How do you tell old from older? If you can find references about it in ancient Greek mythology, there is no contest there. Welcome to the palace of the Minotaur, the strange labyrinth made of thirteen hundred rooms whose functions remain a mystery, a place that must have been very animated and colorful in its day, back in 1700BC, baked as it was by the tropical sun and surrounded by a blue sea.
The sun shines as brightly today as it did then, bouncing off the smooth white surfaces, making the details sharper and revealing strange mason marks carved in the giant blocks of stone. I found one myself, a trident.
The ancient ruins should look old and dusty, like a land that time forgot, but they don't. Between the Minoan red (this place got to name its own color) and the sunshine, the complex feels alive and well, even in its current state. There is something about the spirit of the place that keeps you alert, makes you pay attention, draws you to things.
Maybe the memory of Daedalus and Icarus still lingers around the white stones to remind everybody of the earliest human aspiration to fly.
Maybe it's the eerie feeling you get when you walk through a place that is already familiar to you from the stories of your childhood, but you never thought was real. Maybe it's just me.
After you are done wondering at the precise cut and placement of cyclopean masonry blocks, one obvious question presents itself. Since Crete is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, how did all the people who built these things get here? You are looking at the answer.
Because the Minoan complex includes human settlements dated sometimes in the early Neolithic, it must have happened before that. People from a proto-civilization preceding the Bronze Age traveled across the sea on rafts, and brought domestic animals and seeds for planting with them too. Later on more people joined the island from different areas of the Mediterranean basin to enrich the growing community with their cultural experiences.
The port of Heraklion predates the palace of Knossos, which makes it around four thousand years old, not in this current configuration, of course. Its old streets are teaming with people, both tourists and locals, and joy, lightness of being, comfort and belonging.
On a completely unrelated note, I thought it was worth mentioning that Heraklion is the birhtplace of Nikos Kazantzakis and El Greco.