Friday, April 13, 2007

Crete: The island of the Gods

Crowning the southern-most part of the Aegean, Crete has been standing there for centuries, proud bearer of its past; a past that blends myth and historical fact, power and demise, leadership and defeat, but never subjugation, never weakness. Its terrain unpredictable... filled with mountain ranges, intense and defying, serene plateaus - blessed with the rich vegetation that only gods could bestow on this island - interspersed with wide expanses of serene valleys and gentle hills, that meet the waters of the sea, some times with fierce determination, others with quiet resolve.

The island of King Minos and a civilization that left its mark on the world, faced the voracious appetite of conquerors from mainland Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetians, was raided by pirates and invaded by armies who cruised the Mediterranean in search of riches and power.

The proof of this in every corner of the land; in Chania, Rethymno , Iraklio, Lassithi. Finds of long-forgotten civilizations, castles with thick walls and deep moats, monasteries and churches, standing along-side minarets and mosques, they are all testaments to the turbulent past of this corner of Greece. And the people!!!... Proud as the mountains, strong as the waves that beat upon its shores, yet gentle and generous, bearers of age-old traditions and culture.

This is the birthplace of gods and heroes, divine artists and inspired politicians: Zeus and Minos, El Greco, Kornaros, Kazatzakis, Venizelos ... From myth, to antiquity, to renaissance, to modern Greek history, figures who contributed of themselves to what today makes up Crete, Greece and to some extend Western civilization.