WPC: Abandoned Minoan Ruins of Crete

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme this week is ‘Abandoned’.  The scope here is endless, open as always to individual interpretation.  It could be about buildings, ruins, wastelands, or things that are overlooked.  It could also be about people.  I knew what I would write about if it were a writing challenge but then it came to me immediately which photographs I wanted to share and so the decision was easy this time.

In 2010, Hubby and I visited Crete for our first time (we have been twice).  Hiring a car is the way to go with so many delights to explore away from the tourist trail. Not only hidden coves that open up at the end of narrow, dusty roads but desolate ruins from an ancient civilization to be discovered in the most deserted of places.

It was during one of our drives off the beaten track that we came across some ancient Minoan ruins which date back as far as the 27th century BC.  I share here some of my photos of these ruins, together with a short piece I wrote a couple of years ago for a writing assignment.

For this assignment, I had  to describe a place to the extent that others reading it would feel as if they were there so I wrote about these ruins of an ancient Minoan civilisation, reminded as I was by stirred-up memories of a place which was to me so beautifully enthralling in its desolation, in its abandonment.

I hope you enjoy my take on this week’s challenge.

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The dusty road was narrow and meandered along the edge of the valley below taking us higher with every curve and bend as we drove, the tyres clinging to the road’s edge as if for dear life.  Inside our hire car the cooling air conditioning made us forget about the intense heat burning outside. Olive trees growing on the other side of the road twisted their branches towards each other providing shade for small herds of wandering mountain goats.

Cretan Valley (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Cretan Valley
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

We reached the top of the road and parked.  Getting out of the car we were reminded of the heat as it instantly blasted away all memories of cool comfort. Brown, bone-dry dirt crunched beneath our sandals as we walked towards the entrance of the ruins of an ancient Minoan Palace, our destination.

Lush grape vines grew along both sides of a small path and after a short walk they fell away, revealing in the distance a stunning view stretching out beyond and far below the palace ruins. A turquoise sea, sparkling like thousands of diamonds in the shimmering sun just as it had done so long ago, as if declaring itself to be a royal mantel for Neptune himself.

View of of the Libyan Sea, Crete (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

View of of the Libyan Sea, Crete
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

The contrasting green of the hills cascading down to the yellow sand far below gave such colour as to have inspired long ago stories of Minoan legend and its art, left behind for us to marvel at today.

Transfixed as we were with the beautiful vista, we turned away and began to explore the ruins all around us. We climbed over crumbling foundations and broken walls and could see where once there had been private living quarters, a communal meeting area, a store-room, evidence of a kitchen and even a cistern and a well.  Ancient irrigation!  There too, the King’s bedroom!

An entire community of people had lived here thousands of years before us, working, marrying, raising families, worshipping, dying.

We stood still in the quiet, fierce heat trying to imagine what life must have been like here, so long ago.   This paradise provided an ancient, Cretan people with fresh fish, olives, grapes, nuts, fruits and vegetables on the vine,  plentiful and abundant and they would not have suffered bitter cold.  It seemed an idyllic existence, and for a time it would have been.

This paradise would have been lost to the Minoans of course when the Turks invaded and the once beautiful, untouchable Palace was destroyed and left to rot.

But the ruins cried out day and night for an eternity until someone discovered them and they were once again given to the pleasure of people walking among them and admiring them, even if now in their fallen state.  They gave testament to a proud, peaceful race and we were privileged to have been shown a glimpse of a long-ago but not forgotten way of life.  The ruins were where they had always belonged and they were happy.

Hiding in the trees, cicadas chirruped their grating, summer song interrupting our imaginings and reminding us of the present.  It was time to say goodbye, and we turned to walk back along the path with grateful hearts.

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As a final note, it was nice to see that these ruins weren’t totally abandoned; these turtles were certainly at home swimming about in the ancient wells and cisterns!

To find out what others are up to with this week’s photo challenge click on the orange ‘post a week’ button on my sidebar. 

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
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72 Responses to WPC: Abandoned Minoan Ruins of Crete

  1. Denise says:

    These are amazing pictures.

