Crete, a Unique Place on Earth

*By Wikitravel*

THE HISTORY

Crete was the center of the Minoan civilization, a sophisticated Bronze Age culture from 2600-1150 B.C.: the island bears witness to their achievements in the form of palaces, tombs and sacred sites. This civilization was so sophisticated that they even had a large navy. The Minoan decline was likely initiated by tsunami waves from the eruption of a huge volcano in Santorini, Greece in 1450 B.C. Towards the end of the Late Bronze Age, the Minoans were superseded by Mycenaens from the Greek mainland. Thereafter, Crete very much followed in the classical mainstream of Greece and – much later – Rome.
The island was invaded by Romans from 69-330 A.C. and this period of time plus the Byzantine era actually brought much wealth to the Island. The beauty and wealth of this time can still be seen today by mosaics and monuments around the island.
Crete was the site of an airborne invasion by German troops, and a spirited resistance by Allied (mainly British, New Zealand and Australian) troops and the people of Crete during the 1941 Nazi invasion of Greece. During this invasion many Cretans were executed for initially resisting the Germans and the cities of Hania and Iraklion were bombed so heavily that you may still see the destruction even today.
Crete history is very much related to famous myths like when the King of Crete, Minoas, refused to sacrifice a bull to the Greek gods. Poseidon in turn forced Minos’s wife to fall in love with a bull which created the mythical beast, the Minotaur.

THE ISLAND

Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and is in the Mediterranean Sea between the Sea of Crete and the Libyan Sea, south of the Peloponese. Crete is approximately 260 km long and 60 km wide. It consists of four prefectures: Hania, Rethymno, Iraklion and Lasithi. If there was a beauty contest for Greek islands, Crete would surely be among the favorites. Indeed, some say there is no place on earth like Crete. This view is strongly supported by those fortunate enough to have visited the island.  With a population of approximately 650,000, is not just sun, sea and sand; it is a quite distinct place full of vitality, warmth, hospitality, culture and of course an excellent infrastructure. Crete is well known for its seas and beaches but it has a very contrasting landscape. The island goes from fertile coastal plains to rugged mountains and from busy metropolitan cities to very peaceful hillside villages. If you travel throughout the island you can clearly see remnants of Roman and Turkish aqueducts and architecture from when these people invaded the island long ago. You will also find ancient Minoan ruins around the island.

CRETE’S LANDSCAPES

Unless you stay only in an all-inclusive beach resort, you will have to drive places. This reveals the diversity and beauty of the Cretan landscapes. Tall mountains rise steeply from the sea and spectacular views of the sea are available from many points. Lush valleys and mountainsides support olive groves, vineyards, orange and lemon orchards, fields of artichokes, and olive trees. There are dramatic gorges and idyllic beaches. There are thickly forested areas and desert-like areas filled with exotic cacti and palm trees.