“Exploring Crete” is Peter Sommer Travels’ first scheduled tour in 2017. This year, to give an impression of the experience, we are providing a diary of sorts on our blog. Rather than describing every day in detail (you can check our itineraries on www.petersommer.com for that), every day we will pick one image we took that day, accompanied by some explanations and thoughts.
A colourful picture reflecting a colourful day.
This morning, we descended from our current abode high up in the Asterousia Mountains, and from the very clouds, down into the Mesara, Crete's largest plain, stretching out far below us like an undulating sea of olive trees. The day was devoted to the important antiquities in the eastern part of this fertile heartland of the island.
The most famous archaeological tour was to the Minoan Palace of Phaistos, which thrived between 1,900 and 1,450 BC and was the second largest after Knossos. The site is justly praised for its good preservation, for its charming location overlooking the Mesara and for the elaboration and beauty of the artefacts found here, especially the painted pottery. We also paid a visit to the nearby site of Agia Triada, a palatial Minoan centre in a lovely setting, of poorly understood role or function, but of incredibly rich and fascinating finds.
By lunchtime, we found ourselves at Voroi (or Vori) a sleepy and calmly imposing village going back to the Venetian era four five centuries ago, like so many in the area. I like Voroi a lot: the place is highly pretty in a very unspectacular way, it contains one of my favourite tavernas in Crete and it is home to the Museum of Cretan Ethnology, one of the most important folklore museums in all of Greece.
It is on of our secret highlights - one that all our guests enjoy but few of them expect: a superb collection of artefacts of many types from all over the island, carefully arranged and displayed to present and explain the traditional lifestyles that dominated much of the island for centuries or even millennia, and aspects of which survive to the present day. Nearly every aspect of traditional Cretan life is represented at Voroi: architecture, agriculture, hunting and fishing, bee-keeping, wood-carving, basketry and pottery, weaving, knitting, embroidery, traditional costumes, and much more, all present in form of the respective activity's artefacts, objects, accoutrements and products.
One of the many little treasures of Voroi is the colourful kilim-type weaving shown here. It is made of wool, a major export of Crete since the Bronze Age, coloured with natural dyes derived mostly from local plants. Such woven rugs were used in many ways, for example as wall hangings, floor covers and bedspreads.
Tomorrow, we head west...