The Venetian Fortress and Waterfront in Heraklion

After visiting the Heraklion Archaeology Museum, we donned raincoats again and strolled through sprinkles down a nice pedestrian path between a gazillian shops and eateries to a Roman fountain and then a Venetian fortress on the waterfront. It was on the way to the bus station, or so we thought.

The Venetian Fortress

Venetian Fortress, Heraklion, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Venetian Fortress, Heraklion, Crete

Between 1523 and 1540, Venetians, then occupying Greece, built an imposing rock fortress to guard the harbor. They called it “Rocca al Mare,” and it held the Turks off for 21 years. Later, during Turkish occupation, the fortress served as a prison. It’s been closed for renovations and only recently opened.

Fortress entrance, Heraklion, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Venetian fortress entrance, Heraklion, Crete

I loved this place!

The squat, square building felt indestructibly solid, which seems just right for a fortress. It also felt confined, dark, cold, and damp which seems about right for a prison.

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but small openings in the ceiling allow a little light in as well as a little air exchange, not enough of either to really suit me. Tiny shelves high on the walls, accessible only by ladder, seem intended to hold oil lamps or candles. Now, they hold dim LED lights or some such illumination, presumably imitating the amount of light likely in the 16th century, which was a nice touch. Reading would not have been easy.

Numerous passageways and rooms made me feel a little like a rat in a maze, and the tight rock structure made me feel as though we were underground. Horizontal, tunnel-like openings along the sides seem intended for canons, and the quantity of canon balls stacked throughout assured me Crete is ready to defend her harbor still.

A lot of men must have been stationed here to tend all the canons and stand watch. I can imagine it smelled pretty awful with lots of people and so little air exchange.

Wall of Venetian Fortress, Heraklion, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Wall of Venetian Fortress, Heraklion, Crete

Greek flag at Venetian fortress, Heraklion, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Greek flag at Venetian fortress, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

Overall, I’ve concluded I’m more elf than dwarf: Long-term cave dwelling doesn’t appeal to me; I’m drawn to the light and green of forest, field, and mountain. But it was a way-cool place to explore. I think it’d be a fun place for a kid’s birthday party. Hide and seek—or, even better, sardines—would be a blast here!

Venetian Arsenal

Heraklion, from the fortress, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Heraklion, from the fortress, Crete

Outside the fortress, looking back at Heraklion, note those high, old rock arcades.

Venetian Arsenal, Heraklion, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Venetian Arsenal, Heraklion, Crete

The old, wooden Venetian war-galleys were built and mended there. Boats are still pulled in for maintenance and repairs.

Colorful Wooden Fishing Boats

Boats in Heraklion, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Colorful fishing boats in Heraklion, Crete

Cheery, colorful boats line the jetty. The boats in the harbor at Seward don’t look like this.

Boat lips, Heraklion, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Boat lips

Crack me up! These boats have lips like some tropical fish! Mike’s skiff at home needs lips like these. Red ones.

A Mural Surprise

Mural, Heraklion, Crete, Greece - Jen Funk Weber

Mural, Heraklion, Crete

On the way to the bus station, we happened upon this mural of Daedalus and Icarus. Do you know the story?

The Journey Home

Rain picked up when we left the fortress, so we didn’t dawdle en route to the bus station, which turned out to be a dreadful, smoky place. Bus drivers were leaning out their windows, smoking, too lazy, I guess to get out of their busses—which may explain why the bus into the city that morning reeked of smoke—and passengers and employees smoked all around the station entrances. I couldn’t avoid the breath-stealing poison, so I tried not to breathe.

Alas, though we had plenty of busses here to choose from, none would take us home because they were intercity busses, you know, like Greyhounds. We wanted a local-bus bus stop back the way we’d come, near the museum.

Well, it wasn’t drizzly or sprinkling anymore; nope, it was raining. As we re-traced our steps along the pretty pedestrian walkway, it poured. The entirety of cloud plumbing burst. A stream gushed down the center of the walkway. Ducking under an eave, we tried to wait out a downpour, but it hardly mattered. We were dripping by the time we got to the bus stop, and my pants were soaked through to my skin. We had a wet ride and an even wetter walk home, if that was possible. I, at least, had reached saturation point, so “wetter” is not accurate, but new wet kept arriving, displacing old wet.

Warm tea, a warm shower, and a warm dinner made everything right again.

I had two Mystery Skype sessions in the evening. A classroom of second graders and a classroom of fifth graders had to ask yes/no questions and, from my answers, guess where in the world I was. Once they got to Greece, I gave them clues to get them all the way to Crete. The fifth graders also guessed where I live in Alaska. I had a heap of fun!

Categories: Greece, Travel

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