Ruins, Relics, Remnants, and Beautiful Beaches
By Alyssa Tayrien
Filled with ruins, relics, and remnants of ancient and modern occupations, Crete is an island with a rich identity and proud people.
While sitting on the shoreline at Matala, Crete, a little girl of about 5 years old walked up next to me. Without a word, we smiled at each other and began playing in the sand together. After a few minutes, she promptly stood up and just as quickly as she sat down, she ran to join her sister out in the waves… What a thing to grow up in a place like Crete: surrounded by such naturally beautiful landscape and a people shaped by a complex history. Filled with ruins, relics, and remnants of ancient and modern occupations, Crete is an island with a rich identity and a proud people.
This past weekend, all CYA students embarked on an archaeological adventure with various CYA professors to Crete: a place that provides ample opportunity to appreciate both nature and history. We spent a total of 4 full days visiting monuments, museums, coffee shops and coastlines. We surveyed 3 different ancient Minoan settlements, comparing semi-reconstructed sites (like the Palace of Knossos) to sites left “as is” (like the Palace of Phaistos). We discussed empires and lives, which used to flourish in areas that now consist of half torn walls, empty pithoi and lots of rocks. (For the record, they’re really cool rocks.) We spent time on the island of Spinalonga, which has served as a place for everything from a Venetian stronghold, to Ottoman occupied territory, to a Grecian leper colony. We climbed castle walls at the Fortezza of Rethymno, to experience the intensity of the ancient fortress and, of course, to snap photos of breathtaking views. We stopped to tour the Arkadi Monastery, with its magnificent church and important historical significance in Cretan rebellion. By the end of day 3, we made it to the old port town of Chania for dinner.
Old Chania is by far one of the most charming places I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. This somewhat touristy area provides plenty of small shops with fun trinkets, cafes with views of the water, and delicious restaurants. The freshly caught fish did not disappoint, and the free Raki is always a hit. Old Chania purports the pervasive
Grecian take-your-time atmosphere, which exudes from every corner of the port. The people are friendly (albeit somewhat pushy to get you into their restaurants) and the view of the harbor is outstanding, whether seen by moonlight or sunlight. While Crete features fantastic seascapes, its interior is just as beautiful. Our last day on the island included a guide-led hike through the Gorge of Imbros. This downhill trek let us see a different side of Crete and was lovely for someone like myself, who enjoys hiking. (Warning: I heard the journey becomes significantly more difficult without tennis shoes.)
The jam-packed weekend left us with a significant sleep deficit, but it was well worth such an amazing experience. It is a place full of ruins, relics, remnants and beautiful beaches; I’d move to Crete in a heartbeat.
Alyssa Tayrien is pursuing a degree in Communications and Ancient Mediterranean Studies from Trinity University and is an official Fall 2016 CYA blogger!