Sunday, September 25, 2016

Heraklion Archeological Museum

The Heraklion museum, one of the finest  in Europe, is rich in exhibits and extremely interesting. It requires more than one visit to absorb all that beauty and knowledge displayed within its walls. I spent about three hours there and had the chance to contemplate, among other things, the original artifacts transferred from Knossos Palace (the topic of my previous post.) 

entrance to museum

visitors looking at the exhibits in the glass cases

 taking photos

The museum, located in the town center, has 27 rooms on two floors. No camera flash allowed inside. In a room passage, dedicated to echoes in the world about the Minoan findings, I noticed on the wall a newspaper photo of Liz Taylor. She was wearing a golden brooch in the form of a bull horn, designed according to the original item found in one of the excavations in Knossos. Beautiful woman ,beautiful brooch.

Liz Taylor 's photo in the Media room.

The exhibits displayed in the museum  were found in various settlements of ancient Crete ( Knossos, Phaistos, Zakros, Malia, Gortyn) - in palaces, storage rooms, caves, sanctuaries, cemeteries, and  graves.

famous bee pendant (found at cemetery outside Malia palace)

These exhibits reflect various aspects of life in Minoan Crete: daily domestic life ( pots, jars, vases, bowls, utensils and tools.) religion (ritual vessels, figurine offerings), sports: boxing, hunting, bull jumping (murals, bull -leaper figurine and bull-leaping frescoe), art (frescoes, painting on pottery,on walls, sculptures, jewelery),  coinage ( evolution of cretan coins),burial customs (sarcophages, coffins, various items buried with the dead), afterlife beliefs (i.e. the dead needs the same items as those needed in his life; that's why they get put in his grave at the time of burial).

I was especially attracted to the stunning  jewelery collections:


There are lots of clay, ivory , bronze - human and animal- figurines on display. The figurines were used by the ancient cretans as house decorations, as religious offerings to the gods, or got buried with the dead as personal possessions, or as protective devices. (The ones in the header picture represent goddesses with arms raised).


The exhibited  coins and seals  tell a lot about social, economical, and artistic life in ancient Crete; they are a "golden mine" to researchers.


The ancient Cretans (Minoans) were considered a peaceful society, and yet many weapons (swords, spears, daggers) were found in houses, sanctuaries, and graves.


At the end of my visit, I felt overwhelmed  by the richness just viewed at the above museum. If someone happens to be in Heraklion, I would highly recommend visiting this wonderful place.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Palace of Knossos

Scorching sun, lots of ruins ,rough surface to walk  on (stones, pebbles, rocks). From the gate it looks compact, but one thing leads to another and even after three hours there , I haven't seen it all. It's huge and complex. The Palace of Knossos. (The name covers  main palace, little palace, royal villa, priest's house with the altar, official entrance Caravanserai serving as baths for the guests, theater area, royal tomb-sanctuary).

father and son checking the site map

tourists listening to guide; 'cup bearers' fresco behind 

Knossos is located some 5 kilometers from the center of Heraklion and it is one of the most significant attractions in Crete, being considered  the craddle of the Minoan civilization of the Bronze Age. 

The Palace, built on a hill, residence of King Minos, and the administrative center  of the entire island of Crete at that time, was set around a central courtyard. 
It  had royal chambers with precious objects, a throne room, banquet halls; storage rooms, irrigation arrangements, workshops, wall paintings.

staircase to the royal chambers

storage magazines

big  storage jars 

Walking among the reconstructed remains one gets a fairly good impression of the complexity and sophistication of the palace. Moreover, one also gets  feelings of exultation about wandering in a piece of the ancient Greek world.

The structures of the royal palace at Knossos have practically been "emptied" of excavated finds (frescoes, coins, figurines, vessels, jewellery etc..); those  were transferred to the Archeological Museum in Heraklion.  The few items left are, I'm afraid, only replicas of the originals.

