“There Is Nothing to See in Crete”

“There Is Nothing to See in Crete”

posted in: Greece, Medical | 0

That was the advice given to us by a British sailor not long ago, as we were discussing our vague future plans.  Glad we Americans relish ignoring British negativity!  The Burnetts are now happily anchored in Crete.

You won’t believe this yet, but Mel is not changing the subject.  She is now going to talk about leprosy.  For some unknown reason, Mel has been fascinated with the ailments of the seventeenth-nineteenth century, especially the slow ones, the ones with multiple stages.  Maybe it is because her mother liked to collect antique medicine bottles, adorned with labels promising cures for your “catarrah” with its patented combination of tincture of opium, ethyl alcohol, and magnesium.  Maybe it is because she is a neurologist, and reflecting back on a time when there were even fewer cures for illness makes her feel a little bit better about her own, therapeutically wimpy, specialty.   Anyway, she once read Charcot’s lectures just so she could appreciate all of the stages of syphilis, and Molokai so she could learn about leprosy and the history of Hawaii.  In fact, books about leprosy end up being an odd subdivision of travel literature, as leprosy affects people all over the world.

And so a month back, just because she was in Greece, Mel read Victoria Hislop’s historical fiction The Island, set in the leper colony that was active from 1904-1957 on the island of Spinalonga in Crete.  Imagine her delight to find that Spinalonga, a small lump of stone protruding from the sea, was just around the corner from their anchorage!  She felt like she was in the presence of a “rock star!”  Ahem.

So the Burnetts loaded into the dinghy, tied up next to all of the tour boats, and explored.  Tying up next to tour boats always makes Mel smug, as she enjoys saving the $85 Euros per person by doing this herself.  Of course, the smugness rapidly dissolves whenever she thinks of the Parasailor exploding.  That was a lot of packaged tours, dammit!

Some thoughts as they explored Spinalonga:

It is a shame that they called people suffering from leprosy, “lepers.”  It is hard enough not to define someone by their disease if it is chronic.  Imagine if we called people with cancer, “cancerlings!”

They really should get into the aloe industry here.  The topography resembles Aruba.

I think cruisers would find this island particularly upsetting.  We walked the entire thing in an hour.  While the views are amazing, the people confined there could never change them by weighing anchor and leaving.  Many of the stones on the paths were slippery from all of the feet polishing them over and over.  The human mind is programmed to want to see different things now and then!

Spinalonga is a crumbling town from the early 20th century, built on top of a crumbling Venetian fortress, built on top of a crumbling ancient acropolis.  It is not very…level.

Archaeologists have found a lot of ancient game boards carved into the rocks and have figured out some of the rules.  Homeschool project: make the kids play one of the games!

I will leave you with pictures of Spinalonga, just so you can experience what “nothing” looks like!

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