When I read not long ago that Peru‘s legendary Andean site Machu Picchu had made the top of TripAdvisor‘s annual “Traveler’s Choice” list of most prominent world landmarks, I certainly wasn’t surprised (though admittedly, the list was more than a little weird in some ways – number two was some mosque in Abu Dhabi, while the Parthenon and the Pyramid of Giza didn’t even crack the top ten).
If you’ve got even a passing knowledge of history and/or Greek mythology, you’ve probably heard of the Minotaur, the monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull, imprisoned in a labyrinth by Minos, king of Greece's island of Crete, and fed human sacrifices. Obviously the bull-headed thing is a little bit of a stretch, but on this island you can visit the spot where this legend may well have originated. On Mount Kefala, a couple of miles outside Crete’s capital Heraklion, lie the ru
The capital of the island of Crete during the Neolithic era was Phaestos. But the small settlement of Gortyn grew and grew, until it eventually became a city that eclipsed Phaestos. During the Roman era, in the first century, it became capital of Crete. The remains of this time, the city’s apogee, can be seen and studied today in archaeological excavations that have led to some of the most important discoveries in Europe.
The excavations began in 1884, leaving the workers themselves amazed.
I will never forget, nearly 40 years ago, laying eyes for the first time on my first ancient archaeological site. About an hour’s drive north of Mexico City, this UNESCO World Heritage complex of temples absolutely electrified my imagination and became a driving force in my fascination with not just archaeology but travel and world cultures in general. Teotihuacán has that kind of impact.
Even after decades of study, archaeologists still aren’t quite sure who (Toltecs? Otomi? M