Spinalonga, a small island of Crete’s north-eastern coast. An island where all were exiled with leprosy between 1903 and 1957!). I was shocked when I first learned about this. Firstly, I didn’t know that leprosy had only recently disappeared from Europe and, secondly, I couldn’t imagine people being literally placed overseas as soon as they detected the disease. I read The Island book in preparation for my holiday in Crete. This reveals a woman’s story that has been banished to the island. Spinalonga became much more alive during my visit because I had read this book and, despite the heat, the shivers ran down my legs.
We rented a scooter during a carefree holiday on Crete, with which we toured the island’s north coast. Spinalonga was at the top of my Crete must-visit list after reading the Island. One morning we rode to Elounda from Sisi, a village near Hersonissos. We took the boat to the island of leprosy. We already saw Spinalonga when we arrived at the port. It looked peaceful in the middle of the sea, like an impregnable fortress. We sailed to the island for about € 10 in 20 minutes, where we purchased a ticket for the fortress itself for € 2. We arrived at the former village through a tunnel through the stones.
We went into the village over our heads with a burning sun. Spinalonga looked like a ghost town, given the sun which gave everything a radiant face. Some front doors seemed to have been painted, while the houses were about to collapse in another street. People who were banned here just got their own house and the village turned like a small country that was self-sufficient. There was a bakery, handymen were there and people were brewing their own vegetables and fruits.
Because of the difference in height, reaching the highest point on the island was quite a climb. We were treated to a beautiful view of Elounda harbor, the rest of Crete and Spinalonga itself when we landed there. You can really see from here that Spinalonga is right off Crete’s coast. Knowing that their children, loved ones, and parents were so close must have been heartbreaking for their residents. It was illegal to visit because leprosy was highly contagious. Only a fishing boat moored to deliver the goods needed once in a while. In contrast, the people of Spinalonga are cut off from the outside world.
My trip to this island of leprosy impressed me greatly. So soon as the leper was found, I can hardly imagine how the sent-away lepers should have felt. Life as they knew it all of a sudden ceased to exist and they were lonely and sent only to an unknown destination. Imagine all of a sudden having to leave everything behind to live on an island where you can still see your former home.
Would you like to learn more about Spinalonga’s history? Then take a look at Victor Zorbas ‘ website, a man who has been providing island tours for at least 30 years. Can you find any interesting videos? Then this report is recommended for 45 minutes!