Monday, July 28, 2014

Crete - Spinalonga & Agios Nikolaos

From Gouves, we did a day trip to Spinalonga. We went to the jetty at Elounda, this is a coastal town with very expensive resorts.

Spinalonga is very close to the shore, and is a natural island guarding the bay. There were lots of tourist boats and hundreds of people. Tickets €2, then there was a long queue to get in as only 1 person was colleting the tickets.

Spinalonga is Venetian fort dating back to 1579, built to defend the town from the pirate raids.
There were 40 cannons. It is supposedly the best preserved walls in Europe.  After the Cretan war in the 17th century, Spinalonga remained under Venetian control before falling to the Turks.

In more recent times the island was used as a leper colony from 1903, using the old Ottoman settlements, and the mosque was converted into a hospital. Many buildings were demolished in the 1970s, but the ruins of the cobbled market street with shops, the hospital and small houses can still be seen. It is being renovated but they are using concrete rather than cobbles for the pavement.

old cobbles
cemetery for the lepers
The lepers had medical help and economic support and lived independently and married and had children. Care was provided for those seriously ill. ‘Who pays the ferryman’ was supposedly based on the ferryman between Elounda and the leper colony. There is a book called ‘The Island’ about the leper colony.
Views from the island-

Spinalonga means long spike and actually describes the long island next to Spinalonga. We went around this island and had a BBQ lunch on the boat at Kolokytha beach. I found the water very cold, supposedly 23C.


the fish look silver in the sun & dark in the  shade
 From Elounda it was a nice drive high above the coast to Agios Nikolaos.
I was expecting a small village but it is larger, reminding me of Monte Carlo as it is built along the ‘harbour’ of the Gulf of Mirabello. There are pavement cafes and expensive jewellers etc. We went to a cafe by lake Voulismeni. There is a tiny chapel, though I couldn't work out if it is a chapel, or refuge for sailors in the past, or what!
the lake


© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

Crete - Lassithi plateau & Dikti mountains

Whilst staying in Gouves in northern Crete, I did a day trip to the Lassithi plateau. This is a large plateau in the hills to the south of the Gouves area.

The first stop was a monastery. High in the hills on the way to the Lassithi plateau is the old Monastery of Kera Kardiotissa. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is run by nuns and known locally as Little Lourdes and people do pilgrimages here. A nice old church but no photos allowed inside. There are antique Byzantine hagiographies (icons). €2 entry.

View from the monastery

a nun

We then went higher and stopped for lunch with a view down onto the plateau -

 The pork and potatoes looks simple but was really delicious

We went down to the plateau. I really loved the geology, the almost bare hills, some covered with small stones. The Lassithi plateau is a large plateau 850 m high surrounded by the Dikti mountains. It may be an old volcano crater. The water drains out through a tunnel at one end, though I'm not sure if this is natural or manmade. There are/were 10,000 windmills, used for irrigation, although strictly speaking they are wind pumps rather than mills.

There are a few potters and pottery shops up on the plateau. However the clay comes from elsewhere and it brought up to the shops

The tour included a visit to Dikte Cave, see separate blog

View down to the coast -

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission