1st July 2006
Today I bought a coach ticket to Malia, which was quite reasonable, five Euros I think return. The drive was very comfortable and thankfully in an air-conditioned bus whose final stop was Malia, so it did not actually seem difficult at that point. However, we arrived in a small town, which kind of reminded me of an English high street except for the extreme heat and people walking around in swimwear. The driver yelled “End of the Line, everyone off! Oh no, I thought, this isn’t right. I asked the ticket collector if I was in the right place, and he said that yes this was the modern town of Malia and that the ancient site was three miles up the road! There was no bus either. I got off at the little town of Malia and thought, oh well I’ve come this far, may as well go the distance. So off I trekked. It wasn’t long before I left the town and started heading along the highway, in the searing heat. The heat in Crete was unlike anything I had experienced before; it was hotter than it was in Egypt and much drier than Australia and I could feel my shoulders burning as I walked. Luckily, I had learned from my mistakes on the island cruise and brought sunscreen with me which I stopped to put on.
I trekked further and further down the deserted highway, I must have walked three miles before I saw a sign with the archaeological site symbol and the word “MALIA” 3 miles written on it. I thought I’m never going to get there, but I thought, this is the point of no return keep going! I was also starting to get a little panicked because my guidebook said that the site closed at 3:30pm and it was already 2:30pm. So, I had to walk at a fast pace
I continued down the highway, which was quite busy and realised that unlike in Australia where a young girl like me would get beeped at and have all kinds of things yelled at her, here in Crete it was strangely quiet, and I was able to walk down the highway to my destination without being harassed and I actually enjoyed the walk.
I reached the site at 3:25pm and prayed that some good Samaritan was running it, after checking the opening hours I noticed the site didn’t actually close until 5:30pm, which pleased me no end and I decided to sit and have a drink at the café before having a look at the site. After my cool down I headed to the small museum to view information about the site’s discovery and subsequent excavation. I then went out to the palace, which apart from me was completely deserted. The palace at Malia was noticeably smaller than that at Knossos and had not been restored at all and most of the ruins only reached the height of my hip or lower. I did manage to stand next to a giant pithos, which was as tall as I was and take a picture. I also viewed the crypt and actually stood in the grain storage bins. I went into its central court and took a picture, “two central courts” I said to myself proudly, I still couldn’t believe that I had actually managed the mammoth journey. I walked through the central court and almost tripped over a stone that was lodged in the ground, I realised that this circular stone was actually the reason for the site’s importance. It is a round stone with circular impressions which descend towards the middle of the stone, archaeologists can only speculate at its use.
Of course, after my visit I had to make the long trek back and get the bus to Heraklion. As I had made such an effort to get here, I decided to buy myself a small souvenir from the nearby shop and bought a guidebook to the site as books on this place are quite rare. I then made the long trek back, six miles in the burning heat with the beautiful mountains on one side of me and pristine Aegean beach on the other. The walk back did not seem as far, and the scenery was to die for.
I reached the modern town of Malia and had a little look around before I got the bus back to Heraklion. It was only about 4pm and I had noticed that the archaeological museum was open until 6pm so I decided to give that a go. It only cost me 2 Euros as a student to get in and it was a great visit. I saw all the frescoes which had been taken from the palace at Knossos, including the famous “Bull Leapers” as well as some beautiful Kamares Ceramics and the famous ring of Minos. I also saw the Phaestos disk, a small round disk with pictographic symbols on it which no one can yet decipher. I saw many fascinating things including a few things which reminded me of things I had seen in Egypt and took some pictures of them.
I left the museum and headed for Hotel Castello where I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner at the hotel roof top restaurant. The food was lovely, and the view was amazing. From my seat I could see over the rooves of the buildings and into people’s apartments and beyond that I could see the sea and another island, shrouded in a grey mist, which floated about like steam. I went back to my room feeling full, a feeling I had certainly not felt for a while. I decided to have a shower and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was a shadow of my former self. All the walking around and eating once a day had really taken its toll and I hadn’t even noticed it happening. I had gone away a size 16 and now I was what looked like a size 10….. “Thank you, Greece!” I happily said to myself.
I then went back up to the restaurant and treated myself to a nice ice-cream sundae and sat looking at the lights of Heraklion and writing in my travel journal. It was now dark, and I could see the pretty little white lights from the villages on the hills surrounding the city. I had never seen so many stars out as I had that night and at points I couldn’t tell where the villages on the hills started, and the sky began.