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Flower of the month | July | Acantholimon androsaceum

Acantholimon androsaceum is another pincushion mountain flower with an impossibly long Latin name. It’s also one of the most beautiful flowering plant that you can see in Crete in summer.
An endemic of Crete, Acantholimon androsaceum is not exactly rare but you won’t find it below 1500m.

Acantholimon androsaceum

Acantholimon androsaceum

Acantholimon androsaceum

Acantholimon androsaceum

The plants remain beautiful after the flowers fall off because they retain diaphanous calyces with dark reddish-brown stripes.

Calyces of Acantholimon androsaceum

Calyces of Acantholimon androsaceum

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Flower of the month | June | Astragalus angustifolius

Whilst the vegetation is drying out in the lower parts of Crete, flowers are starting to come out in the mountains.¬† Astragalus angustifolius is an impressive ‘hedgehog’ plant that forms large spiky cushions.

Astragalus angustifolius in the White Mountains

Astragalus angustifolius in the White Mountains

It is found in all the mountains of Crete from around 1500m and all the way to the highest summits

Close-up of Astragalus angustifolius

Close-up of Astragalus angustifolius

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Flower of the month | May | Paeonia clusii

Paeonia clusii or Cretan peony is one of the most spectacular flowers of Crete. Endemic to Crete and Karpathos, it flowers in April and May. It’s not especially rare but there aren’t many places where you can find it either.

Paeonia clusii (Cretan white peony)

Paeonia clusii in a forest above Anopolis (at an altitude of about 1300m)

They tend to grow at medium altitude (500 to 1600m).

Paeonia clusii (Cretan white peony)

Paeonia clusii (Cretan white peony)

A good place to see them is in the gorge of Samaria where they grow quite abundantly below Agios Nikolaos. Unfortunately because this is quite a low altitude (around 500m) they tend to flower in April before the gorge of Samaria opens to the public.

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Finally!

I just received the news today that the Minoan gallery of the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion will open on the 6th of May.

The Phaistos Disc

The Phaistos Disc – 2nd millennium BC

Having seen the other galleries when they re-opened after renovations that lasted 7 years I think that it will have been well worth the long wait.
I’ll probably wait a little longer and go there after the tourist season is over.

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Late snow

We have had some cold weather and rain in the last couple of days. Not so good for the first tourists of the 2014 season but it’s really good to have some late rain.

We even had some fresh snow on the mountains (see the photos below) which is quite unusual for the middle of April.

Summits of Volakies and Gingilos

The summits of Volakies and Gingilos

The summit of Melindaou

The summit of Melindaou

Melindaou and lower slopes to the East

Melindaou and lower slopes to the East

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Flower of the month | April | Tulipa saxatilis

As the weather warms up spring flowers start appearing higher up in the hills. One of the most impressive displays (if you can catch it at just the right time) is the flowering of Tulipa saxatilis (also known as Tulipa bakeri) on the plateau of Omalos.

Tulipa saxatilis on the plateau of Omalos

Tulipa saxatilis on the plateau of Omalos

In a good year these showy flowers can spread across entire fields.

Tulipa saxatilis growing together with Anemone coronaria

Tulipa saxatilis growing together with Anemone coronaria

The best time to see them will generally be around the middle of April but it will vary from year to year and you might have to go to Omalos several times to catch them at their very best.

 

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Flower of the month | March| Ferula communis | Giant fennel

The huge flowers of the Giant fennel or Ferula communis are starting to show up along the roadsides, on low cliffs and in fields.

Ferula communis  - Giant fennel

Ferula communis – Giant fennel

The plant is up to 3m tall so it is impossible to miss.

Ferula communis  - Giant fennel

Ferula communis – Giant fennel

 

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Flower of the month | February | Anthemis chia | Chamomile

Anthemis chia, the most common Greek chamomile, is found in olive groves, road sides and fields.

Anthemis chia

Anthemis chia – Chamomile

Anthemis chia starts flowering in February and can form large, soft carpets of flowers like in the picture below.

Anthemis chia

A field of chamomile in an olive grove

 

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Re-opening of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is one of the most important museums in Greece and contains the most notable and complete collection of artifacts of the Minoan civilization in the world.

The museum closed in November 2006 for a much needed renovation. Unfortunately the work suffered many delays but finally the museum is due to be fully re-opened by April, or May at the latest.
In fact the museum is already open and functioning normally but the Minoan collection (which will cover the entire ground floor) is not ready for display yet. The staff were not able to give us a specific date but they were quite certain that it would be ready and open to the public “some time in April”.

A short visit through the other rooms (which cover around 1600 years of Cretan history from Post-Palatial through to Roman periods)  left me really impressed with the clear modern display, clear labelling and explanations  as well as good lighting, It seems that the number of objects on display has been greatly reduced but the result is to increase the clarity and the impact of what you can see.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Archaic Period room

And if you can’t wait until the museum opens its Minoan collection you can still admire Minoan art contained in some of the private collections on display.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Display of Minoan jewellery

And finally, the Minoan frescoes have their own gallery and it is open.

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Minoan frescoes

 

Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Minoan frescoes

The museum is open daily in winter from 9.00 to 15.00 except on Monday where it opens from 11.00 until 17.00 and the entrance costs 4 Euro.

The beauty of visiting now is of course that there are no crowds. In fact, we saw no one else during our visit (except for a good number of wardens fighting boredom).

 

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