    I just read a review of Natalie Haynes’ new book.  She was a classicist before becoming a comedian/writer and her book is based on Greek myth.  I don’t know that much about classical civilisation, have never been interested, but since I read about ancient philosophy and listened to Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, I have realised what a rich world and how so many things about the ancient world call out to us still.  

    Seeing these pictures in such a beautiful environment, together with your musings on what life these scenes have been the backdrop to was very powerful.

    ________________________________

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you as always Denise for your lovely comment. Natalie Haynes’ book sounds really good, what did you think of it? I’ve always been fascinated by Minoan culture and ancient Greek mythology as you know so for me to be able to actually walk around ruins like this was an absolute thrill and an honour. It was so quiet, we were the only ones there, and in the heat of the day I was transfixed, imaging what it must have been like when it was inhabited. I can remember feeling the same way when I first visited the kitchen at Hampton Court for some reason! I always try to get into the vibe of how it must have once been oh so long ago. Maybe I’m just weird 😉

      Like

  2. gretel24p says:

    Very nice 🙂

    Like

  3. Heyjude says:

    I misinterpreted this on first reading. I thought you were going to describe living here as a Minoan when it was a powerful city!

    You managed to portray the vista, the heat, the dust and the ruins nicely in modern day, and I must definitely book that holiday to Crete. The turtles are a nice touch 🙂
    Jude xx

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh dear, it must have been the way I wrote it! Although that would be an interesting perspective to write from, with the right research to back it up… 😉
      Glad you enjoyed it Jude, thank you I appreciate it, and yes, you MUST go…the turtles will still be there I’m sure 🙂 xx

      Like

  4. Steve Rebus says:

    Sherri, Wow!! Fantastic photos and your writing put me right there with you! Thanks for this great post! 🙂

    Like

  5. Beautiful photos and lovely words; I’d say you went above and beyond the challenge, Sherri. Well done! I love the turtles playing ring around a rosy. xo

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, thanks so much Jill, I’m really happy to know that you liked the write-up as well as the photos! It was one of my first writing assignments that I did for the creative writing course I started three years ago!
      I couldn’t resist showing off the sweet little turtles, we watched them for ages swimming around and around like that 🙂 xo

      Like

  6. Love the turtles! Also loved a trip to Crete, taken in the late 1980’s, would love to go again.

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  7. This was such good post that it almost made me jealous that I haven’t been to Crete. Nicely done, Sherri.

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  8. Excellent photos and writing, Sherri. I feel as if I was there with you. I could hear the birdsong and feel the heat and smell the arid dirt beneath my feet. The hairpin curves and the driving had me holding my breath until you stopped and got out of the car. Whew! You a great flair for description. 😀 😀 😀 .

    Like

  9. bulldog says:

    The story was so good you didn’t need the photos… but I’m glad you included them as they are brilliant also… wow with word composition like that, you will make a great author…

    Like

  10. The scenery shots were beautiful, Sherri, but the ruins pulled me in. Wonderful shots. And then the turtles! Oh, the turtles…amazing. Thanks for the pictures and the descriptions that included me on this adventure.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      The turtles were a delight, as I said to Jill, we stood and watched them for ages, standing there in the blistering heat (but a dry heat!) absolutely entranced by their swimming antics! The ruins had the same effect, I couldn’t get enough of them.
      Thank you so much Marylin for enjoying the adventure with me 🙂

      Like

  11. Love everything about it! An exciting glimpse of the past with a breaths king view and perspective of today. Have a fun week my friend. God bless…

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Sooo glad you enjoyed this. I just love to imagine how this palace must have once looked so many thousands of years ago in all its magnificent glory. The location is the most idyllic spot I think I’ve ever seen 🙂 Thank you so much IT, God bless you and your lovely family and you have a super week too… 🙂

      Like

  12. I love these, Sheri, as I’ve always been interested in history and love the stories of Theseus and the Minotaur. Thanks for taking me along to Crete. I’ve seen the Acropolis and other ruins in Greece, but haven’t ever been to Crete.

