The island of Crete leads the passanger not only to a jump in the past, to the land of Daidalos and Ikaros, full of treasures of minoan art but it also offers an unspoilt sea with recreational beaches and good facilities for bathing and practising water sports.
By Isabella Ferrari Aggradi
Crete as a cruise destination
This island - the largest in Greece - separates the Aegean from Libyan Sea, marks the boundary between Europe and Africa.
A visit at Crete is considered essential: as a matter of fact 22 cruise ships of 14 different navigation companies call at the port of Iraklion (1996 data), the capital of the island and offer the possibility to plunge into "the island of Miracles".
Costa Crociere also organizes one-week stays. The passenger soon feels both the wonderful sensation of arrhithmya between the Greek ancient builidings and the comfort of modernity and the oriental taste of a town rich in archaeological treasures kept in the Iraklion Museum and into the palace of Knossos, where, according to the legend, was imprisoned the Minotaur.
The Minoan art
The most magnificent collection of Minoan art and culture in the world, unique in beauty and completeness, is housed in the Museum of Iraklion, a modern building specifically designed for this purpose.
In its twenty-room galleries on the ground and first floor are collected the excavation carried out in all parts of Crete coming mainly from the prehistoric era - second third millenium b.C. - (which takes its name Minoan from the legendary Cretan king, Minos) and from a valuable record of the artistic and social life during the ancient period; the usual visit takes at least two hours. Important archaeological finds can be seen at: Phaestos, Aghia; Trianda and Kato.
An alternative to art
For the passenger wishing to esteem also the scenery, Crete is a real land of dream.
By car or motorbike it becomes harsh and barren, wooden and gentle. Its villages smothered in greenery.
Olive trees, orange groves, vineyards, early vegetable market gardens. Old stone farmhouses, monasteries and villages perched on mountain ridges, castles and chapels forgotten on steep slopes. Shores lined with forbiding rocks, often inaccessible, but also lots of endless sandy or pebbly beaches.
The venetian port, Chania, the ancient capital, peculiar for its narrow animated ways; the monastery of Arkadi, the villages untouched of Kritsa and Angohia or the plane of Lassithi famous for the windmills are worth visiting.
The Samaria Gorge, 43 km from the city of Hania, this is the longest gorge in Europe, measuring some 18 kilometers and renowed for its awesome beauty. A place for connaisseur is Elafonissi special for the wonderful sea and the pink sand. Hersonissos at 25 kilometres from Heraklion, Sissi ad Elounda (little fishing villages) are other interesting spots deserving a visit.
Anyway, Aghios Nikolaos, and its area, is nowadays the most important (and developed) touristic destination in the island.
The Cretese cooking is typically Mediterranean though it is influenced by the Oriental one. At the base of the courses is the lamb or mutton meat, with tomatoes, onions and cheese.
Fruits and vegetables, coming from the valleys or the heights, together with the typical cheese called "feta", are fresh and genuine.
Shopping and entertainments
Besides the antiquity, Crete offers to the tourists entertainments leisure facilities and comforts. The lively villages organize night and day folkloristic feasts and traditional parades accompanied by the Cretese music of the unfailing "bouzuki".
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