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The Gournia site is extensive and the excavations have revealed a thriving Minoan trading town of winding alleys lined by tiny houses, workshops, a market place and, on the top of the hill, a palace, believed to have belonged to the local ruler or governor.
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The last time I was here I made the mistake of joining a guided tour of the site and spent an unhappy hour torn between the desire to shout 'LIAR!' and jumping off the cliff adjacent to what she insisted on calling the 'Princess' Palace'. This is a unique Minoan excavation - up to when Harriet Boyd started exposing the extent of the site all previous Minoan buildings found had been grand administrative affairs (or funerary complexes if one reads Wunderlich's fascinating alternative theories). This was the first ordinary 'town' found and therefore offers a particular insight into the day to day life of the late Minoan period up to the destruction of the whole culture effectively by the volcanic explosion of Thera and resulting tidal waves and earthquakes. Although very little remained standing above a height of a few feet, the ground floor plan of the buildings, and indeed the floors themselves, were fantastically preserved. The largest building (and NOT a princess' palace!) affords a fantastic view over the modern Gulf of Mirabello, one can see why they built it there at the time. If one wants to truly understand the awesome destructive power of that explosion, one only has to stand in Gournia - a town ostensibly protected from the blast and tidal waves by a large chunk of the island to the north plus an impressive mountain range - and see what the catastrophe left in its wake. It is easy then realise how a whole civilization fell practically overnight. The only drawback to me about the place (besides the odd misinformed guides one encounters) is that it's in the part of the island close to the touristically developed resorts. However, if one is making a break for it having found oneself billeted in such a resort then head for Ierapetra via Gournia if possible!
Gournia is the ruins of Minoan town (1600-1200 BC). It was destroyed by the fire in 1450 but it is in a very good state.
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