Letter from Crete
Evans, James Allen, Contemporary Review
New Year's Day on Crete dawned mild and bleary. All the archaeological sites were closed and deserted except for a small handful of sightseers who clustered disconsolately before the locked gates. We drove our Fiat over a rutted road to Hagia Triada where there are two prehistoric 'Minoan' villas side by side, which yielded a cache of tablets with 'Linear A' writing to the Italian archaeologists who excavated them. The entrance was padlocked. But there were crocuses thrusting up their blooms through the grass on the hill above the site, which served as a consolation prize. We drove on to Phaistos, the site of a 'Minoan' palace which was abandoned suddenly about 1500 BC. The ticket booth was empty and the gates were closed. We pushed on to Miris which has grown into an unlovely borough in the past few years: 'not a superficially attractive town,' says the Blue Guide, 'but the thriving centre of this agricultural region.' There were only a few pedestrians on the main street this New Year's Day, and an occasional dog. Gortyn, further north on the way to Iraklion, has some classical remains and a ruined Christian basilica, for it used to be the capital of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaica. Crumbling Roman foundations peep up in an olive grove beside the highway. Two men were sitting in front of the little museum by the entrance to the archaeological site. Hopeful, we parked the car. The two men said kleisto, more or less in unison. Closed. Gortyn has a famous inscription containing its law code, which is engraved on stone blocks in a small Roman odeon, and it is the earliest law code we have from ancient Greece. We left it behind, got back into our car and made for Iraklion which, as the capital city of the island, should display more life.
My wife and I had taken the night boat from Piraeus to Crete just after Christmas, a groggy period in Athens which does not end until Epiphany. The street vendors sell sprigs of holly, the traffic on the streets becomes a trifle less overwhelming, and even the students who have been blockading roads and occupying schools to advertise their dislike of the education reforms which are being …
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Publication information: Article title: Letter from Crete. Contributors: Evans, James Allen - Author. Magazine title: Contemporary Review. Volume: 274. Issue: 1598 Publication date: March 1999. Page number: 132+. © 1999 Contemporary Review Company Ltd. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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