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Crete & Greek Islands
The home of the gods

This time I've set of south to blow the cobwebs away. The Greek gods are obviously in a good mood as the weather is superb - but then again the weather always is superb in Greece , whatever the season.

Well-balanced, cheerful and meditative - that's our impression of the home of the gods. Each island has a special magic that touches the soul in a way that the mainland can never do. The romantic island of Hydra, about half a days boat trip from Athens' famous port of Piraeus, towers like an amphitheatre around the picturesque bay of the harbour. Hydra is an insider tip for individualists who want to get back to their roots. Even people who are fairly hectic by nature will find tim e for reflection here and are guaranteed to learn two things before they leave the island: composure and patience.

What could be nicer than to discover the southern-most country of Europe on ferry? Anybody wishing to see three of the Saronic islands in just one day is advised to book a mini cruise on the “Argonaut”, once the largest private yacht in the world. Today, it is one of 11 cruisers in the “Epirotiki Lines” fleet which travels to all the Greek islands as well as . The pampered passengers can choose from various dining rooms and cocktails bars, 2 pools and a number of sun decks.

“My guest is king” - that is the successful philosophy of shipowner Andreas Potamianos. His family has had the largest luxury fleet in the European Union for some generations. Like the majority of old, established families, the conservative and shy Andreas Potamianos does not speak about money or flaunt his wealth. He is known for his support to the needy, a virtue he learned from his mother, an extraordinary lady whose acquaintance we will be making later on. In the mean tim e, let us enjoy our trip on the Argonaut on our way to Crete .

Crete is the island of light, bursting with fragrant flowers and brimming with bays ideal for diving and bathing. In Mirabello Bay, shimmering a silvery white in the Aegean sun, is the Elounda Mare, the most romantic resort on Crete . Its particular highlight: each of the 30 bungalows has its own pool with a view of the sea or of the parks and chapel. In the shade of a gnarled tree, I sit down to speak to Eliana Kokotos, a hard working entrepreneur and owner of the elegant Greek Hotel.

Eliana Kokotos:
I am not actually from Crete , but my father - one of the first hoteliers on Crete - came here, because Crete is like home for us. Everybody feels at home here! The colour of the stones, the beautiful blue sea, the sky and the weather that is always so fantastic! Then the light... this Greek light that was famous even in ancient tim es - that is what makes you feel at home in Crete .

You are a member of one of the oldest families in Greece and owner of Elounda Mare. Does you hotel has a long tradition?

Eliana Kokotos:
It has been here since 1982. At that tim e we built 9 bungalows on the other side of the property. The new idea was building bungalows in Greece for the first tim e and, what's more, giving them a sea view - all with their own swimming pool. My husband is co-owner of the hotel and, at the same time, the architect. He loves incorporating new ideas into his work. He built Elounda Beach and all the hotels near here, yes actually throughout Greece. And each time, he has a new idea. With Elounda Mare, the brainwave was the swimming pools.

Narrow pathways through the flowering gardens lead the hotel guest from the main building to his bungalow. The furnishing has been designed to match the original Greek lifestyle - the clear lines, Mediterranean colours and individual pool are wonderfully relaxing. Here we recharge our batteries, ready for the forthcoming programme of excursions to temples and other cultural monuments.

Eliana Kokotos:
There is a lot to see in Crete . It is not only a small island where people go swimming, lie in the sun or play tennis. Crete is a large island, the largest in Greece , and there are many sights. Anybody interested in archaeology will find it highly interesting here, because there are many museums and archaeological sites - with finds dating from the Ancient Minoan through to the Byzantine periods - at the same time there are also museums with more modern exhibits.

Nathalie: Do you know Professor Sakelerakis?

Eliana Kokotos:
Of course! Like me, Mr. Sakelerakis is not from Crete . He is a very famous archaeologist from Athens who has done a lot of work in Crete . In Archanes he has excavated what experts believe used to be the summer palace of the Minoan kings. He also discovered a temple which made it possible to prove that human sacrifices were made during the Minoan period!

