Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Spinalonga - The Island

On our recent holiday to Crete we went over by boat from Elounda to the Island of Spinalonga. This is the island written about by Victoria Hislop in her book about the leper colony. ("The Island")  It was a perfect day. The journey was beautiful. The sky was blue.
Going to Spinalonga
The Venetians occupied Crete in 1210 and built fortifications on Spinalonga. In its time the island has sheltered Turks from Christians, Christians from Turks, Jews from Christians and, finally, lepers.
Venetian fortifications
It became home to lepers in 1903. Anyone found to have leprosy on Crete at that time was sent to the island away from all their loved ones, never to return. They knew no cure.Imagine the sadness as people entered into the old town  knowing they would never return to mainland Crete.
In time they built a hospital, houses, shops ,a church,
 When they first arrived the lepers found that there was no water on the island and they were forced to rely on water and food sent from the mainland. Around 1930 with the help of Dr. Grammatikais some important changes were made and they brought electrical power and a cinema to the island, they expanded the hospital, built communal houses, a water supply system. There even started little businesses, opened shops and had a bakery. The Cretans so love their traditional breads.
bread oven
By 1957 the island was the home of all the lepers in Greece. There is a graveyard -such a beautiful spot but, oh, so sad .
Spinalonga was the last leper colony in Europe.  In the past 20 years more than 14 million leprosy patients have been cured. The World Health Organisation is trying to find ways to detect it earlier.  The sad thing is that there are still places where leprosy is endemic.

Spinalonga,, though, is a testimony to the human spirit.That people could form a community, look after each other, run small businesses and improve life for each other is amazing. It was a sombre place but as we came away it was  strangely uplifting to see the sun shining and think of the little houses, shops, the church and the cinema and to glory in the beauty all around.
leaving Spinalonga


Price Erica said...

Lovely to remind myself of the history of such a beautiful place. We never made it to the graveyard - someone was complaining about the amount of walking (didn't seem that much to me). I'd love to return one day as it is a special place. It is sad that people still suffer from this disease as it is so easy to treat now with access to the right drugs.

Gilded Singing Sarah said...

OMG beautiful! AND I learned something! My favorite kind of post! YAY! Thank you!