Σπιναλόγκα – Spinalonga

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Η Σπιναλόγκα είναι ένα μικρό νησάκι το οποίο κλείνει από τα βόρεια τον κόλπο της Ελούντας στην Επαρχία Μεραμπέλλου του νομού Λασιθίου Κρήτης. Το αρχαίο του όνομα ήταν Καλυδών αλλά μετά την κατάληψη του από τους Ενετούς ονομάσθηκε Σπιναλόγκα. Οχυρώθηκε άριστα από τους Ενετούς τόσο από κατασκευαστικής και αρχιτεκτονικής άποψης όσο και από απόψεως αισθητικής του όλου τοπίου που και σήμερα ακόμη διατηρεί την αξεπέραστη ομορφιά του.

Σπιναλόγκα 1500-1900 μ.Χ.

Άρχισε να οχυρώνεται το 1574 όταν οι Τούρκοι είχαν καταλάβει την Κύπρο και οι Ενετοί καταλάβαιναν ότι σε λίγο θα ερχόταν και η σειρά της Κρήτης. Με την οχύρωση του νησιού αυτού οι Ενετοί ήθελαν αφενός να διαφυλάξουν στον κόλπο της Ελούντας τα πλοία τους από τους πειρατές και από τον τουρκικό στόλο, αλλά και να εξασφαλίσουν τις αλυκές της Ελούντας από όπου θα έπαιρναν το αλάτι για την Μεσευρώπη αφού είχαν στερηθεί των παρομοίων της Κύπρου.

Μετά την κατάληψη της Κρήτης το 1649 από τους Τούρκους η Σπιναλόγκα έμεινε ακόμη στα χέρια των Ενετών άλλα 65 χρόνια μέχρι το 1715. Αυτό οφείλεται στην άρτια οχύρωση της. Όλο αυτό το διάστημα των 65 χρόνων εκεί έβρισκαν καταφύγιο οι «Χαίνιδες» οι επαναστάτες Κρητικοί που μην αντέχοντας τους σκοτωμούς, τις δολοφονίες, τους απαγχονισμούς, τι λεηλασίες, τους εξανδραποδισμούς που από την πρώτη μέρα εφάρμοσαν οι νέοι κατακτητές Τούρκοι στο νησί, ανέβηκαν στο βουνό και άρχισε αμέσως το αντάρτικο με τις συνεχείς επαναστάσεις μέχρι το 1898 που έφυγε και ο τελευταίος Τούρκος από την Κρήτη.

Λεπροκομείο: 1905-1957

Το 1905 χρησιμοποιήθηκε ως Λεπροκομείο όπου οδηγήθηκαν όλοι οι λεπροί της Κρήτης, οι οποίοι πρώτα βρίσκονταν απομονωμένοι στη «Μισκινιά», έξω από το Ηράκλειο, και ήταν εστία μολύνσεως και για τον υπόλοιπο λαό.

Κατά την περίοδο της Ιταλογερμανικής κατοχής οι κατακτητές δεν τολμούσαν να αφήσουν ελεύθερους τους λεπρούς και ήσαν αναγκασμένοι να τους τροφοδοτούν οι ίδιοι, δεδομένου ότι το απέναντι χωριό Πλάκα το είχαν εκκενώσει και είχαν διώξει τους κατοίκους σε άλλα χωριά, όλη δε την παράλια περιοχή την είχαν οχυρώσει με πυροβολεία, πολυβολεία, υπόγειες στοές, ναρκοπέδια γιατί φοβόντουσαν απόβαση των Άγγλων σ’ εκείνο το μέρος. Ούτε ποτέ μπήκε στο νησάκι Ιταλός ή Γερμανός και γι’ αυτό λειτουργούσαν παράνομα ραδιόφωνα και ο γιατρός Διευθυντής Γραμματικάκης αντέγραφε τις ειδήσεις του Λονδίνου και του Καΐρου και τις μοίραζε ως δελτία ειδήσεων στους κατοίκους.