'ladies in blue'  fresco

 'bull leaping'  fresco

'octopus'  frescoe

 'prince of  the lilies'  fresco

Thus, one has to visit both places (Knossos and the museum in Heraklion) in order to get a complete picture of the structures + the excavation finds.  I did. There's a combined entrance ticket to encourage this double visit. (In both places, by the way, there are good quality cafeterias to provide visitors with food and beverages),

Outside  the site of the Palace, across the street - a row of souvenir shops. I bought some souvenirs as a nice finish to my Knossos 'adventure'.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Regards from Heraklion

I'm back from a visit to Heraklio , the capital of the greek island of Crete, the birthplace of El Greko (the painter) and Nikos Kazantzakis( the writer; remember Zorba the Greek?).

The city has an airport (the second largest in Greece), and an impressive port with a venetian fortress named Koules which is quite an attraction for the whole family.

Fortress of Koules

The heart of the town comprises two major squares: the Lion Fountain Square with the 1866 market street on one side, and  the  25 August street which goes down to the port on the other side, and the Elephteria (Liberty) Square  with the famous archeological museum behind it. The cafes and eateries in the area are full at all hours of the day, both with tourists and locals.

Lion fountain

Lion fountain in the early evening hours

central market (str. 1866)

campaign for helping sick pets in the Liberty Square

Liberty Square monument

I enjoyed  sitting  on a bench in the pedestrian 25 August street for the breeze that came from the sea and caressed my face. but more so for the amazing sight from this street, of the sea with its two distinct colors: deep blue and blue-vert.

deep blue and blue-vert colors of the sea

On my second day in town, I discovered a place called The Chop which sells for only 2.80 euros a souvlaki (greek fast food consisting of meat grilled on a skewer) with a huge portion of hot chips, slices of tomatoe and whatever addition you fancy - all in a warmed soft bread - a real bargain! You can sit there with your meal and a bottle of sparking mineral water, or take away. I did both.

At the cafe, in the  evening , after coming back from my tours, I usually ordered a bougatsa ( greek dessert - phyllo pastry with filling) with a capuccino,  or a crepe (thin pancake) with a scoop of banana ice cream filling.  If I add all this to the feta cheese and croissantes of the breakfast at the hotel, no wonder I gained 3 pounds to my weight.

people  and pets at the cafe

Heraklion was my basis for the excursions to Knossos, (5 Km southeast of Heraklion - considered the oldest city in Europe, the craddle of the Minoan civilization), and to the islet of Spinalonga known for the last leper colony in Europe. 
I'll elaborate on these topics in my next posts.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Food We Eat


Tehina and Hummus pastes and salads are very popular in Israel. So, whenever salmonella or other such bacteries are discovered in these products, consumers get hysterical. 

The latter react to the news as if they don't really know what is in the food sold at supermarkets or that served at restaurants  - all the time -  not only in the sample test results. The truth is salmonella and its friends cause unpleasant stomach and bowel issues, but one rarely dies of it, so people go on eating and ignoring, ignoring and eating.

Anyway, salmonella was found recently  not only in the above food items but also in granola (breakfast cereal). The Ministry of Health is busy now checking the hygiene standards of all involved as well as cancelling licenses of suppliers.
The other day, while at the supermarket, I came upon a jar with four big white fish meat balls. The label on the jar looked attractive: low calorie/high protein value, no sugar added. But then I saw the expiring date: 2020; we're not even in 2017 yet! That means the fish balls are packed with lots of preservatives.

The sad thing is that even if one prepares one's food at home, still the ingredients ( including veggies which could be contaminated  either by worms  or by chemicals used to destroy those worms)  - are bought from external sources:  the store or farmer markets. 

Those who grow their own food (veggies, meat, eggs, fruit) - do better, of course;  however a lot depends on the standard of hygiene in their homes and garden areas.

* internet pictures

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Age and The Stage

Habima Theater

A comedy named  "What are we gonna do about Jenny"(originally an american play) is being performed at our national theater Habima .The protagonists are two veteran, esteemed actresses: Devora Keidar and Lya Koenig.

the ad of the play 

It so happened that I saw one of the two leading actresses walking on the street, and a week  after, I watched the other one on a TV interview show, called 'Intimate'.

Devora Keidar is 92 years old. Without the make up, her face shows her age. However, her gait is that of a young woman. She came out of a building , carrying her personal leather purse. I watched her walk and cross the street ;she did that with grace and easiness.

At 92 one doesn't usually care much about wrinkles; one does care about mobility and  cognitive functioning. It seems she's got them both in very good condition. In the play she performs the part of Jenny, a fresh widow  of 75 who insists on celebrating life with a lover, champagne, musicians... to the despair of her family and friends who want her to behave appropriately to her age.

