The capital of Crete, Heraklion, is a port with an interesting history. For centuries, the city was controlled by the Byzantines, Moors, Venetians and Ottomans before joining Greece in the 20th century. The Venetians were responsible for the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when they built complex four-kilometer defensive structures that withstood the Ottoman siege for 21 years.
In the semi-mythical Knossos there is a city of the Bronze Age and a palace built by the Minoan civilization, which reached its greatness around 2000 BC, when the palace was built. You can know Knossos from Greek mythological characters such as King Minos, Minotaur, Daedalus, and Icarus. Exploring the labyrinths and ruins of the palace on Kefalah Hill, you will learn about ancient earthquakes and wars and see a very complex architecture with sewage and water systems . The throne room, Sacred Vaults and Crypts of columns in the west wing, in the east wing were residential apartments and reception rooms. In the south is the Procession Corridor and the entrance with the fresco of Prince Lily, and in the north is the Fast Hunt fresco.
The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion will help you plunge into Minoan history. Finds from the Minoan places of Crete were brought here, and many exhibits are masterpieces of ancient art. One striking example is the iconic prince of lilies, life-size from the mural at the entrance to Knossos Palace , circa 1600-1500 BC There is a Phaistos disk from the palace of the same name, a clay disk with a diameter of 15 cm, covered with 241 tokens, the value is still disputed. Other unusual works include figurines of the Snake Goddess, a bee pendant from Malia, and a huge variety of decorative weapons, ceramics, frescoes, clay figurines and gold jewelry.
The Historical Museum of Crete will help fill in the gaps and find out what happened after the Minoans, the museum has a complete chronology of the island, starting from the 4th century AD . Galleries feature sculptures, murals, jewelry, coins, manuscripts, architectural fragments, ceramics, woven works of art, guns, portable religious icons, and much more.
A 4 x 4 meter model shows how Heraklion looked in Venetian times. Only two paintings of a Renaissance master born in Crete - El Greco - are preserved on the island. These are “Baptism of Christ” and “View of Mount Sinai”. The Venetian Harbor is located west of the new harbor of Heraklion, there was a maritime activity of the city in Venetian times. At the mouth of the harbor is the Kules fortress.
On land, facing the water, there are two separate rows of arches, the remains of the Venetian arsenals. These structures give a hint of how complex Venetian maritime activities were at that time . You can continue on past the fortress to take a look at the huge cruise liners in the modern port.
Kules Fortress - the protection of the Venetian Harbor - a square fortress built when the island was under the control of the Republic of Venice in the 16th century. The Kules fortress arose between 1524 and 1540 on the site of a fort built after the Venetians first took Heraklion in the 1200s.
It is no secret that the Kules fortress stood the test of time, because it was built so that it has external walls up to 8.7 meters thick. The building was besieged when the Ottomans were at the gates for 21 years from 1648 to 1669, before the city finally fell. The upper level of the fort has a clear view of the harbor , while in the vaulted passages below are cannons, hundreds of cannonballs, piles of amphorae, shields and a short film about the history of the fort.
Agios Minas Cathedral, accommodating 8,000 people, is one of the largest in Greece.
It was built in the second half of the 19th century, and the project was delayed by the Cretan rebellion against Ottoman rule in 1866-1869. Interestingly, the construction of was partially funded by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Abdulaziz. Inside, you can appreciate the frescoes of the apostles in the Byzantine style, episodes from the Bible and Christ Pantocrator. Another example is the iconostasis made of marble and replacing the wooden original of the 20th century.
Venetian Loggia - This 17th-century mannerism monument in St. Titus Square is a relic of the Venetian days of Heraklion. The Loggia was the place where the Heraklion nobility gathered to discuss political and commercial issues . During the Ottoman Empire, the Loggia became the seat of a high-ranking financial officer, as well as the Secretary General, who was responsible for mediation between the Christians of Heraklion and the Turkish authorities.
The building houses the town hall, where weekly meetings of the municipal council are held. The loggia is closed to visitors, but you can see the arcade on the ground floor.
Near the cathedral in St. Catherine’s Square former monastery church , founded in the 10th century. The surviving church building dates from the 16th century.
It is believed that the artist (El Greco) was one of the students. The other, Michael Damaskinos, is considered one of the most experienced post-Byzantine Cretan artists. He could well have painted six amazing icons that make up the central part of the museum of Christian art in the church. Also at the exhibition are paintings, manuscripts, vestments and wooden sculptures.
On a busy street on August 25, Agios Titos Church is the oldest church in the city dedicated to Saint Titus, the first bishop of Crete. The past millennium was unsuccessful because the church was destroyed several times by fire and earthquakes. The latter happened in 1856, and the Agios Titos church had to be rebuilt from scratch . An interesting feature of this reconstruction is that it took place under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, so the current project is intended for a mosque. The minaret was demolished in 1920. And the church was restored in the Orthodox style in 1925. Among the relics inside is the skull of St. Titus, which was originally brought to Venice in the 17th century, but is now returned.
Down from the Loggia is Leo Square, which is one of the busiest places in the old center of Heraklion. Tourists conduct a city tour , line up for ice cream. All attention to this monument, opened in 1628 after more than a year of construction. He received water from the aqueduct, which directed the water 15 kilometers from Mount Yuktas. From the lower pool rises an octagonal pedestal with four lions. This pool has eight parts and has reliefs with images from Greek mythology such as nymphs and the god Triton.
A few meters from the Morisini Fountain is located another grandiose monument of the Venetian era of Heraklion . St. Mark's Basilica was built as soon as the Venetians conquered the city in the 13th century and was dedicated to their patron.
The basilica was a symbol of Venetian power, a place of official ceremonies and a resting place for the nobility. The basilica became a mosque during the Ottoman Empire, when its bell tower was replaced by a minaret, which was demolished in the 20th century. Today it is the Heraklion Municipal Art Gallery , which is open almost every day.
Starting on the western side of the city of Iraq, Amoudara Beach is a sandy beach that extends for another six kilometers. Five bathing places have been awarded the Blue Flag for their comfort and water quality. The beach is long enough to satisfy people who want energy, and those who are happy to go a little further for peace and solitude. The beach has moderate waves and suitable wind conditions for windsurfing. Driving past the western edge of Amoudar, you will find yourself in the majestic Almiros gorge, at the entrance is a wetland Almiros, a green oasis against the arid landscape of Crete.