    janet

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Janet for dropping by and visiting, I’m so glad to know that you enjoyed this post. We share a love then of Theseus and the Minotaur and as much as you haven’t been to Crete, nor have I been to mainland Greece but I hope one day very much to visit the Acropolis. It’s on my ever-growing ‘must-do’ list! I hope to see you again 🙂

      Like

  13. Letizia says:

    What beautiful images and text. You describe the scene so well; I could feel the dry heat myself. The turtles are adorable, especially the photo where they are seemingly swimming in a circle together. I hope to visit Crete one day.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      You are very kind, thank you so much Litizia, really glad you ‘felt it’ 🙂 Very cute turtles indeed, they were very happy in their ‘ruined’ home 😉

      Like

  14. restlessjo says:

    This is a lovely take on the challenge, Sherri. I’ve specifically avoided this one because I hate neglected, unloved buildings, but yours are definitely not that 🙂 It takes me right back to Greece. I remember dragonflies hovering over a very similar pool.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I’m with you on that Jo, although I do find photos of abandoned buildings very evocative. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, thank you, and yes, those dragonflies, came right back to me when I read this… 🙂

      Like

  15. jennypellett says:

    I see you had to fight your way through the crowds then, Sherri! What a wonderful place. Fabulous photos and a very good take on the challenge – your writing assignment fits right in and we get the sense of being there right along with you.
    We’ve never been to Crete but it definitely looks like the sort of place we’d like – old ruins feature a lot in our travels. Husband is especially partial to Roman ruins hence a marathon once at Pompeii and he has plans for a mosaic floor in Sicily, apparently.
    I tried to add my penny’s worth to the thread between you and Jill but I couldn’t work out how to do it but I think a travel business like the one you suggest would be just dandy. We could hire a bus and take all our blogging pals on a magical mystery tour. How much fun would that be 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      That’s the thing Jenny, we were the only ones there! The ruins are protected now but they are not touristy at all, unlike Knossos by the airport which, although fascinating in it’s own right, and of course famous for the Minotaur, gets packed out, so it was lovely to be able to walk around this ruined palace so unhurriedly and take in the silence while doing so.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed it and felt that you were ‘there’, thank you very much! Oh, Roman ruins are amazing too. Did I already ask you this already (sure I have, the old memory you know!!) but have you been to the Roman Villa at Fishbourne? I’m sure you have, we used to go there all the time when my Granny was alive and who of course lived in Chichester. Pompeii was one of my dreams come true when we got to see it some years ago and the mosaic floor in Sicily sounds fascinating too, hope you get to go soon 🙂

      So you are on for the travel business then Jenny? Your ears must have been burning during mine and Jill’s conversation, lol 😉 I think your idea of a magical mystery tour with all our blogging pals sounds just wonderful, count me in… 🙂

      Like

      • jennypellett says:

        Oh yes, Fishbourne Roman Villa – been there several times too – wonderful. It was one of the places the schools around here used to take the kids when they were studying Romans, so I did it then as well as with the family. I’m sure in another life Husband would have been part of Time Team except he doesn’t wear stripy jumpers …

        Like

  16. lilkaraphael says:

    Beautiful! Love the turtles 🙂

    Like

  17. Rachel says:

    I love seeing ruins. It’s fascinating to see how people of the distant passed lived and the Minoans look they might have been quite a civilised society. I bet those stone homes buried in the hill offered some respite from the heat too.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh me too Rachel and yes, from what I’ve read up on the Minoan culture they were very civilised indeed and this location was absolutely idyllic. They had a bounty of produce from the sea and the land and despite the intense summer heat would have had plenty of shade with the trees and the cool buildings. It was so peaceful there and I was thrilled to be able to spend so long and be so unhurried as we walked around, able to take it all in on every level.

      Like

  18. This is wonderful! I especially love the turtles! So timely since I am working on another sea turtle drawing and am reading about all kinds of turtles like crazy! 🙂 By the way, I sent you an e-mail several days ago about the painting of the ocean. Did you get it?

