As we basked in the glorious Grecian sun overlooking emerald waters on the gorgeous coast of Elounda, there was this fortress island sitting on the blue horizon ... and the locals just kept telling us that we have to see it.
By now, you would have noticed our obsession with archaeology and old things in general, so there was no way we would have said no. Plus, island fortresses sound just about like the kind of intriguing places with interesting stories to unearth.
So a short boat ride (or a boat hop) later, we stepped foot on the islet of Spinalonga.
This little piece of land was originally used by the Venetians (when their vast empire then included these Grecian islands) in the 1500s as a fortress to guard the Elounda harbor and coast. But of course since we are talking about the Greek civilization, no surprise that the fortress was built over the ruins of an ancient acropolis - people had lived here way before the Venetians arrived, way, way, way before.
In the 1700s, the Turks took over after the Cretan War and the Muslims began settling on the island and by the late 1800s, there were well-constructed homes and shops. In the early 1900s, the Cretan state decided to establish a leper colony on the island where the community lived until 1957.
The building and rebuilding meant that there are multiple layers of history to be observed on the island but what you will see now are mostly the very well-preserved buildings from the Muslim era. Let me be completely honest though, there was a creepy haunting vibe throughout our whole walk around the islet, probably because of the complex history and stories that these walls hold. The continuous narrative that ran through the centuries were the lives lived in isolation on this island and little was known about what really happened behind the fortress walls.
Take a walk into a haunting past and use your imagination as your peep through spaces and corridors. But of course, bask in the glorious sun (you would probably only be in Crete during warm weather months anyway!) and the marvelous views of blue waters and steep cliffs dense with vegetation.
The next time that you are in the south of Greece, a boat ride from any of the main islands will take you to this interesting slice of history.