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Travel to Heraklion, the "metropolis" of Crete and capital city of the largest Greek island. This enchanting location, pure yet fully vibrant at the same time, is one of the most historical cities in the Mediterranean region, being the birthplace of the Minoan civilization and the hometown of El Greco and Nikos Kazantzakis, who have both praised Heraklion in their works. Many people say that Heraklion is likely to "confuse" visitors upon arrival, due to the abundance of the choices it offers. So, allow yourselves the time you need to become mesmerized by the pristine beauty and the alluring generosity and hospitality of the city's residents. Enter the city of Heraklion after crossing and marvelling at the majestic walls that surround it. Once you reach the city's center, wander around the picturesque narrow streets, do some shopping and try out the delicious traditional snacks and raki – this is the only way to understand that Cretans really know how to have a good time and they have grasped the true meaning of life! At only a short distance away, you can take a swim in a deep blue crystal sea, which will definitely give you the impression that you are in an exotic island. Heraklion is all this and more: a hospitable and vibrant city, a pristine and magical location that offers culture and relaxation in large doses, inviting you to explore it.
The ancient history of Heraklion is strongly connected with the Minoan Palace at Knossos. Ancient historians, such as Strabo, refer to Heraklion as the port of Knossos, the center of the Minoan civilization. This period reached its peak from the 16th to the 14th centuries B.C., and excavations revealed a rich society that based its economy on agriculture and commerce. This civilization was destroyed around 1500 B.C., when the explosion of the volcano in Santorini raised a tsunami all over the Aegean Sea and covered these cities with volcanic ash.
The centuries that followed, from the 9th to 13th century, weren't particularly prosperous for Crete. Some growth took place during the era of the Roman Empire, but afterwards, Crete was frequently attacked by pirates and hostile armies. In the 14th century, the city of Heraklion was ceded to the Venetians, who ruled Crete for four centuries. This was the most flourishing period for Heraklion, with a great level of growth in the fields of art, trade, architecture and literature.
After being besieged by the Turks for 25 years, the Venetians were forced to abandon the city. The Cretans fought against the Turks for many centuries, and in 1898, the island won its independence. It finally united with the rest of Greece in 1913.
In 1941, Heraklion was attacked once more, this time by the German army, resulting in devastation and extensive damage. Today, many Venetian monuments still survive in the city, such as the old fortifications, the iconic fortress, the fountains and many European-styled works of art.
The Knossos Palace
Before the era of the Roman Empire, the greatest city of Crete was Knossos, praised by Homer in The Odyssey, and regarded as the center of the Minoan civilization. Its majestic and world-famous palace, covering an area of 22,000 square meters and containing more than 1,500 rooms, welcomes more than one million visitors each year. Located merely 5 kilometers south of Heraklion, only 15 minutes away by car or bus from the port of Heraklion, the Knossos Palace is there for you to visit and walk around its archaeological site, "living" – even if only for a short time – the Greek mythology and walking in the footsteps of the legendary King Minos.
Cretans call them hohlioi, yet the rest of Greece calls them snails! In any case, this particular dish is a superfood, ideal for people with high cholesterol, and other than its anti-aging properties, it can even help the body by strengthening the bones. Being rich in proteins and low in fat, snails are a very popular dish in Crete and all around Greece as well. There are many different ways to cook snails: stewed, as ragout or as "boubouristoi", the Cretans' favorite method for cooking hohlioi. They are laid flat on their "belly" on a skillet, and cooked with a lot of salt, olive oil, vinegar and rosemary.
Weather conditions in Heraklion
Nikos Kazantzakis Airport (HER)
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