Spinalonga – fact and fiction


A scene from 'To Nisi', The Greek adaptation of 'The Island' by Victoria Hislop

A solemn walk through the village to the waiting boat.  Observing the walking dead, the mourners look on with grief deeply etched onto their weather beaten
faces.  A wooden box hoisted onto a loved ones shoulders, a bundle lowered down by a rough rope, a glance upwards to the mourners seemingly from below ground,, as if already in a grave. The imagery is unmistakable and excrutiatingly powerful.

The island is Victoria Hislops 1st novel and the second best selling novel of 2006.  Chances are you have probably read it, but if you havent its about
spinalonga, a tiny islet off the coast of Elounda in Crete where a lepor colony housed  hundreds of sufferers between the years 1903 to 1957.  ALthough the novels
characters and the story itself are fictional, they recreate a realistic and compelling portrait of several families and how their lives and surroundings
were changed forever by this little understood disease.

Although approached by Hollywood with offers of super dollars, Victoria Hislop rejected these, choosing instead to give the rights to Mega channel in Greece for a
fraction of the price.  This way, she argued, she would be able to give something back to the island that gave her so much inspiration and passion and have
a say in the production.  An admirable gesture you might say, but has a commercial Greek TV channel really got the financing and vision to do justice to a
book translated into more than 20 languages with hundreds of thousands of copies sold worldwide?  A resounding ‘yes’ is the answer to that!  The scene described above is one of many that will have you reaching for the kleenex whilst marveling at the powerful use of imagery.

The 26 part adaption of the book was screened in 2010/2011 in greece and was one of the most successful in the history of Greek TV (deservedly so) being
watched by 3/4 of the population.  Filmed almost exclusively in Crete and Spinalonga, the production cost 150,000 euros and utilised some of best Greek actors
of the moment.  The screenplay was written by Mirella Papaeconomou with much input from Victoria who stayed in Crete almost a year as the production unfolded.
Since then, the rights have been sold to Turkey, Croatia and Germany amoungst others.  Although there is no official release of the series with English subtitles
one enterprising Greek citizen has painstakingly uploaded the series on to You Tube with their own subtitles added (you can follow from the link below)

Watching the series, Spinalonga is physically brought back to life, although if you have visited you will know that only a handful of delapitated buildings
remain, barely walls and rotting window frames.  What has lingered is the atmosphere, heavy with the sadness and fear of 1000′s of people, reviled and maligned due
to their misunderstood illness, shunned by society and sent to die on a tiny island far from their homes.  But here and there you spot a flower or a tuft of
grass, thriving in an unlikely place.  A reminder that hope exists everywhere, even in a god forsaken place such as this.

This is the link to the Greek series ‘To Nisi’, the serialised adaptation of the book ‘The Island’ by Victoria Hislop.  At the time of posting however only the first 15 episodes had been translated.  You have been warned!  You Tube ‘To Nisi’

Spinalonga can be reached by boat from both Elounda (15 minutes) and Aghios Nikholas (1 hour) for a day trip.
‘The island’ by Victoria Hislop is available in all major bookstores and Amazon.

Looking for a villa in Crete?  Look no further!  Greek Boutique Villa selection in Crete

Have you visited Spinalonga?


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