Our first stop of the day was the ancient Minoan palace of Knossos, located about 7 kilometers from Iraklion. We got a late start, arriving around 10AM, just in time to meet a group of cycle tourists on a package tour of the area! Everyone was very friendly; we gave out a few cards and received a delicious local pastry, the name of which I cannot recall. It is always nice to meet other cycle tourists. In fact, this turned out to be the highlight of our visit.
Ever since Tara took a course in college about Minoan society, she has wanted to see the palace we visited today. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bit of a let down. We've seen quite a few acheological sites on this trip and this one wasn't much different than any of the others.
We were mostly disappointed to learn that the site featured elaborate additions by 19th century archeologist Arthur Evans, acting almost entirely upon supposition. It was hard to tell what we were looking at, and we again made a point to keep our expectations in check when it comes to paid tourist attractions.
Leaving inland Knossos, we doubled back for a day of riding east along the coast. As we reached the sea, the sun made a welcome appearance. While it emerged from the clouds, as if by some magic, the ocean beside us transformed from dull grey into an incredibly vibrant blue. The change was so remarkable that we decided to take a break so we could watch the waves and walk along the beach. It reminded us very much of the French Riveria.
Leaving the beach, we continued eastward on our way to the Lasithi plateau. The rest of our ride followed closely to the coast, rising and falling easily over quiet seaside hills.
In Greece, we've noticed a marked increase in the ratio of stray dogs to cats. Many of them hang out in scruffy, rag-tag packs of all sizes, breeds and ages. When we pass the doggie-gangs, we almost always recieve a cacophony of barking hellos. Today we zipped by a group that were all zonked out beside a building. Not a single one of them stirred! I wanted to get a picture, so we stopped shortly after; the photos below are the result:
They really needed some attention. Poor little dudes, all they want is food and someone to love them!
In the quaint tourist town of Malia, mostly empty in the off-season, we found an abandoned waterpark right next to the beach. There were weird signs saying "This beach is for everyone!" posted everywhere, so we felt no hesitation whatsoever to make ourselves at home.
A sheltered snackbar made for a perfect sand-free beachside free-camp, complete with a roof in the unlikely event of rain. While setting up, I had a severe bout of deja vu which was explained only when I remembered a similarly deserted Italian stealth camp we'd enjoyed back in September. While I assembled our home and Tara made dinner (spaghetti for me, spicy peanut noodles for her), we watched a wetsuit wearing surfer bringing in the cold waves.
As we were putting the finishing touches on supper, the surfer emerged from the ocean and waved a friendly hello. A few minutes later we met Dimitri, a really nice guy from Canada. He invited us to stay with him and a friend for the night, but since we were already set up, we declined as graciously as we could.
Before leaving, he recommended we visit Zeus' birthplace, a cave on the Lasithi plateau. Apparently countless worshipers and philosophers have visited it over the centuries. I'll be bringing my field recorder, hopefully to capture what Dimitri referred to as "a symphony of raindrops." Cool!