apartments were very attractive. The market looked delicious. It’s such a old culture and hard for us to appreciate. We think being old is 200 yrs. and that is nothing compared to Greece. So glad you went to Greece.

Liked by 1 person

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