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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 6: 30 September

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 Days'This is my worst day . . . this is my worst day.' Mr Lalli is referring to the arrival of 100 extra passengers at Heraklion, on top of the 100 who boarded last night at Piraeus (including, rumour has it, 31 unaccompanied German girls). I collect my shore-pass from him and at 7.30 on a clear hot morning I'm running along the sea-front past the low, solid battlemented fortress that dominates Heraklion harbour. On its wall the lion of Venice in low relief marks its origins in the time when Crete was part of the Venetian Empire.

This dusty sea-front has seen a few Empires come and go. The Minoan civilisation, 3000 years before Christ, had already given way to Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Saracen empires before the Venetians arrived in 1210, and the Turks were still to come. I assume they all looted each other. A massively protracted exercise in the redistribution of wealth.

I rather like the friendly atmosphere and human scale of the city. Everything seems to be half finished, but there's an intimate little square in the centre of town where I rest and, over thick coffee, fresh orange juice, bread and honey, catch up on Olympic news in a day-old copy of the Independent. Ben Johnson's disgrace has followed his success with a swiftness the occupants of Mount Olympus would have been proud of.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 6
  • Date: 30 September
  • Country/sea: Greece
  • Place: Heraklion
  • Book page no: 33

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