Τελικά το 1957 έκλεισε ιαθέντων των λεπρών με την ανακάλυψη των αντιβιοτικών φαρμάκων.

Στις ημέρες μας

Μετά το 1957 αρκετά δεκαετίες έμεινε αναξιοποίητη και μετά τον ενδιαφέρον των πολυάριθμων τουριστών άρχισε να γίνεται συστηματική αναστήλωση και επισκευή των παλαιών κτισμάτων, των οχυρωματικών ενετικών τειχών, των παλαιών οικιών, των δρόμων κλπ.

Χιλιάδες επισκέπτες επισκέπτονται κάθε χρόνο το πανέμορφο αυτό νησάκι με καραβάκια που ξεκινούν κάθε μία ώρα από τον Άγιο Νικόλαο, την Ελούντα και την Πλάκα που βρίσκεται ακριβώς απέναντι στην στεριά και απέχει περίπου 800 μέτρα.

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The island of Spinalonga (official name: Kalidon) is located at the eastern section of Crete, near the town of Elunda. The name of the island, Spinalonga, is Venetian, meaning «long thorn», and has roots in the period of Venetian occupation. This location is also the setting for Victoria Hislop’s bestselling novel The Island and Werner Herzog’s experimental short film Last Words.

The Venetian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli reports that Spinalonga was not always an island, but was once linked with the adjacent peninsula of Kolokitha. He mentions that in 1526, the Venetians cut down a portion of the peninsula and thus created the island. Because of its position the island was fortified from its earliest years in order to protect the entranceway of the port of Ancient Olous.

Olous, and accordingly the wider region, were depopulated at the middle of the 7th century because of the raids of the Arab pirates in the Mediterranean. Olous remained deserted until the middle of the 15th century when the Venetians begun to construct salt-pans in the shallow and salty waters of the gulf. Consequently, the region acquired commercial value and systematically became inhabited. This fact, in combination with the Turkish threat to use gunpowder for warlike purposes, particularly after the occupation of Constantinople in 1453, and the continuous pirate raids, forced the Venetians to fortify the island.

In 1578 the Venetians charged the engineer Genese Bressani to plan the island’s fortifications. He created blockhouses at the highest points of the northern and southern side of the island, as well as a fortification ring along the coast of the island that closed out any hostile disembarkation. In 1579, the General Previsor of Crete Luca Michiel put the foundation stone of the fortifications. There are two inscriptions that cite this event: one on the transom of the main gate of the castle and the other on the base of the rampart at the north side of the castle. In 1584, the Venetians, realising that the coastal fortifications were easy to conquer by the enemies attacking from the vicinal hills, decided to strengthen their defence by constructing new fortifications at the top of the hill. The Venetian fire would thus have bigger throw, rendering Spinalonga an impregnable sea fortress, one of the most important in the Mediterranean basin.

In addition, in 1579 the Venetians built a fortress on Spinalonga over the ruins of an acropolis. They kept control of the island until the Ottoman Empire took possession of it in 1715.

Following the Turkish occupation of Crete in 1669, only the fortresses of Gramvousa ,Souda and Spinalonga remained in Venetian hands; they would remain so for almost half a century. Many Christians found refuge in these fortresses to escape persecution. In 1715, the Turks came to terms with the Venetians and occupied the island. At the end of the Turkish occupation the island was the refuge of many Ottoman families that feared the Christian reprisals. After the revolution of 1866 other Ottoman families came to the island from all the region of Mirabello. In 1881 the 1112 Ottomans formed their own community and Later, in 1903, the last Turks left the island.

