Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

GREECE: Crete by Car – Day 3

200 Of These Open Graves In This

Yawning a little from lack of sleep and after our basic breakfast (German cold cuts and rolls) from the hotel we chose to visit the Minoan Grave site near Armeni. I must admit that I was not enthused about going to see a bunch of graves but Carol wanted to see them so I relented. I am glad I did. We had a bit of a difficult time setting our finicky GPS to find Armeni and the Minoan Necropolis, but we found it just as they opened up in the morning. 
About To Peek Inside One of the Larger Tombs

We were the first to enter that day and the morning was stunning. The area is overgrown with trees and since it is just Spring time, everything was bright green and blooming. Fields of flowers and blossoming trees greeted us. Within our immediate vision holes had been dug into the earth. Not straight down, but with a ramp-like passage-way leading downwards. At the end of the passage was a chamber, the actual grave. The entrance to each grave chamber was rather small and a cover stone, normally over the opening, stood aside showing that when the rituals were done, these graves were sealed off with a ‘door’. 
Hans About To Enter the Largest Tomb

Many, many graves had been dug. Some of them were large, some of them small. If there was a system to the burials I could not see it. Small graves were next to large graves. There did not seem to be a preference as to which way the corpses were placed inside the crypts. 

One very large tomb was accessible by some stairs dug into the rock surface and then a long ramp. This descending ramp was 15.5 meters long (50 feet). At the end of the hand dug, I should say hewed (it was carved out of the rock face of the hill) passage was a large mausoleum-like chamber. Inside, benches were carved along all 4 sides. I sat on one of those benches, in the very dark trying to understand how it would feel to be ‘dead’. I know it’s morbid, but I tend to try seeing how it must have felt like all those years back.
It Was Pitch Black Inside This Tomb. The Only Light Came
From the Narrow Doorway and My Flash.

How far back?  The whole of it carbon dates back to 1400 to 1200 BC. It was the late Minoan time. Copper was the largest item of trade. There is an old copper mine 4 KM away that was mined at that time already. From records found, the copper was traded as far away as Cyprus, their main customer. Wow!

Sitting there, I thought of old people being buried here, but was surprised to learn that most were very young. From bone samples found in the more than 300 graves so far excavated, it was determined that the average age for males was between 28 to 31 when they died. The females even younger, 20 to 25 years for them; probably due to child bearing risks then.  From written records it was determined that 50% of the children did not reach the age of 5. It must have been brutal living in Minoan times.
A Picture of Some of the Artifacts Found In the Tombs

We saw some artifacts at the Archeological Museum in Heraklion, we saw the splendor of the palaces in Knossos where we saw the elite glorified, but those people here at the cemetery were most likely the people from the nearby copper mine. Those people knew how to dig ore out of rock, they knew how to dig holes into stone walls, so I guess they used the same techniques when digging the graves here in Armeni. The shafts and the grottoes clearly show tools being used to chisel out the depressions. And it must have taken some time to dig out a large tomb with a passageway 50 feet long with a large, fancy chamber at the end. Sure those tombs were not used for just one person. The archeologists determined that those graves were for families. So a large tomb like the one I sat in was probably used for a whole clan. When they opened this particular grave (Dig # 200) 
The Tomb Was Deep Underground So Many Steps Needed
To Escape This Crypt
they found weapons, jewelry, jars and parts of a wooden stretcher a for-bearer of a wooden coffin? The digs, which started in 1969, are still continuing; albeit the new digs are not open for the public. What we were able to visit is interesting and good enough to understand that life in the Minoan times was difficult. I felt reborn when I stepped back out into the sunshine, after sitting in the dark for some time. It was a bit weird, I admit, but I collect all kinds of experiences, why not this one?
We moseyed out of the Necropolis in no hurry. 
My Flash Caught the Cobwebs Inside This Tomb.
Some Tombs Were Very Roughly Hewn

Those graves have been there for now close to 3500 years. And only in the last 50 years they were found? What else is in Crete that has not been found? Crete is a very rugged place; you have to be kind of a mountain climber to wander around. I am quite sure there are still hidden spots that need to be discovered. I am too old now to search for them, you, the one who reads this, are you up to it? 
Looking For Stavros

The day is wondrous, the sun shines and it feels truly like springtime. So where do we go to next? How about the beach where Zorba the Greek was filmed in 1964? Remember Anthony Quinn dancing as Zorba at the beach? Ah, you missed a good black and white movie if you have not seen it. It’s a classic, dig it out on YouTube and watch it. 

We nod to each other, Carol and I, when we think of this movie. Last year Jean and Ross Copas spent some time near Zorba’s Beach and told us about it. So today we are off to take a personal look at the location. We sit in the car and enter Stavros into the GPS and we get a lot of options for Stavros. So we enter Stavros, Crete and still get 3 or 4 options. Which Stavros do we 
Hard To Miss It Once We Got There
 have to go to? We know it’s near Chania so we try that one. Nope, the machine does not know Chania. Comparing it with a primitive map we have, we enter the closest large town and then we just ask for Zorba’s beach when we get close. Sounds like an idea, so we are off. When we get close to Chania we note that they spell it Khania or even Hania, ah, the Greeks. At least we are in the right direction, it’s North from here on the Akrotiri peninsula.

We find it, with lots of twists and turns we get to it. Well close to it. A building, an old windmill, is being restored at the beach and we asked the young man who wants to turn this old windmill building into a restaurant, where exactly Zorba danced. This is Greece. First I get a tour of the almost finished windmill (restaurant). 
The Windmill Restaurant ("In a Week"!)
Nice work, I have to admit. They kept the old but also added modern stuff inside. It looks a little helter-skelter with tools everywhere but it looks nice. I asked him when he thinks he will have his grand opening. Ah, yes, he said: “in about a week”.  I looked at him and he must have seen the question on my face. “A week?” said I. “Well, you know, a Greek Week” was his answer. Greece is like that. 
He had no clue as to the exact place Zorba danced but he took out his cell phone, downloaded the part of Zorba's dance on YouTube and showed it to me, we could now compare the location with what was on the film background. Perfect. We found the exact spot.

Click to see Zorba's Dance

Then: Nothing There Except Sand and Mountains

Naturally we went down and stood where Zorba stood. It was a spot where a smile crept to my face. Life is good. Imagine that you can recreate this spot from nothing more than memory and an old movie. The mountain is still there. The rail tracks are still on the mountain, the entrance to the mine is visible, and the tide still goes in and out. It seems nothing has changed but the reality is that today this area is full of houses and restaurants and vacationers. In 1964 you could have bought the whole area for peanuts. Not today. Only 50 years later but what a difference. 
Now: Beach Chairs, Kids and Mom

We had lunch at Zorba’s Restaurant (naturally) right opposite the beach. Our view was the mountain, the harbor, the small strip of sand, all that stuff that is in the movie but in addition we saw the parking lot, the shower head to clean the salt water off your body, the beach chairs, and the kids playing in the rather frigid seawater. Never mind all that, though, we had a good time following our desire to visit Zorba’s beach. And……. life is good……. Opa! 

The way back to Heraklion was straight ahead on the main road. We returned the car and took the bus back to the apartment. Easy peasy!
Also There Is a Restaurant, Housing, Boats and a Pier.
Zorba Danced Near the Red Chairs.

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