Heraklion (City), Crete Island
At the top of 25th August St is El Velizelou Square (Lion Square) and the Morozini Fountain. It was built in 1628 by Francesco Morozini who was the Venetian Governor of the Island. A 16km long aqueduct was built to channel the water to it from Mt Giouchtas. It has 8 circular basins decorated with reliefs of Cherubs, Mermaids, Dolphins, nymphs and mythical creatures. Above the Lions (which are from the 14th c and were incorporated into the fountain when it was constructed) would have been a statue of Neptune.
The fountain works but is very rarely in operation and when we went it was being restored and so had a green net around it. Sort of spoiled the pictures but at least there are not loads of people sat around or on it.
There are some very nice looking cafe's here some of which specialize in Bhougatsa which is a flaky pastry filled with cheese or cream and then drizzled with honey. When we visited Iraklion again later in our holiday the nets had been removed from around the fountain.
This Impressive fortress was built in the early 1500s and guarded the old port; it is unique for the impressive mass of its stone fortifications, its immensely thick walls and the views from its turret and roof. The restored interior looks just like a castle should. On the exterior are two carved relief’s of the Lion of St Mark which the Turks surprisingly left intact.
It was €2 to get in and it is open from 0800 to 1930 1st July to 31 October and 0900 to 1500 other times of the year (although I have heard they sometimes they open late and close early)
Walking along the harbour front you will notice an old steam train and an old boat on the side of the road leading up to the Port Authority building. The building houses the port police, Coast Guard and of course the Port Authority. It is a good place to take pictures or the harbour and the Venation fortress, There is also a very good and reasonably priced bar restaurant.
After getting to the end of 25th August St we turned right and walked down Leof kalorkerinou then turned left up a small side St to Agia Ekaterinis Square. We walked across the square and down the side of Agia Ekaterini which the guide book says is now a Theological Museum but was closed; we entered the much more impressive and very much larger Agios Minas Cathedral. Beautifully decorated, and with many fine Byzantine Icons.
Nikos Kazantzakis is one of the best known cultural icons of Crete (1883 - 1957).
The eminent author and thinker was born in Iraklion. He studied Law in Athens and Philosophy in Paris.
When the 20th century dawned in Crete, it brought the wonderful promise of freedom from the Turkish yoke. When a little later, this promise became reality, many creative talents were awakened after centuries of sleep. Before this and especially during the 16th century, literature had blossomed briefly on the island; later, the 18th century witnessed the rise of what was to become known as the "New Cretan School". But the real awakening came with the island's final independence in the begining of the 20th century with a young man called Nikos Kazantzakis who left an impressive amount of work from his first book in 1906 until his untimely death in 1957.
All his work has been translated into a great many languages attaining universal fame. His varied works include poetry, travel logs, philosophical treatise, translations and novels.
"Zorba the Greek" is without doubt the novel that made him famous internationally.
The grave of Nikos Kazantzakis on the bastion of Martinego (in Iraklion) "keeps" his words in greek:
"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"
Walking from the bus station to the port you will see some huge vaulted buildings from the 16th c These are the Venetian Arsenals were ships of the Venetian Navel Fleet were once built, repaired and fitted for battle. The sea is now slightly further away and a road has been built them and the harbour. If you go to the History Museum there is an excellent model of how Heraklion used to look and you will see the port with the arsenals on that.
Just off 25th August St is the church of Agios Titos, a beautiful building, Byzantine in origin then rebuilt in the 16th century by the Venetians. The building was taken over by the Turks who converted it into a mosque and rebuilt it after the 1856 earthquake. It was renovated and re-consecrated by the Greek Orthodox Church in 1925. Fronted by a spacious square to the right side are some lovely gardens and the church bells which are situated outside the church like a garden ornament.
Just "Zorba the Greek," and "The Last Temptation of Christ" would be enough to make the Cretan author Kazantzakis (1883-1957) both well known and controversial. But he has written other books that deserve more attention. He narrowly missed winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1956 ( it is said by some that the Church just may have had something to do with that.) There are 2 rooms dedicated to him at the History Museum on Crete and a Museum dedicated to him not far from Iraklion.
His grave is on the Martinengo Bastion of the City Walls in Iraklion.
