On our final day in Crete, we had to cover a lot of ground during our short weekend getaway. Prof explored an ancient Roman site in Gortyn. I can’t tell you more about Gortyn than what is on Wikipedia, but Prof expressed that he probably would have been able to glean more from a visit to an archaeological museum, which was closer to the resort.
As you can see in the photos above, overgrown vegetation inhabited much of Gortyn’s archaeological site.
However, there were some interesting inscriptions that I think only Prof and a few other people would appreciate in the world. For the rest of us, here are some interesting facts about this ancient Roman site:
-During Roman rule, which began circa 1st century B.C., Gortyn was the capital city.
– “According to Christian tradition, Titus, a disciple of Apostle Paul, was the first bishop of Gortyn,” said Prof. (How cool was that? We all got a quick lesson on Gortyn, and we didn’t have to leave the comforts of our homes.)
Meanwhile, the kids slept in, which was a first in a long time. I was very happy to see our little ones sleeping peacefully. Once they woke up, we headed to the dining hall for breakfast, and then some free time at the playground.
By the time Prof came back from the site, we had enough time to soak in the heated pool before checking out of the resort.
Prof drove to one more local town, Agios Nikolaos, predominantly a harbor town. The town of Agios Nikolaos derived its name from the patron saint of sailors, St. Nicholas.
The guide also mentioned a lovely little playground for kids in Agios Nikolaos overlooking Lake Voulismeni. Since we didn’t really give the kids a chance to play much, we thought it would be an opportunity to play with other kids in Crete. However, we got a little lost looking for the playground and ended up driving on a bike path. Even getting lost felt magical because the teal blue waters were so clear and clean, and I thought the beaches in Cyprus were beautiful.
Once we parked, we looked for a restaurant I picked out in the guidebook. As we walked past several tourist-driven restaurants by the water, everything looked greasy, fried, fattening, and Greek. Stopping at a nearby kiosk, we asked a few people for directions to the restaurant. A local said the restaurant shut down several months ago and is now a health products store. (Prof said that’s why you can’t always trust a printed guidebook. Things are always changing.) Fortunately, two Filipino women recommended a Chinese restaurant within walking distance. (What!? Chinese food in Crete?) If you can’t find Korean food, going for Chinese food was welcomed news. They were very kind to escort us in the direction of the restaurant, and boy, were we pleasantly surprised to find a local gem.
The restaurant was empty, except for another British couple. We learned of the British couples’ and owner’s background and reasons for settling down in Crete. I tell you, if you come to a restaurant when it’s empty, you get a chance to know people and their stories, which is one of my favorite things about traveling – meeting and sharing life stories with one another.
We ate every morsel of our sweet and sour chicken (our kids’ favorite), fried rice, and shrimp platters. The fried rice tasted so much like fried rice back in the States. It brought back so many fond memories, which was nothing like the fried rice we’ve eaten in Cyprus.
We walked around the town, enjoying the sights of a tourist-driven main street. And yet, we still couldn’t believe how blue the waters were.
After a quick family photo in front of the harbor, we headed back to Heraklion Airport. We got lost for a bit, taking a turn that led us far up into the mountainous terrain. Luckily, we stopped another couple parked along the side of the mountain. They said we could go through the mountain pass, but it would take a very, very, very long time. We were running dangerously low on fuel (because that’s how we like to live on the edge in a foreign country), so we headed slowly back down the mountain. Eventually, we made it back to a familiar looking street and stopped at a petrol station for gas.
(Photo: One of the sites we passed as we were trying to find our way back to Heraklion Airport. The island of Spinalonga was one of the last remaining leper colonies from 1903 to 1957. According to Lonely Planet Crete, Victoria Hislop, a well-known British author, wrote a best-selling novel, The Island, depicting many of the Venetian fortifications in her romantic novel.)
Most of the road infrastructure in Crete consists of one two-lane road in the towns, highways, or mountain passes. If you get caught behind a tour bus, you may have to wait for some time until you are able to safely pass. Think back to the first time you drove and hesitated on making a pass on a single lane road. It can be a little unnerving, especially when you are unfamiliar with a street or cannot see around a curve going up or down a mountain.
We made it back to the airport with plenty of time to spare, but with only a couple of eatery options, we were stuck with a cold cut sandwich or more heavy, greasy foods before our flight departure. (Yuck.)
The kids stayed up during the entire flight since the airline we flew likes to keep the lights on during evening flight service. I recall American airlines usually dimming the lights, and passengers using overhead lights. But hey, this is Cyprus. They sleep well past 12 am most of the time, and I have gotten used to our kids staying up past their bedtimes on overseas trips. I just have to remain flexible for their sake and my sanity.
Of course, they passed out as soon as they were safely secured in their car seats, and Prof and I enjoyed reminiscing about our overseas excursions – past, present, and future.