Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Labyrinth, Minotaur, Crete oh my!

I wanted to go on this cruise as soon as my aunt and uncle mentioned it to me. Greece, Malta, Tunisia, Spain, Portugal, I thought "Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes." It wasn't until I got the itinerary that I learned we were going to Crete, and when I saw that we could tour King Minos' palace, I had to look twice. King Minos, as in the guy who built the labyrinth to house the Minotaur? Wasn't that just a myth?

For those of you who don't remember, King Minos was the guy who thought he could trick Poseidon, the sea god, by sacrificing not the bull Poseidon had sent him, which was exceptionally beautiful, but a substitute bull.

Apparently King Minos hadn't heard any other myths, because the gods always find out when you try to trick them, and they have very creative forms of revenge. In this case, Poseidon made Minos' wife fall in love with the bull, resulting in her bearing its child, a half-man, half-bull--the Minotaur.

Minos had his architect Daedalus construct a labyrinth to house the Minotaur. Wackiness ensued, including children regularly sacrificed to the Minotaur, until Theseus showed up from Athens to kill it. When Minos locked Daedalus and his son in the labyrinth as a punishment for helping Theseus, the clever architect designed wings from wax and feathers so they could escape. What child can forget the story of Icarus, who disobeyed his father, flew too close to the sun, which melted the wax on his wings and sent him plummeting to his death?

The stories swirled through my brain as we drove to Knossos, the archaeological site. The ruins themselves were, especially after the Parthenon, not very impressive--no labyrinth. But walking around the site of Europe's oldest civilization, with settlements dating from 7,000 B.C., I felt inspired as a storyteller, because long after the palaces came crashing down, the stories remained.

Above are recreated frescoes on the palace walls at Knossos.

Below, according to my tour guide, is the oldest road in Europe.

Sailing away from Crete. Pretty, huh?