Heraklion was founded as the seaport of Knossos, the very center of Minoan civilization, and evolved to be the most important city for all the different rulers of the island of Crete. Through the centuries, these civilizations left behind their markings, some of which are invisible at present while others are still well preserved – and all together combine to give Heraklion its complex character and unique personality. Regard modern Heraklion as the evolution of the mythical Labyrinth – as a maze outlined by great walls and Venetian castles. These boundaries surround cathedrals, fountains, statues and other historical monuments, libraries and museums – as well as University and Olympic infrastructures, modern cafés, abandoned industrial buildings and hidden neighborhoods full of urban legends. It is this very aspect of Heraklion we would like to introduce you on this run – will you join us?
Our run will begin at Eleftheria’s Square, the largest free area of the historical center of Heraklion and one of the most important reference points of the city. It is also known as “The three Arcs”, after three Venetian gates that used to be there – the arcs are not saved today, but even so, the old name of the place prevailed. Eleftheria’s Square changed many forms through last decades, and played always a crucial part in city’s life – as the traditional meeting point for a walk or coffee break, as the place where all the protests begun, as an exhibition center, as a place ideal for skating or biking. Our run will begin there, as an ideal place for warming up, and getting to know one another.
We will continue through Georgiade’s Park, running under the trees, in order to get outside the Venetian Walls, separating Historical Center (or Old Town) from the new suburbs arisen after the 2nd World War. Our run will follow the Walls’ perimeter until Jesus’ Gate, where we will enter the Old City again. We will continue running by the Walls’ inner perimeter, enjoying the impressive view of the Walls laying upon us, passing by modern Cultural Center, Martinengo’s gate, Pananio Hospital, Vithleem’s gate until we meet Chanioporta and the old and abandoned Barrack. Bastione di Saint Andreas signalizes the end of the main part of the Walls by the sea side, and we will turn east, following the modern seaside avenue. Venetian Walls used to surround Heraklion – however, the northern part of the Walls are not preserved in its full length today. Industrial buildings, modern blocks of flats and, mainly, the seaside avenue, constructed at the beginning of 20th century, destroyed or hide the fortification seafront, already wounded by the strong northern winds – sad as it may be, we can even so follow the trail of the Walls. We will run by Natural History Museum, Dermatas gate, Historical Museum, and we will finally meet the Venetian Cathedral of Saints Paul and Saint Peter. There, we will follow Handakos Street (constructed over the old Arab-Byzantine Wall) which will lead us to Lions Square – the very heart of the city. The Fountain of the Lions, constructed originally to be a copy of Alhambras’ equivalent in Granada, Spain, is the most known point of reference for citizens of Heraklion and it is surrounded by Vikelea Municipal Library and St. Marcos’ cathedral.
From there, we will follow Delusions’ Street, which passes in front of the Venetian Loggia and St. Titus Cathedral, leading to the astonishing Old Port and, of course, Koules, one of the most known landmarks of the city – a strong castle that secured Heraklion’s port. Its reputation is a bit dark, as it served as a prison for the Cretan rebels during the ottoman period. Even so, Kastrini love the old castle that outstands for almost five centuries the rough Cretan sea, symbolizing thus the free people spirit, and people gather here daily – to walk, to run, to cycle, to fish, to play guitar, to philosophize life.
Leaving the port behind signalizes that our run is near its end. We will run in front of Neoria, the old Venetian shipyards, and will incline over Baufort Street, that lays over the eastern part of the Walls and ends just in front of the Arcaehological Museum, to the northern part of Eleftherias square, where we started running earlier.