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Kalidon, or The island of Spinalonga, has a modern recorded history dating back over 8 centuries. Acquired from the Byzantine Empire at the start of the 1200s it became a crucial part of the Venetian power base on Crete, for the next 400 years. Huge fortifications still domainate this small but strategically important outcrop of rock. It guards the entrance from the deep waters of the Cretan Sea into the sheltered and shallow bay.
Such was the defiance and strength of this tiny dot of land that it managed to hold out against the Ottoman Empire for almost fifty years (1669-1715) after the fall of the rest of Crete. From 1715 until the turn of the twentieth century it was held by the occupying Ottomans, when it began its most literarily infamous incarnation as a leper colony, finally closing its doors when the last sufferer departed in the 1950s.
Spinalonga in the twenty first century has seen many visitors continue to make the short crossing from Plaka or Elounda and renovation of some of the old buildings into an information centre charting historic events in the bay area. Juxtaposed below the huge Venetian fortifications on the southern tip now sits a small cafe and at least one local wedding has even taken place in the old community square, as this stoicly dignified and defiant tip of land emerges into the era of tourism.
Victor Zorbas Book about Spinalonga at: www.victorzorbas.com
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