Spinalonga, Crete

My wife had a paper published in Eurographics 2008 which happened in Crete.

Her husband, being Greek and curiously dissatisfied with his last trip to Crete where he had not had the opportunity to visit the western part of Crete, tagged along.

Today we visited Spinalonga. An island that in the first 50 years of the 20th century was a leper colony.  Before turning into a leper colony, the island had been a Venetian fortress and a thriving Muslim community during the Ottoman period. 

To get to Spinalonga you first have to drive out to village of Plaka. The drive is scenic. My wife and I got out at some point near the village of Agios Nikolaos to take some pictures. Here’s my picture of the area past Agios Nikolaos

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And here’s my wife taking a picture

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Once you get to Plaka you have to buy a ticket for a boat ride to the island. Crete 14-04-08 032

The island itself clearly shows signs of having been lived on quite recently.

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The boat ride is a 10 minute affair costing 7 Euro’s roundtrip. When you arrive you are standing in front of the main entrance into the Leper colony.

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What was particularly amazing about our visit was the plethora of wild flowers in bloom that offset the ruins spectacularly.

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There is a small exhibit in a restored part of the old Ottoman village.

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The exhibit  explains the nature of the Ottoman village and the details surrounding the Leper colony. The exhibit also contains some rather more obscure information about the area. In the 1930’s the area around Spinalonga was used as a refueling stop for hydroplanes that served airmail between England and India. There was also a reference, in the exhibit, to the circumstances surrounding the people who lived in the castle at the time of the Turkish handover in 1718.

The view from the island of the mainland is quite pretty. You can see here some of the remnants of the Venetian fortress walls.

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There are some very interesting rock formations that play very nicely with the seas colors.

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For some folks who lived in Crete, the impact of the visit is considerable. It is a stark reminder of how for almost 50 years, Greeks mistreated Greeks out of fear and loathing.

As a foreigner to this part of the world, this was a visit to a pretty island with a sordid past, that somehow feels too distant to be relevant any more …

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