Sailing once again overnight, we arrived at the port of Heraklion in Crete in the early morning, and swiftly departed for two locations: the ruins of historic Knossos, and the city of Phaistos in the south. Those of us who had never seen Knossos chose to go there to see the ancient palace where King Minos ruled, and where the legendary Minotaur prowled the labyrinth, swallowing people whole.
Knossos, or the Palace of Knossos, is the oldest site that we visited save the city of Troy. The existing remains date back to 1700 B.C. when the palace was begun and added to for the next several hundred years. There are no fortification walls around the city; the inhabitants seem to have had no appreciable enemies.
Like Troy, the city of Knossos takes shape mostly via the imagination. The site remained largely covered until it was bought in 1900 by English archeologist Arthur Evans, who within a matter of months unearthed what he claimed to be the palace of King Minos. Until that time, the location and the existence of the palace were in question.
The more than 1000 rooms, mostly interconnected, support the mythological description of the labyrinth designed and built by Daedalus and inhabited by King Minos and his Minotaur. At the time, the Minoan civilization was powerful and exacted taxes from its neighbors. The price Athens paid, according to legend, was seven young men and seven young women every year to be fed to the Minotaur. From this circumstance springs the legend of Theseus, who came to Crete and with the help of Minos’s daughter Ariadne, slew the beast and ran off with her, only to leave her on the island of Naxos.
The palace endured several massive destructions, borne out by research. One may have been the eruption of Thera (the volcano of Santorini where we would head the next day).
Blackened stones indicate a massive fire. The tsunami caused by the volcanic explosion perhaps hit the city with a tidal wave, that could have upset oil lamps, causing the fire.
There still seems to be a lot of speculation and controversy, but scholars seem to agree that this place is indeed the ancient Knossos palace. Excavations have revealed the legendary plumbing that was enjoyed in the palace, as well as the unique red-painted Minoan columns, the throne room, and many frescoes. Altogether, it was a thrilling place to set foot in, even during a rain storm.
Once again the musicians were hurried back to the boat to fetch the instruments and head for the afternoon concert at the Basilica of St. Mark, in Lion’s Square in downtown Heraklion.
Standing in front of the church is a beautiful 17th century fountain constructed during Venetian occupation. The gushing mouths of the lions solved the water supply problem, providing the citizens with 1000 barrels per day.
Our program featured two piano trios: Haydn’s famous “Gypsy” trio (with Arnaud Sussmann), and the enormous Schubert Trio No. 2 in Eb (with Philip Setzer). Both Wu Han and Phil provided background on the works before the performances, as was our custom in every concert.
After the long concert we stepped out into the beautiful glow of the evening, and left much of our audience with our violinists to enjoy a dinner in the town.
Our reward for carrying the violins back to the ship was the warm ovation we received on the bus.
To see more photos of Knossos and Heraklion on our Flickr page, please click here.