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The Capital of Crete

Rocca al Mare, Heraklion

Hustling, bustling Heráklion is Crete’s capital and Greece’s fourth city (pop. 175,000) – the kind of place that many people go on holiday to escape. But Heráklion boasts two unmissable attractions: a museum containing the world’s greatest collection of Minoan art, and the grand palace of Knossós in its suburbs.

Heráklion has gone through more names than Elizabeth Taylor. It began as Katsamba, the smaller of Knossós’ two ports, and took its current name in the Classical age. In the 800s the Saracens saw the potential of the site and built their chief town here, named Kandak (‘moats’) after the trench they dug around its walls, both to defend it and to keep captives from escaping; by the time Crete was reconquered by Nikephóros Phokás, Kandak was the main slave market in the Mediterranean.

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Text © Dana Facaros

Images by Aeleftherios, Ann Wuyts, Jebulon, Kalexander2010, Olivier Duquesne, PD Art, PRA, Pylambert, Creative Commons License, Shadowgate, Zde