It is 1450 BC. An earthquake is about to destroy Minoan Crete. In this moment of great need, it is not an animal, but a young boy that is offered to the angry gods. Prof. Sakelerakis found the skeleton with the knife still in its breast; next to it the remains of the priest who was killed as a balcony collapsed on top of him. Other precious offerings complement this find of ines tim able historical value.

Prof. Sakelerakis:
I am an archaeologist who is addicted to excavating.... I have to dig... that's where you find all the information.  

Next to Mount Anemorphilia you made a further, highly interesting discovery, on Mount Fourni ....

Prof. Sakelerakis:
Yes, in Achanes we made many finds and even discovered a palace building in the village of Achanes. That is a fascinating topic. Achanes, as you know, is not far from Knossos . It is there that our excavation work uncovered Achanes' grave. We have found 28 tombs in this cemetery as yet. This rates as one of the most significant finds in Crete ; our finds from Achanes are on display in the museum in Heraklion.

What exactly did you discover?

Prof. Sakelerakis:
Mainly things that were put into the grave with the dead person, or jewellery worn by the deceased. For example in the first royal cremation, which we found in the so-called “Tonos Grace A” from Achanes - an extremely well-preserved burial vault on Crete by the way - we discovered more than 500 gold objects and since then also 5 gold signet rings.

How do you feel when you make such a sensational discovery after so many days digging? Do you feel something special?

Prof. Sakelerakis:
o, unfortunately, I have to disappoint you. I don't actually feel anything! I view the things too academically to feel anything. Now, when I have had time to think about it, however, I feel a lot more.....  

Perhaps it was inspiration from above that caused the Greek archaeologist from Athens to dig in Fourni and there to uncover probably the most important prehistoric burial place even discovered. It provides a lot of answers to questions about the burial customs of the ancient Greeks. The finds which Prof. Sakelerakis discovered in 1982 in the Ida grotto are particularly sensational. The grotto is regarded as the birthplace of Zeus. What we know for certain today is that during the Minoan period, it was not only for the people who lived and worshipped their gods there, but that there were facilities for the pilgrims - the ancient equivalent of our modern hotels and hostels.

Prof. Sakelerakis:
I excavated Zeus's cave in the Ida mountains. It is a famous cave, already known to the Ancient Greeks that's in Crete 's central mountain range. It is also called “Zeus cave” or the “Ida cave” and is about 1500 metres above sea-level. It is a natural cave, not man- made.

And how can you prove that it was really Zeus's cave?

Prof. Sakelerakis:
That was established when we found texts which speak of the Zeus cult. And we also know from the ancient records that Zeus was born on Crete ....

Greece is rich in cultural monuments. The Athena Temple on Aegina is also worth a visit. According to legend, the gods could have shown favour to all the peoples of the world, but chose to concentrate on Greece . The myth lives on wherever you are on the 260 km-long island - the geographic and historical connection between Europe, Africa and Asia Minor - the traveller comes across rock-hard proof of the numerous cultures which have left their mark on Crete.

A must on the sightseeing programmes is the Acropolis in Athens. The Parthenon was built in 5 BC and dedicated to the virgin goddess Athenee. Athens without the Arcopolis would be like a shipbuilder without a ship. The temple towers above the city and is awe-inspiring. From here, one has a tremendous view of the capital and the old harbour.

Goethe looked for Greece with the soul and Homer sang of a “country in the middle of the surging sea which is fruitful and beautiful”. Thanks to Prof. Sakelarakis, we now know the myth about Zeus, how he feel in love with a wonderful godess, swept her off her feet and seduced her. Greece has since been regarded as the cradle of Europe, of wisdom and of classicism!

NATHALIE'S HOTEL TIP: Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas and Elounda Bay Palace



* This special feature "Crete" has been one of more than 300 Portraits, produced by Nathalie Gütermann for her TV-Shows 'Nathalie's Lifestyle' and 'Nathalie's Art of Living' that were broadcasted between 1990 - 2003 in Germany and in 15 countries world-wide. The content has been updated with actual information in 2004 for © 1990 - 2004. The reproduction or other use of any text, photographs, layout etc. needs the prior written permission of the Chief Publisher.

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