Visit to Aghios Nikolaos, Crete by a delegation of the Committee "Greece 2021"

Visit to Aghios Nikolaos, Crete by a delegation of the Committee "Greece 2021"

• Gianna Aggelopoulou-Daskalaki: "Coalition to designate Spinalonga a World Heritage Site"
• At Spinalonga people fought for their life and freedom with bravery and stamina, the values bestowed to us by the Revolution of 1821
• The Municipality of Aghios Nikolaos proposes to organize an international film festival that will connect the region's history with the development of the area

A unique landmark of Crete, the island of Spinalonga, where a heartbreaking chapter of modern Greek history was written, was visited on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 8, by a delegation of the Committee "Greece 2021" led by President Gianna Aggelopoulou-Daskalaki. A place of "exile" for those who suffered from the terrible disease of leprosy, but also a place where those who carried the stigma enjoyed freedom and lived a normal life, as normal as could be under the circumstances, having left behind the isolation and social persecution inflicted on them because of the terrible disease.

From the "island of human suffering," Spina Longa (long thorn, the literal translation of the Latin name), the President of the Committee spoke of the coalition formed by those involved, the Minister of Culture, Mrs. Lina Mendoni and the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and head of the Committee "Thermopylae-Salamina 2020", Mrs. Marianna Vardinoyianni. The coalition leads the campaign for the designation of Spinalonga as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A goal that she, as President of the Committee "Greece 2021", pledged to follow through with all her might. The "city of lepers," as they still call it today, receives about 380,000 visitors every year, during June, July, and August, and is the 2nd most visited archaeological site in Crete behind Knossos.

"The Committee "Greece 2021", aware of its role to highlight the unique history of our country, is here today respectfully and emotionally moved," Mrs. Aggelopoulou said in her statement. She added: "Spinalonga is a universal monument. You will ask me how does this relate to the Committee's work? The Committee's obligation is to highlight our history, everything sacred that has happened in these 200 years, and discuss the values that this course, with 1821 as its starting point,has bequeathed to us. These are the values we discover in Spinalonga. Love for freedom, love for life, resilience, bravery, the stamina shown by all the people who found themselves here once. These must be emphasized through the designation of Spinalonga as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We want to advocate for the island and be proud that, on the event of the 200th anniversary of the Revolution, we did something that will remain a legacy for the future."

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A crossroads of different cultures

Apart from the abstract values reflected by the history of Spinalonga, the physical remnants of human activity in the area have created a unique monumental palimpsest. On the islet coexist the brilliant creations of the Venetian fortification architecture of the 16th century, the enchanting ruins of an Ottoman settlement of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the buildings of the 20th century. In her speech, the President of the Committee vowed to help solve the existing problems of the lack of electricity and water. The guided tour of Spinalonga was conducted by the archaeologist Mrs. Georgia Moschovi of the Lassithi Antiquities Ephorate.

In his response, the Mayor of Aghios Nikolaos Antonis Zervos mentioned: "We hope that with the Committee and the President's help, we will take the necessary steps so that together with the Ministry of Culture we will achieve the designation of Spinalonga as a UNESCO Monument. The pandemic, isolation, and social distancing period is the most suitable time to emphasize the significance of Spinalonga and the symbolic similarities with present times."

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Discussion with productive bodies - The proposal of the Municipality

Following the visit to Spinalonga, the Committee delegation went to Aghios Nikolaos where they met with officials from the Municipality and representatives of the local community, in the presence of Metropolitan Bishop of Petra and Herronissos, Mr. Gerasimos, SYRIZA Member of the Greek Parliament, Emmanuel Thrapsaniotis and Deputy Regional Governor of Lassithi Ioannis Goulidakis, in a hall provided by Agapi and Kostanza Sbokos. At the meeting, the participants underlined the need to further improve the current model of tourism in the region, including the introduction of alternatives such as experiential tourism, aesthetic tourism, and eco-tourism. At the same time, the proposal submitted by the Municipality of Aghios Nikolaos to the Committee's electronic platform, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Revolution, was also presented.

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The proposal attempts to connect the history of the region with the development of the area, given that Aghios Nikolaos is the birthplace of the award-winning director Nikos Koundouros but also a source of inspiration for major directors such as Jules Dassin and Walt Disney, who filmed scenes of the film "Moon spinners" in the small, then, fishing village of Elounda. In particular, the proposal refers to organizing an annual International Film Festival, which will bring people from the entire film industry, directors, producers, actors, technicians, to Aghios Nikolaos to attend the festival and have the opportunity for discussions. This will also promote Crete as a film set of a unique aesthetic and a destination friendly to film productions. "The proposal of the Municipality of Aghios Nikolaos is an excellent idea. It combines art and culture with the developmental prospect," said Committee Assembly Member Nikos Kanellopoulos. During the discussion, the importance of synergies, collaborations, and networking with similar initiatives and actions developed in different parts of Greece was also emphasized.