Lya Koenig , Devora's collegue and friend, is younger, only 87; a very talented, active, and charismatic actress (she's Jenny's sister -in-law in the play).

The host on the TV  'Intimate' show asked her about the reason for her not having children. In reply, she invoked the usual: career, touring the world, the post -world war2 mentality of not bringing children in this gloomy world etc..

She then opened up and mentioned an episode in the hospital. Her late husband, in bed with cancer, was looking at some kids that were visiting a patient in the bed next to his. 'You know' , he said to her, 'Perhaps we've made a mistake. Who's going to make you a cup of tea when I'm gone?'

By the way,  the oldest actor in the world active on stage (according to Guiness in 2013), the romanian Radu Beligan, died in July. He was 97 and he had appeared successfully on stage until April 2016!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Recycle Bins, Donation Bins

They say there's big profit in the recycling business.  I don't know about that and frankly I don't care. I'm just pleased not to throw away my used items into the garbage , and at the same time I'm proud to help, in a small way, protect the environment.

There's a decent coverage of the city with  recycling bins of all sorts: for glass bottles and jars,  plastic bottles,  clothing and textiles , paper and cardboard, metals and even...holy items. 

These bins are placed at "strategic" points: near grocery stores, malls, post offices, parking plots - either as several kinds grouped together or as individual bins. (Disposable bins for batteries and small electronics are not placed outside, for safety reasons.)

bins near a bus stop and a synagogue, 

bin for clothing, bags, shoes, textiles

bin for paper, cardboard...

bin for glass bottles and jars

bin for plastic bottles

Usually, people donate clothes and accessories that are in good condition,  to charity organizations. The donor brings the package with the stuff to be donated into the office / thrift shop of the organization, or throws it into a donation bin outside the place. 

There are rumors that, for some reason, most of the undamaged, good stuff also goes to recycling. If this is true, then it's rather sad news. These clothes could make someone happy. One could sometimes get a unique  garment for free or for a fraction of the price. Another could get several garments for the price of a single new outfit.   Let's hope the matter will be investigated and good, usable items will not go to recycling centers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Cartoon Museum

With all those terrible events going on in the world: the terror attacks in Nice (France) and in Istanbul (Turkey), the killing of cops (USA), Erdogan and the coup failure (Turkey), daily terror acts here in Israel etc.., I felt a strange need to bring a smile to my face. So, this week I found myself at the Museum of caricatures and comics located in the city of Holon.

On the roof of the building, stands the self-portrait poster caricature of Zeev (pen name), the most famous israeli caricaturist.  He died in 2002 at the age of 79. His family has donated all his cartoon works to the museum.

The poster with the self portrait was probably placed at first at the entrance stairs (see Wikipedia picture) and moved, for some good reason, to the top of the building.

Zeev - self portrait (Wikipedia)

My favorite is his  cartoon of the Peace process (between Israel and the arabs).  So simple, and yet expressing something so complex and hard to achieve!

the Peace  process

His caricatures of political figures are just genious. However, nowadays, I'm so fed up with politicians and their politics that even a good political caricature doesn't make me smile.

The museum honors the veteran cartoonists both outside and inside the building.  In the area near the entrance there are wooden posters representing some of their work. 

On the walls of the staircase hall that leads to the museum - there are biographical facts about these outstanding israeli cartoonists and samples of their work - framed and covered with glass.  Even on the elevator's room door there are caricatures.

the door to the elevator's room

I was  pleasantly surprised to find out that photography is allowed within the museum, despite the fact that its tiny shop is interested in selling cards, catalogues and books based on the stuff they have in the archives  and galleries. However, with my shoot and point little camera  I couldn't do much about those displayed delicate exhibits.


The museum hosts permanent exhibitions as well as changing ones. It has a room for educational activities too, and some audio-video equipment.

activities'  room

During my visit there, I focused on the displayed  exhibits of the late Friedl Stern, a well-know israeli cartoon journalist - caricatures on the theme of Adam and Eve from her book 'Fig Leaves".

They say there are only about twelve such museums in the world. If this is true then it's a Pity! I think  there should be more of this kind.