I remember it as if it were yesterday….. / 6

Around three decades ago I visited Crete, and prior to setting out had done some reading. I don’t remember now where I first heard of Spinalonga, but determined to get there somehow. IIn those days, you had to visit in a guided group, it was before the days of Visitor Centres.

We took a small boat across from Elounda, I think.  There was a group of about 8 or 10 of us, and I was entranced by the place.  I wanted to get some images with no tourists in, as that wouldn’t have portrayed the sense of sorrow, of melancholy.  So this was probably the first time that I had decided to hang back from the main group to get my images. I made sure I stayed in sight, as I didn’t want to cause problems with getting the boat back to mainland Crete!

At the end, the guide asked me if I was a professional photographer…I wish.

I felt a palpable sense of sorrow on that island, despite the beautiful sunny day, and tried to be as respectful to the memory of those that had once lived here as I could. From 1903 to 1957 the island was used as a leper colony. It has been abandoned ever since.

Spinalonga, 1987

Summer blue sky and vivid light,
white stars dance sparkling on the sea,
our boat cleaves through the water.

At the island we step lightly
through that forbidding arch,
into pure, tragic melancholy.

In the hushed air
echoes of distant voices
from long-stilled lives.

All the past
present in these ruins.

Susan Judd 2014


  1. Very nice, Sue. Words and visuals indeed.
    I went to that former leper colony a couple of years before you. Sadly, the photos remained with my first wife when we split up. Well, she took most of them, so I couldn’t complain. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Oh Sue, this is magnificent. The black and white photos and the poem. ❤ Touching, memorable, peaceful. Thank you!

  3. You have so captured the melancholy air, Sue – in your photos and your words. Sad ghosts.

  4. Heartbreaking; you really have caught the sadness of that place so powerfully Sue.

  5. Yes, went there in the late 1980s. Have you read Victoria Hyslop’s novel about Spinalonga?

    • Sue

      So we were there at about the same time! Had a quick peak at your blog, and seemingly we have been blogging for much the same time….coincidences can be fun! Yes, I have read Victoria Hislop’s book. And I think she made quite a god fist of it

  6. I’ve heard of this place. Your phhotos are haunting and your poem profound. You have captured the essence of the place powerfully.

    • Sue

      Many thanks, Suzanne…. The original images wer colur transparencies, some of which I have posted previously, but sepia has transformed the mood

  7. I don’t know anything about this place, but I love the poem and the photos. However the photos don’t make me feel sad. I’m not sure why, maybe the lovely dappled light you have captured in every picture.

  8. What a treasure of a post. Withholding the nature of the settlement was a mistress-stroke; the photos could indeed have been taken by a professional photographer; and the poem makes me want a lot more of poet-Sue. Thank you.

  9. Amy

    These beautiful photos are telling the stories…

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