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.
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