The island was subsequently used as a leper colony, from 1903 to 1957. It is notable for being one of the last active leper colonies in Europe. The last inhabitant, a priest, left the island in 1962. This was to maintain the religious tradition of the Greek Orthodox church, in which a buried person has to be commemorated 40 days, 6 months, 1, 3 and 5 years after their death. Other leper colonies that have survived Spinalonga include Tichilesti in Eastern Romania, Fontilles in Spain and Talsi in Latvia. As of 2002, few lazarettos remain in Europe.)

There were two entrances to Spinalonga, one being the lepers’ entrance, a tunnel known as Dante’s Gate. This was so named because the patients did not know what was going to happen to them once they arrived. However, once on the island they received food, water, medical attention and social security payments. Previously, such amenities had been unavailable to Crete’s leprosy patients, as they mostly lived in the area’s caves, away from civilization.

Today, the unoccupied island is one of the main tourist attractions in Crete. In addition to the abandoned leper colony and the fortress, Spinalonga is known for its small pebble beaches. The island can easily be accessed from Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. Tourist boats depart from both towns on a daily basis. There is no accommodation on Spinalonga, meaning all tours last only a few hours. Boat trips from Elounda take approximately fifteen minutes while trips departing Agios Nikolaos can take nearly one hour.

The book «Island of the Damned» by Victor Zorba – a local expert on the island – is still in print. It relates the true story of the leper colony and, because the author met with the last governor of the colony, contains many exclusive photos and stories of the German occupation.

Source: WIKIPEDIA

Here is a video for you to have a view of the island.

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Κριτσά – Kritsa

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Το παραδοσιακό χωριό Κριτσά βρίσκεται κοντά στον Αγιο Νικόλαο.

Το χωριό που παράγει ένα από τα καλύτερα λάδια στο κόσμο, το χωριό που ο Jul Dasen γύρισε το «Χριστός Ξανασταυρώνεται», με τους υπέροχους ανθρώπους που σου ανοίγουν το σπίτι τους με μαντινάδες και σε φιλεύουν με αγάπη.

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Kritsa is one of the oldest and most picturesque villages in Crete, Greece, built amphitheatrically on a rock hill, named Kastellos, surrounded by olive groves, at an altitude of 375 m. It is part of the municipality of Agios Nikolaos. During the Middle Ages, it was thought to be the largest village in Crete. Kritsa has been destroyed many times during the last centuries because it participated in all of Crete’s revolutions. It is located 10 km from Agios Nikolaos and has about 1700 inhabitants.

Kritsa has an extensive historic record with evidence of occupation as early as the second millennium BC. Near the village, three km to the north, are the ruins of the ancient Greek city Lato which was noted as one of the most powerful Dorian towns in Crete, with two acropolis. The oldest setllement in the Kritsa area, on the steep rocky hill south of the village named Kastellos, dates back to the 12-13th century BC (Late Minoan IIIC). Lato is thought to may have been founded when Kastellos was abandoned. Before the entrance of the village is the old Byzantine church of Panagia Kera with unique, in technique and importance, Byzantine frescoes (13th and 14th century).

When Kritsa is lit up in the evening it has the form of a scorpion. Old Cretan customs and traditions are kept alive, and Kritsa is considered one of the most important centers of weaving art. The narrow streets are visited by tourists. From Kritsa there is an interesting and spectacular climb to the plateau of Katharo, which provides a panoramic view of Mirabello Bay, Agios Nikolaos and Kalo Horio. The Kritsa Gorge is located on the route to Tapes or to Lato.

Here below you can see a video that shows the village, talks about the film «Christ Recrucified» filmed by Jules Dassin which was based on the novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis and the production of olive oil. Kritsa’s olive oil is one of the finest ones globally and has taken many awards. The video ends with a traditional oil making «factory» which is now a museum.

Αντιστασιακές Ομάδες Κρήτης – Resistance in Crete during WWII

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Ο Δήμος Ηρακλείου και συγκεκριμένα η Βικελαία Δημοτική Βιβλιοθήκη, ξεκινάει τον εντοπισμό και τη καταγραφή όλων των Αντιστασιακών Οργανώσεων & Ομάδων της Κρήτης κατά τον Β’ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο.

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A new effort of gathering data on the resistance in Crete during World War II has started by the Municipality of Heraklion. Material will be evaluated and published.

Αγιος Νικόλαος – Agios Nikolaos

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The capital of the prefecture of Lasithi is Agios Nickolaos since 1904. The name Agios Nikolaos means Saint Nicholas, and its stress lies on the second syllable of the word «Nikolaos». Agios Nikolaos or Ayios Nikolaos.
It is built on the northwest side of the peaceful bay of Mirabello and it a picturesque modern town with 10.000 people.
Thanks to its warm climate, the abundant vegetation and the always-calm sea, it has evolved in an international tourist resort. There are many excursion boats and caiques are docked in the leeward harbour.
The area round the harbour with many restaurants and the picturesque cafes throbs with life in a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
The town maintains its quaintness, especially in the town center, with the traditional architecture of the houses and the narrow streets.
A «landmark» of the town is the round small lake called Voulismeni. It is very beautiful and at the southwest side there is a small zoo. According to the myths, it was here that goddess Athena was washing her hair.
The lake, which must have been created by a volcanic subsidence, or according to others it is the outfall of an underground river that is 64 m deep. Some years ago, it was believed that it was bottomless and the dwelling of ghosts.

Here is a video from a Greek TVchannel that visited the city recently.

Μια βόλτα στο Ηράκλειο – A quick tour at Heraklion

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A quick tour in my city. It starts with the Square of Lions and the fountain of Morozini, the Town Hall which is a Venetian building, the Venetian Walls, the port…

Νέες δεξαμενές στο Ενυδρείο Κρήτης – Cretan Aquarium is expanding

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Το ενυδρείο Κρήτης ξανανοίγει τη τελευταία εβδομάδα του Μάρτη με 25 νέες δεξαμενές και πολλές εκπλήξεις για τα παιδιά.

Σε αυτή τη σελίδα του blog θα βρείτε φωτογραφίες από παλαιότερες επισκέψεις μου στο Ενυδρείο.

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The Creatan Aquarium is closed for some time now since they are adding more tanks, 25 actually!
The are going to open again at about the 22nd of March. Having more displays but also new experiences for kids. Kids will have the opportunity to touch and feel the life under the water.

In this page of the blog I have photos I took during my past visits.

Καθαρή Δευτέρα – Ash Monday

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Εικόνες από άκρη σε άκρη της Κρήτης με τη βοήθεια της Παγκρήτιας τοπικής Τηλεόρηασης.

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Clean Monday (Greek: Καθαρή Δευτέρα), also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, Monday of Lent, is the first day of the Eastern Orthodox Christian and Eastern Catholic Great Lent. It is a movable feast that occurs at the beginning of the 7th week before Orthodox Easter Sunday.

The common term for this day, «Clean Monday,» refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods.

Liturgically, Clean Monday—and thus Lent itself—begins on the preceding (Sunday) night, at a special service called Forgiveness Vespers, which culminates with the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness, at which all present will bow down before one another and ask forgiveness. In this way, the faithful begin Lent with a clean conscience, with forgiveness, and with renewed Christian love. The entire first week of Great Lent is often referred to as «Clean Week,» and it is customary to go to Confession during this week, and to clean the house thoroughly.

Clean Monday is a public holiday in Greece, where it is celebrated with outdoor excursions, the consumption of shellfish and other fasting food, and the widespread custom of flying kites. Eating meat, eggs and dairy products is traditionally forbidden to Christians throughout Lent, with fish being eaten only on major feast days, but shellfish is permitted. This has created the tradition of eating elaborate dishes based on seafood (shellfish, molluscs, fish roe etc).

Here below you can see a video on how Cretan celebrated the day. It was a sunny warm day and people had the chance to enjoy themselves outside, in the country!