Phaistos

It has been a real challenge driving in Greece; especially in Crete where my iPhone GPS app has had a tendency to prefer dirt roads over paved ones, so we haven’t been able to rely on it like we did in Turkey or England.

For the most part, the roads and highways in Greece are not signed, so you only know if you’re going the right way when you come to an intersection and are lucky enough to find a sign indicating the next city or village down the road.

Unfortunately, we usually don’t know the names of all the towns along our route, and even if we did, we wouldn’t be able to tell which way to go most of the time for three reasons: the signs are printed in Greek; each letter can be written at least two ways; and, the words themselves sometimes have multiple spellings.

For example, yesterday we drove to Phaistos (or Phaestos or Phaestus), another Minoan ruin, about 15 miles from Mátala where we’ve been staying at the Hotel Nikos.

Phaistos is spelled either ΦΑΙΣ or ΦΑΙΣΤΙ in Greek (at least that’s one way to spell it).

I was not in a fraternity in college, so I never learned the Greek alphabet, but I do have my iPad and an internet connection, so I looked it up. Here it is (upper case, followed by lower case, followed by name):

Αα Alpha
Ββ Beta
Γγ Gamma
Δδ Delta
Εε Epsilon
Ζζ Zeta
Ηη Eta
Θθ Theta
Ιι Iota
Κκ Kappa
Λλ Lambda
Μμ Mu
Νν Nu
Ξξ Xi
Οο Omicron
Ππ Pi
Ρρ Rho
Σσς Sigma
Ττ Tau
Υυ Upsilon
Φφ Phi<Χχ Chi
Ψψ Psi
Ωω Omega

So, in Greek, it would be: Phi-Alpha-Iota-Sigma-Tau-Iota, which, I believe, would be pronounced: PhAISTI or, to us English speakers: Phaistos.

At any rate, we got to the ruins at Phaistos after only a few wrong turns down one-lane village roads. It was worth the trip.

Unlike Knossos, Phaistos was left in its original condition after being exhumed. According to the curator, only 2% of the site is reconstructed, mainly to provide support to the original stonework.

When you first enter the ruins, the view is of the Theater, from its top:

Looking slightly to the left, we could see the staircase up into where the Palace had been:

We walked along the back row of the Theater to the steps leading down to it and to the bottom of the Palace stairs…

…where I took a couple pictures, the first being back up to show both sets of stairs…

…then we had a seat to watch the show…

Here’s a photo from the bottom of the Theater where religious ceremonies would have been performed (the Minoans didn’t use their theaters for plays).

Kelly walked up to the top of the stairs to the Palace to survey the scene,

…commanding us to follow.

From the top of the stairs into the Palace, we could look out across the main courtyard which would have been lined with wooden columns set on stone bases.

I walked down into and then across the main courtyard, then took this picture back toward the Palace site. You can see the column bases in this picture.

To the left in the picture above was the entry into the storage areas…

…which is where the giant vases of wine and olive oil would have been stored.

There were artifacts scattered all through this ruin, and very few visitors while we were there. Amazingly, they left pieces of 4,000 year old vases and columns sitting around for visitors to handle:

Like the other three Minoan cities, the Palace at Phaistos was constructed around 2000 B.C. and collapsed from the earthquake associated with the eruption of Santorini sometime between 1600 B.C and 1500 B.C., but both the King’s Megaron and the Queen’s Megaron, their royal rooms, were still in relatively good condition:

The Palace was designed so that the King’s living quarters and Megaron overlooked the distant, snow-capped mountains, an inspiring view.

It was an interesting site and our visit made me think one more time how glad I am that we have a car, rather than being limited to where the tour buses go.

One last look before heading back to the beach at Mátala.

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