July 22, 2010

Spinalonga, Crete

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:06 PM by inspirationsbysd

My husband and I traveled to the beautiful island of Crete, Greece. We stayed in Elounda, I simply fell in love with the place! The weather was perfect all day long, the food was great! (not the hotel food though *ekh*) people were extremely nice I have yet to meet people as welcoming and friendly as the people in Crete.

So our guide was telling us about a movie he was in (bta3 kulo the guy is a bodyguard/taxi/guide/actor) the plot of the movie takes place on Spinalonga, a small island facing Plaka in Crete. He struggled to explain to us the story behind the island but what we got was plenty to get us intrigued to visit the island. He played the role of a husband who had to see his wife sent off to Spinalonga as she was diagnosed with leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease, HD). I kept thinking of how torturing it must have been for the families of the suffer to see them off to an isolated island yet knowing that they are so close to them!

Plaka is like a 10 min boat ride away from Spinalonga, and you can clearly see the island. So after a long day at the beach we decided to walk to Plaka from Elounda (20 min walk, the roads are not pedestrian friendly but we felt like discovering the area by foot)

On our way to Plaka, Crete

I found Plaka very charming, with small stores selling knick knacks and local restaurants over looking Spinalonga. I purchased the novel “The Island” by Victoria Hislop the novel tells the story of the leper colony in Spinalonga before we had lunch.

Grilled Hallom, Stuffed Zucchini flower, Dakos *yum*

Then we purchased our tickets to get a boat ride to Spinalonga, we were at first the only couple waiting for the boat and then an other couple joined us later. By the time we reached the island, we realized it was only us and the couple visiting the island. Knowing that the last boat ride back to Plaka is in half an hour did not help either.

Getting closer

We walked around the island, alone and we did feel isolated from the world. Looking around, its easy to imagine the lives of people that occupied the island from 1903 to 1957 (very recent!) the good thing is that they did build a life on that island and not just there for their impending death.

The sad thing is that initially, people suffering from the disease were treated like savages, containing them in isolated island hoping that the disease would not spread out. Leprosy can only be contracted through close physical contact, and 95% of humans are immune but at some point the treatment for it was scarce and as the conditions worsen the people carrying the disease had symptoms such as: skin disfiguration, lose of sense in their limbs, and nerves. There are leper colonies across the world, and the largest population of sufferers are in India.

Reading “The Island” brings life to the lives spent in Spinalonga by the lepers at that time, although the book starts off weak when she delves into the story on the island that is when it becomes more intriguing. It makes our visit to the island more interesting 🙂


Sara D.


  1. ritaroberts said,

    Hi Sarah. I like the photo’s you have on your blog of Spinalonga. I live in Crete and frequently visit Spinalonga. You will be interested to know that both my partner and myself are taking part in the T.V. Series being shown from Victoria Hislops book The Island scheduled to begin in October we play the parts of two extra lepers. It has been a very exciting experience as we have never done this before.

    • Hi Rita,
      Wow thats amazing! I would love to get a clip of that, you know when our guide told us he was an extra in that movie, I searched online to look for the movie and couldn’t find it. Maybe he was also in the series rather than the movie? He said he played a role of a husband who had to see his wife off to Spinalonga, they had a 4 year old daughter in the story. He even mentioned that they drank real “Raki” during the shooting of the movie/series hehe
      You are lucky to be living in such a beautiful island, with some of the nicest people I have ever met!
      Thank you for the comment, and please send me a link of the video if it ever ends up on youtube? I’ll send you my email

      • ritaroberts said,

        Hi Sarah, I was wondering if when the taxi driver told you about his acting whether you believed him. However he was telling the truth,he is one of the main characters and is a great guy,in fact we all have a good time while doing this series ,the make up artists are fantastic and do a great job of making us look like lepers.Victoria Hislop is in the series with us. When I get chance I will try and send a couple of photo’s but I have to get permission first and it will probably be when the series is completed and is onT.V. The series is in the Greek language but I expect at some stage it will go to other countries. Best wishes Rita

      • Rita: hehe yea we did believe him (although I am pretty gullible so I had no reason not to! hehe). He told us that his wife in the movie is actually his close friend’s wife in real life. I just thought it was funny that he seems to be the go-to-guy on the island, he was a good tour guide took us to “Knossos”.
        That is very interesting that even Victoria Hislop appears in the series, wow must have been great to meet her! I cannot wait to view the series even if it is in Greek.
        Oh and if you ever run into the taxi driver, please tell him that the “Kuwaiti honeymooners” say hi and thank him for the wonderful trip. I don’t know if he’d remember us, but what a small world ha? 🙂

  2. ‘ Spinalonga , the true story Document ‘ new book by Anna Giakoumaki . 15 years research , plenty hours of interviews , thousands documents , bring to the light the true story of the lepers colony of Spinalonga . Over than one hundred innocent people , where drove there without being lepers . Healthy children were born by lepers , but they wouldn’t ever have their own families , by wrong diagnosis , and steirosis … All the true story for this island

    Kriti Publications
    L. Knosou 108
    Crete – Greece
    tel 0030 6999233333

    • Barry Woodling said,

      I met Anna Giakoumaki in Aghios Nikolaos and we discussed her new book about Spinalonga. If the book is translated into English I would like to buy a copy. Barry Woodling email barrywoodling@yahoo.co.uk. I am also on facebook.

      • Berry: I’m not sure where you can purchase the book, but the publishers left a comment with contact information
        Kriti Publications
        L. Knosou 108
        Crete – Greece
        tel 0030 6999233333
        You may contact them and find out if it is available, they should have it in English as well! 🙂

  3. barry woodling said,

    I am interested in oral history and would like a copy of the book when it is published in English

  4. Opsidianos Editions said,

    Good evening ,
    The book ‘ Spinalonga , the true story . Document ‘, by Anna Giakoumaki , was published in English and Russian couple of months ago . Soon , you could find it on Amazon.com .
    Thank you for your interest

    The Editor

    Opsidianos Editions
    Ethnikis Antistaseos 15, pc 72100
    Aghios Nikolaos , Crete , Greece
    Tel. +306978422105

  5. This book has now been published in English and Russian by a new publisher and should be available from Amazon before Christmas 2012. Keep checking – the ISBN of the English edition is 978-618-80126-1-6.

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