Monday, April 6
Sites Visited: Eleutherna, Venetian Fortress at Rethymno, Chania
Where did we stay tonight?: Boat from Chania to Piraeus
Leaders: Ben Kahn and Charles Clark
That face sums up much of the group sentiment as we embarked on our last day on Crete, an island that turned out to be much more beautiful than its name would suggest. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as did our entire itinerary for this last Cretan day. We were supposed to go to two museums, one in Rethymno where we stayed the night, and then another in the town of Chania. Monday appears to be yet another addition to the Greek weekend (they love their time off), and both museums were discovered to be closed. In an unlikely yet stirring turn of events, the concierge of our Hotel Ideion learned of our plight, and informed Professor Faro that his nephew was the director of an ongoing excavation nearby. Scratch the museums, we were headed for another day outdoors with some more ancient rubble to ponder. We had a nice late wake up (9 am) and set off for an unexpected detour to the ancient site of Eleftheron. Our Greek archaeologist/tour guide for the day met us at the acropolis, and he took us into the side of the mountain. That’s right—into the side of the mountain. The ancient inhabitants of the area dug out two gigantic caves to make use of the limestone, and those quarries became cisterns for later residents. For us, they provided the first opportunity to use our flashlights as we descended into the darkness of the mines in silence (because of the bats). After the mines, we had a nice leisurely walk down to the necropolis, which is where the excavators are currently working (we weren’t even allowed to take pictures because they still haven’t published their finds). The necropolis was full of cremation pits, burial pithoi, and even one human skeleton that looked almost fully intact. With the beginning of our day having been a pleasant surprise, we drove back to Rethymno to walk through the Venetian fortress from the Middle Ages (Venetians were in Crete from 1300-1700). Walking along the inside of the defensive walls and peeking out through the holes that archers would have used to shoot down oncoming foes was very cool, but it wasn’t too long before we all decided that lunch was long overdue. We headed back to the town for some grub, and then headed off to the coastal town of Chania. We had a couple hours to walk around before needing to board our ship back to the mainland, so we took shifts guarding the luggage and got to see yet another stunning Cretan town. Our cruise ship couldn’t wait for long though, and it felt like déjà vu as only a week before we had come over to Crete on an almost identical liner. This time there were no quizzes to speak of, and most of us just relaxed for a bit until it was time for a night’s sleep out on the high seas of the Aegean. Overall, our weeklong adventure on Crete was beyond incredible—between the tiny villages, rocky mountaintops, endless hikes, windy bus rides, hidden coves, and ancient ruins—it was something to remember.