Heraklion is the major city and capital of
the largest Greek island of Crete. Its Archaeological Museum holds the remains of the 3000-year
old Minoan civilization, which grew around the nearby legendary palace of Knossos, as
well as Byzantine churches and a well-preserved Venetian wall and fortress from the 15th century. Heraklion is the capital of Crete and an industrialised
city of around 155,000 residents. The modern city is densely populated and traffic chocked,
at first overwhelming the visitor. However, in recent years, things have began to change
and efforts are being made to bring out the beauty of the city’s rich cultural history.
Strolling along the coastline, the city Wall, or down a park can reveal various historical
remains of potentially immense interest to the watchful eye. The knowledgeable visitor
will be able to trace the past under the urban sprawl of the present. The core of the city
is still enclosed and defined by the Venetian wall, which includes seven outjutting bastions.
In the southernmost of these, the Martinengo Bastion, is the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis
standing on a windswept hilltop with its moving inscription, “I hope for nothing.
I fear nothing. I am free.” Knossos is the site of the most important
and best known Minoan palace complex in Crete. It is located some 5 km south of Heraklion.
According to tradition, Knossos was the seat of the legendary Cretan king Minos. The Palace
is also connected with further legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur,
as well as the story of Daidalos and Ikaros. Excavation has revealed that the site was
continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period until Roman times.