The Italians took advantage of the large harbour to make a base for their Aegean fleet, and in the process decided to create a new town that they called Portolago, since renamed Lakki by the Greeks. In the 1930s this town was created with wide, tree-lined streets and several classic art-deco buildings. After the war many of these buildings were left to decay, but fortunately their architectural value was finally recognized and they are gradually being restored. You half expect Federico Fellini to walk out of one of them as you stroll around the town. The grounds of the naval base itself have been given over to a psychiatric hospital, but you can still see the magnificent house that Mussolini sometimes used as a summer residence. Italian tourists still maintain a close association with the island, and many of them own houses or keep their boats there.
The island suffered badly during World War II when it was bombed in turn by the Royal Air Force and later by Luftwaffe when Britain tried unsuccessfully to recapture the Dodecanese Islands in the fall of 1943. The tunnels prepared by the Italians to store ammunition served a much better purpose during the battles by sheltering citizens of the islands from the worst of the carnage. One of these tunnels now serves as museum dedicated to the Battle of Leros. The other major reminder of that conflict is the immaculately maintained British War Cemetery by Alinda Bay that contains the remains of 179 British, Canadian, and South African soldiers, airmen and sailors killed in the battle. Those interested in the ill-fated attempt to recapture the Dodecanese should read Churchill’s Folly by Anthony Rogers.
While slowing gaining in popularity the island is by no means over-run with visitors, and many of those come on boats that use the marina in Lakki or anchor in the small bay across the island in Panteli. Wherever you stay the best way to see the island is to hire a motor scooter to get around. The roads are fine, and many of them are lined with high eucalyptus and pine trees. As you leave Lakki head up the hill to Platanos, the capital of Leros, and then down to Aghia Marina along Alinda Bay and enjoy the combination of traditional village and neo-classical architecture that dominates these two towns.
|Easy Rider Returns|
|Waterfront in Aghia Marina|
|Dimitris The Bald One|