Crete means Knossos, as far as cultural monuments are concerned. At least, that would be the general view. But visiting for the first time recently, I was underwhelmed. The Knossos site - of vast antiquity, a millennium older than the Parthenon - is a mish-mash of fairly bare ruins, and slightly brash reconstruction. You can't quite tell where the original ends and the rebuilt begins. And some of the reconstruction has the aesthetic appeal of a school out-building.
What I wasn't expecting in Crete - fine Venetian sea forts. The one above is on the small island of Spinalonga. It later became a leper colony, and persisted as such into the 1950s - the last in Europe.
Below is the imposing fort at Rethymnon, built to be big enough to accommodate the town's entire population. When the Turks eventually came, they simply bypassed the fort and took over the adjoining town. And when the fort eventually fell, they built a rather splendid mosque in the middle of it - that's the white cupola that can just be made out.
During the eighteenth century, thousands of Cretans converted to Islam. More recently in 1923, with Crete securely a part of Greece, there was a forced exchange of populations - Muslims from Greece in one direction and Orthodox Christians from Turkey in the other. Tens of thousands of Cretan Muslims were forced to leave their island. A sad postcript to centuries of occupation
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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