Day 308, Gortyna, Phaistos, Matala

Sunday, 10/6/2019

Everyone’s feeling end-of-trippy. The conversation as we assembled for 9am departure was all about who’s got what flight on Wednesday, and how gawd-awful early will they have to get up? But today is today.

We drove an hour south of Heraklion, over a mountain range, through the very scenic Cretan countryside, to the Archaeological site of Gortyna (not to be confused with a place of that name on the Greek mainland). Here a theater built by the Emperor Trajan incorporated inscribed stones from an earlier structure, the text spelling out one of the earliest known legal codes, now called the Gortyn Code. Here’s a segment of it.

Anastasia says it is read left to right and right to left in alternate lines, and is in the Minoan/Doric dialect of Ancient Greek.

From there we went to the much larger site of Phaistos (pron. “festus”), another huge palace like the one at Knossos and contemporary with it. This site sits on a ridge with great views in all directions. Here’s looking North from the car park.


The site itself is like Knossos, a few acres of waist-high walls and stairs.


It takes study and imagination to recreate some idea of what went on here in 1600BCE. Actually I don’t find it that rewarding. It’s great that they found and preserved these things and all, but…

Now came a surprise, to me: the seaside town of Matala. This is a pretty resort on a beautiful beach between sandstone cliffs. In the cliffs are ancient caves.


So far, so normal. The first surprise was this carved tree stump where we got out of the coach.


Lyrics from John Lennon’s “Imagine” written on the pavement. Across the street, a VW bug with flowers painted on it. What’s going on? The source of all this hippie vibe is Joni Mitchell, who stayed briefly in the caves with other wandering kids in 1965 or so, and wrote a song about it. This blog post collects all she ever said about the experience. But the merchants of the town took off on the 60s counter-culture theme and rode it hard. The place is full of shops selling t-shirts with Jimi Hendrix or VW vans on them, and so on. We had a nice lunch. I bought a t-shirt.

We headed back, arriving at 5pm. Supper is at 7pm. I took the time to do the final laundering of the trip. I have the necessary clean items to carry me through Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday when I will arrive home.


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