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Leros has peacefulness, beauty and a wide variety of interest for its modest size. These qualities have for long passed unnoticed because of a number of preconceptions stemming from the recent history of the island which have tended to cloud its image. As a large naval and military base for the Italian occupation during the years between the wars; as a place of exile and reclusion for political prisoners under the Colonels’ Junta; and as a centre for a series of mental institutions and hospitals that have been the object of shaming criticisms of misconduct and inhumanity in the last 20 years, Leros still struggles hard to overcome a dark reputation. It is therefore all the more surprising to discover that it is such a radiant and gracious island—a coastline of magnificent bays, a handsome chora dominated by a dramatic castle, a number of interesting museums, early rural churches, and villages that burst with flowers and trees amidst a landscape of rocky hills. Extraordinary and unforgettable, is the island’s principal harbour, Lakki—an evocative assemblage of architectural forms and ideas, created in one of the most complete examples anywhere of so-called ‘Futurist’ or ‘Rationalist’ planning. What it evokes—Italy’s imperial aspirations between the Wars—may not delight, but its historical and aesthetic interest cannot be denied. Although now rather ruined and neglected, the wide sweep of buildings on the harbour’s waterfront, from Elementary School to Customs House, is worth the visit to Leros alone to see.
Leros feels like, and is, a compact island, and its short distances can be covered easily on foot. With a deeply indented coastline, varied vegetation, and a stimulating combination of different kinds of architecture, there is al ways considerable visual interest, and little real ugliness, on the island. Its Ancient and Early Christian remains, whose effect depends more on setting than on content, are largely undramatic, while monuments from an unexpectedly different quarter can sometimes speak more eloquently: the unique murals by political exiles of Greece’s Military Junta in the late sixties in the remote chapel of Aghia Kioura, are a good example. Leros rewards exploration that is unhurried and, above all, open-minded.
Leros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.