Port Town in Crete
Heraklion is the biggest town in Crete and also the seat of the island's regional administration, so it is the island's capital. It is located rather centrally almost in the middle of the north coast. Towards the land side, the town center is framed by an imposing town wall from the times of the Venetian occupation.
The Platia Liontarion with its lions fountain and the surrounding pedestrian area mark the town's very centre.
When heading from there inland to the South and crossing the Dikeosinis street, one will enter the 1866 street which is Heraklion's market street. The shops that line the market street have open fronts and are therefore partly in the open, this way forming a kind of a strung-out market square.
Here they offer the same goods which can be found on each other weekly market in Crete as well: Fruit and vegetable, clothing and shoes, baskets and leather goods, sponges and household items, meat and bread etc. Between the shops there are bistros and kafenions which have large gas heaters during the winter half year, so guests will not feel cold when having their morning coffees al fresco.
Towards the sea side, the town center is open. In the eastern half of this section of the coast there is the old port. Its entrance is garded by a medieval fortress which stands on the end of the old sea mole. From the other side, the old port is framed by a spit of land which gives place to the building of the port authority, and opposite to it there are the large arches of the former storage depots.
In newer times the sea mole has been extended from the fortress eastwards by almost 2 km, and today surrounds the modern port on the other side of the spit of land. The big ferry boats from Piraeus and from the other Greek islands and the cruise ships land there, and beyond it by the easternmost edge there is also a container port. The old port by the western edge is today being used by the small boats of the local fishermen and by private sailing boats, and on the fortress they stage cultural events.
The international airport of Heraklion (IATA code: HER) is 3 km East of the town center. It is named after Nikos Kazantzakis who is the islands's most famous poet, and during the summer half year the majority of flights from abroad to Crete land here. By number of passengers it is in fact the second biggest airport in Greece (after Athens).
Several car rental agencies deliver hired cars straight at the airport and take them back there as well, such as Eurocars (free of any airport surcharge). This makes the drives to the hotel and back much easier because this way one does not depend on the endless rides on the transfer buses.
However, there are also some hotel resorts along the coast near by Heraklion. In eastward direction there are the beaches of Gouves, Hersonissos and Malia, and westwards those of Amoudara and Agia Pelagia. At all these places there are also budget and cozy holiday apartments for rent.
Text and photos by Ingo H. Dietrich
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