Heraklion Museum of Cretan Ethnology

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Location: Vori
Don't miss: Museums guide (free admission dates and other useful info)

Crete’s long history has seen everyone from the Minoans, the Romans, the Egyptians, and the Arabs, to the Venetians and the Ottomans leave their mark on the island, along with the Greeks who have inhabited it for 3500 years. This weaving of cultures gave rise to traditional Cretan society, a unique case of modern Greek society, best displayed at the award-winning Museum of Cretan Ethnology.


The museum is not too big, owing in part to its location, and its exhibition can be comfortably admired and taken in during a single visit. The exhibit is divided into 7 sections: food, architecture, weaving, handicrafts-manufacture-trade, transport, customs and traditions, and social organization. It focuses on the past 1000 years of Cretan history, as the Byzantine/Roman, Venetian, and Ottoman periods are those that have primarily influenced and shaped the modern period.

Throughout the various sections of the museum, which feature a total of 3000 artifacts, one comes across species of Cretan flora and fauna, agricultural implements, such as the classic shepherd’s crook, known in Greek as glitsa, pottery, miniatures of traditional houses and churches, old keys, hinges, locks, door knockers, as well as actual doors, wooden furniture, vibrant red carpets, hammers and anvils, saws and drills, boots and saddles, among many other artifacts, occasionally paired with photographs showing how the more unusual items were used.

However, even the more common items all are characterized by a unique Cretan twist, for example, rare basket weaving techniques that aren’t used elsewhere in Greece, which not only allows but invites visitors to dwell on the surprising details and intricacies of deceptively simple-looking household wares.

The section on social organization succinctly presents one of the more intriguing subsets of modern Greeks, whose unique historical background and isolated location blessed them with traits that even other Greeks visit the island to discover. The selection of musical instruments on display, such as flutes, lutes, the famous Cretan lyre and even bagpipes form such a unique combination of timbres that Cretan music is considered a very special part of Greek culture, with performers such as Psarantonis known throughout the country and maintaining their place in the mainstream despite the influx of Western pop styles.

Crete is also an island famous for its rebellious nature. Under the Venetian and Ottoman occupations, Cretans rose up again and again in search of their independence, and eventually union with Greece, which was achieved in 1912. This background has bestowed upon Crete a unique profile of weapon making. This includes pistols and rifles, many of which are displayed in this museum, alongside a number of daggers. Cretan blades, in fact, and imitations thereof, are widely sold as tourist keepsakes throughout Greece, so this museum grants a wonderful chance to see an original artifact from the olden days.

The island of Crete also staged a valiant resistance effort against the Axis in World War II, with the Battle of Crete seeing the Greek Army, as well as the forces of Australia and New Zealand, bolstered by local farmers using whatever they had at their disposal, in an attempt to obstruct German paratroopers from landing on the island. The museum holds some of what these brave fighters, as well as the occupying forces, left behind, such as weapons, helmets, and ammunition.

The museum is open from April to October between 11:00 and 17:00 every day.

Official website: www.cretanethnologymuseum.gr



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