After visiting Agia Minas and Agia Ekaterinas we turned left along Ag Mina St heading for the Archaeological museum. It was very very hot and we came across the small Vitsentzou Kornarou square with a graffiti adorned fountain. My son stuck his head in it without caring what may be in the water as long as it was cool he was not bothered.
The history museum takes up were the Archaeology museum ended.
Starting from The early Christian era with much emphasis on the Venetian occupation and the Cretan war (1645-1669) which is illustrated by plans, maps and a highly detailed model of Candia (Heraklion as it was then named). There are rooms with pottery and other ceramics dating back 15 centuries and also the Altar and other finds from Gortys.
The struggle for Greek independence is illustrated by portraits, flags and weapons of revolutionaries. There is a reconstruction of the studies of Crete’s famous writer Nikos Kazantzákis (as well as extracts from his Diary and letters) and Emmanuel Tsouderós who was Greek prime minister at the time of the battle of Crete.
There is a large display about the German, Italian and Bulgarian occupation during the war and also a memorial to Cretan people that were shot by the Germans during the war and buried in mass graves.
Finishing off the exhibition is a large collection of Folk art and handicrafts including a mock up of an old Cretan house.
The monastery and Church of Saint Peter in iraklion was built by Dominican Monks in the early 13th century, it was converted into the mosque of Sultan Ibrahim under the Turks. It contains the only remaining 15th Century frescoes in Heraklion but it is currently closed for restoration and what looks like rebuilding.
It is all a question of expectation.
Most people arrive in Crete after a long flight, expecting to end up in some little white washed village. Instead the bus trails through this lovely ramshackle town with all the noise & traffic that you expect from a city. Well, I love it. Try to spend a few days here to see the other side of this city. I'm, not going to cover the museum with its exquisite Minoan artefacts, or Knossos - they are well covered everywhere. I'm going to briefly look at other treasures.
First of all, if spending the night, there is a shortage of well priced accommodation ( a criticism, perhaps). Most people end up staying at the 'OK' Rea or Lena, judging by the VT forums.
Other places in the city - the Market (Othos 1866) is great: herbs, penknives, leather .. and there is a simple cafe at the far end of the market (Platia Kornarou) with a a pretty Turkish pumphouse. You'll also find some local ouzeris & lunchtime restaurants round here.
The Ayios Titos church is fascinating and in an attractive square with a *very* good kafenion, built from an old ice house. Just behind this area is a huge Kafenion-society area - it comes alive at night. Every possible kind of bar cafe from the traditional to the star-wars. You can't hear a thing over the music & the rattle of frappe straws. Aimed at young local people - you'll be welcome too. El Greco park has many other drink/ food places round it.
Platia Venizelou is where most tourists end up. Come here of a morning and try the local speciality: heaven-in-the-mouth 'bougatsa' with coffee. The is a particularly good bougatsa place at Lion's Square. This delicacy is found elsewhere in Crete but nothing like you get here!
Other places: the Museum of Religious art near the beautiful cathedral - Santa Catherina is a very lovely church in the same area. There is a small free museum about the Battle of Crete (behind archaeological museum), a good aquarium, a Venetian fortress /city walls - on Martinengo bastion, you'll find the the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis.
Iraklion is the capital Crete. This translates into a faster pace of life for the locals, as compared to the other cities and towns on Crete. So, you will find better nightlife, more eating options, and the best museum here. Other than that, Iraklion fails to deliver the atmosphere of true Crete. Hania, Rethymno, and other smaller villages produce a better feel for the traveler, with their nicer people, laid back atmosphere, and better natural beauty. I found Iraklion to be a dirty, hard-line city, with very little flavor. I am sure there are those who found Iraklion to their liking, but for me, it was the least interesting city in all of Greece.
Still not to be missed are Knossos, which is a few minutes by bus south of town, and the Archaeological Museum.
Do not get confused when you see Iraklion as Heraklion. They are one in the same.
One of these churches in the one dedicated to St. Titos. A former mosque which was transformed into an orthodox church in 1923. The scull of the saint is found here.
Opening times: 7am-12pm and 5pm-8pm
admission is free
The Venetians began construction of the city walls in 1462 and they took more than a century to complete. The walls are about 4km in length and of a triangular shape with seven bastions.
The walls proved their worth when the city was besieged for 21 years, one of the longest sieges in history. The final surrender came in 1669 after 100,000 Turks and 30,000 Venetians had been killed.
View from the City Walls
View from the City Walls 2
The Jesus Gate