    Like

  19. These are powerful pictures. They really conjure the images of life so long ago. I can imagine the last people to call the mountain home. And the turtles are so cool.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you Renee and yes, the Minoans would have been the last ones there so those ruins have been there an awfully long time. They are protected now but it is amazing just to be able to walk around them totally uninterrupted, unlike Knossos which is incredible too but far more touristy…

      Like

  20. TBM says:

    the turtle are so cute. I really want to go to Crete. Way back in the day I wrote a paper on the palace there and now I can’t remember what my thesis was–seriously my mind is going. Thanks for sharing your photos.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Wow, that’s so interesting, it’s a small world isn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m sure your mind isn’t going, I’m like that all the time too. I think we are on overload much of the time, that’s the problem…
      Yes, those turtles are really cute aren’t they? We watched them for ages, never mind standing in the blistering heat…they were so entertaining 🙂

      Like

  21. Glynis Jolly says:

    The closest I got to the east side of Crete was St. Nickolas. I had know idea that there were ruins to see on that end. I loved living on Crete. The local people are so hospitable.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Glynis, was that Agios St Nickolas? We stayed not too far from there. We just came across these ruins while driving along this beaten old track so it was wonderful to discover them and I’m very happy to be able to share them here now 🙂 Yes, I agree totally, the people are just lovely.

      Like

  22. What an eerie feeling these ruins must have given you! It’s always interesting to imagine what the places that are now abandoned once looked like.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      It was quite eerie but very captivating too. Imagining the way people once lived so long ago in that very place was very evocative, I will never forget our visit to these Minoan ruins. Thank you very much for dropping by and taking the time to comment 🙂

      Like

  23. thirdhandart says:

    Beautiful photos and superb writing Sherri! Sure makes me want to visit the Minoan Ruins of Crete. At least the ruins weren’t totally abandoned. The turtles look like they were having a little pool party. 😉

    Like

  24. Great piece of writing Sherri. I’m so glad you have created such a wonderful image of Crete as now I know about the road in I know it is a place I will never go (not without therapy first.) superb scenery and lovely turtles cheers Irene

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks so much Irene, I’m really glad that you enjoyed the writing, that means a lot. I don’t blame you about not going on that road, it was very scary but the scenery and the turtles made it all worth it 😉

      Like

  25. I love ruins Sherri – whenever we travel, if there are ruins to be visited, I’m there! It’s the sense of history of course, of imagining what has happened here before and you conjured that beautifully with your writing. I also like the turtles as they show the evolution of how the place has been inhabited over the years. Lovely photos and I love the way you’ve presented them in a kind of collage, which is very effective.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ruins are so evocative aren’t they? I love to imagine how life was when the ruins were part of a thriving, ancient community. I’m so happy to know that you enjoyed the written piece as well as the photos, that means a lot. Thank you Andrea, I’ve only just learned how to do the photo collage, thanks to Irene who told me how. Easy when you know how 😉

      Like

  26. Steven says:

    Well, haven’t you got around a bit Sherri Poppins? You seem to have been everywhere that I would love to have been – I’ve always fancied a visit to Crete. Lovely photos, that view of the valley is quite something for a Norfolk boy… I love a good ruin, too (which is my justification for the state of my house) – they look amazing, so much wrapped up in them… and turtles!! ‘O-M-G’, I think they say, these days. Amazing!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ha Ha! Well, you know what it’s like when you have a magical brolly, it takes me wherever I want to go…;-)
      You can see the road below in the photo of the valley, the one we drove up on. Very narrow and quite hairy I might add. The drop down was very, very deep and definitely not one you would see in Norfolk, or Somerset come to think of it…
      Oh I’m sure your house isn’t a ruin (although I relate at the state of mine sometimes but then that’s my practically perfect precision coming out again…huh? Where did that come from??)
      Yes, I do believe it is ‘OMG’…and yes, those turtles were so cute, great entertainment swimming round and around like that. 🙂
      Really glad you enjoyed, thanks JG…

      Like

  27. Imelda says:

    Thanks for the tour, Sherri. Your words are as impressive as the place. I love your writing style. 🙂

    Like

  28. Pingback: Two Year’s Blogging And Still Standing | A View From My Summerhouse

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