Sunday, September 30, 2007

Malia Heraklion Crete

Malia (Greek: Mάλλια) is a coastal town and a municipality on the island of Crete, in Greece, 34km west of Heraklion, the Cretan capital city. It is the seat of the municipality of Malia which also includes the villages Mohos, Krassi and the area of Stalis. The town is a tourist attraction, primarily for its prolific archeological site and nightlife. The Minoan town ruins lie 3 km east of the site and cover an area of approximately 1km². The original name for the town is not known but rumour has it that Emperor Pannos had called it Aegean Sky way back in 69 BC.

The palace of Malia, dating from the Middle Bronze Age, was destroyed by an earthquake during the Late Bronze Age; Knossos and other sites were also destroyed at that time. The palace was later rebuilt toward the end of the Late Bronze Age. Most of the ruins visible today date from this second period of construction. The palace features a giant central courtyard, 48m x 23m in size. On the south side are two sets of steps leading upwards and a maze of tiny rooms. Also here is a strange carved stone called a kernos stone, which looks like a millstone with a cup attached to the side of it. On the north side of the courtyard were storage rooms with giant earthenware pithos jars, up to two metres tall. These were presumably used for holding olive oil and other liquids; the floor of these rooms has a complicated drainage system for carrying away spilled liquids.

The palace of Malia was discovered in 1915 by Hadzidakis, a Greek archaeologist. It was fully excavated from 1922 onwards by the French School at Athens in collaboration with Greek scholars. Importantly, the palace was surrounded by a Minoan town which has only recently been uncovered. Excavation is still ongoing here. Important parts of the old and new excavations are covered by a series of large semi-transparent roofs, which protect them from the elements. In places tourists are allowed to wander among the ruins; in others, walkways allow them to walk above them. There are rooms which have been identified as metal workshops, ceramic workshops and meeting rooms.

Tourism and commerce are the main economic activities in the town. Modern day Malia is a seaside resort with plenty of gift shops, hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The prominence of Malia as one of the leading spots for nightlife in Europe is cemented by the attraction of big name DJs and events.

Pirate Barbarossa

Pirate Barbarossa and Captain Jack Sparrow...What has Johnny Depp got to do with Crete?

Whilst Geoffery Rush plays Captain Barbarossa in the films Pirates of the Caribbean, the real Barbarossa was infamous for violent attacks, pillaging and stealing treasures, ruining townships and generally wreaking havoc. Oh yes, that is what pirates do, isn’t it?

Barbarossa was in fact two men, brothers, both named after the older’s red hair and beard. They were unwelcome visitors to Crete in the late 16th century with attacks on Sitia, Chania, Kastelli-Kissamos, Paleohora and many other towns.

The Barbarossa brothers were Aruj and Khayrad'din, both born in Lesbos, and roamed the waters of the Mediterranean as corsairs. For centuries the kingdoms of Algeria, Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli engaged in a system of state-sponsored piracy, capturing ships in Mediterranean waters and attacking coastal European villages. They used the victims as slave labour in their home ports.

The Barbarossa brothers were infamous for their domination of the trading lines across the Mediterranean. They had ports all along the Barbary Coast in the north of Africa. In later life, they had ruling powers over Algeria with direct line to the sultan and part of Ottoman domination of the region.

Fighting against Christians and Christian corsairs, it is said that Aruj was captured by the Knights of St John and later killed by Spanish crusaders in 1518.

It is hard to say that these Barbarossa’s ever got anywhere near the Caribbean, but why let that get in the way of a good story?

Today there is a pirate boat moored in Rethymnon harbour with real-life pirates ready to take you for a day trip. You might just see some local turtles while you are there on the open sea. Lucky for us, these days there are no real pirates to attack while we are enjoying a cruise.