With whom has Kiko visited the door of the Lions in Menorca?
Now it is an island, it has 200 years old buildings and is at the entrance of the largest natural harbor in Europe. What do you think it is? I ask Hooky. He smiles because he knows: the Lazareto of Mahón. When are we going?
I already have the tickets prepared. I wanted to surprise Hooky. You know that everything related to the sea and boats he is passionate about. We have to sail in one that, from Cales Fonts, takes us to the island of Lazareto.
Is it an island or not?
Now it is but before it was called the peninsula of San Felipet. It was united to the north coast of the harbor by a stretch of earth connected to the fortress of La Mola. It got demolished and that is when the construct of Lazareto in 1793 begun.
It began to function in September 1, 1817, 200 years ago, although it has not been used for more than 100 years.
The island is surrounded by a large stone wall which at its lowest is almost five feet and 7.45 meters high. In total 1,200 meters of wall made with large stones that protected the buildings and the people who lived there.
40 days of waiting
The guide explains that the Lazareto was a health center where boats that arrived in Mahon had to dock before entering the city. The sick crew stayed there and the rest had to go through the quarantine.
There were 40 days of waiting to confirm if they were infected by any contagious diseases. 200 years ago the hygienic conditions were not very good and thus ensured that they could not infect the people living on the island.
"I always wash my hands before eating because my mother taught me," a child says, causing everyone in the group to smile.
"They think that those that had been sailing for several months without leaving the boat, sometimes ate food that was not in good condition and therefor became ill," the guide says.
Dirty and suspicious?
On the island there were many facilities: to attend to the sick, for the guards, food stores, buildings to store clothes and goods that they brought from the boats, doctors, a chapel and orchards for fresh vegetables,...
Only for the sick there were three big buildings called the "patents". In the "suspicious patents" were the crew and passengers that came from the ships that could have had contact with diseases such as the plague or cholera.
"They were very dangerous diseases because they still did not know how to cure them," Hooky tells me.
The "dirty patent" and the "stinky patent" welcomed the sick people who were cared for by doctors. Did you know that some of them advised the sick to swim in the sea at least twice a day? They thought they would heal quicker.
Did they need more than 300 keys?
The Lazareto is very beautiful. The gardens are very green and the guide takes us down a road explaining us what each building was for. When we got to the central watchtower we stood at the entrance. It looks like a palace! We enter and see a Ferris wheel from which water was sent to the rest of the buildings.
There are 4 large watchtowers on the island, although this is the one in better condition.
With so many buildings the guards had 372 keys and every day they made sure to leave the doors tightly closed so there was no infection!
The French block
We arrived at a building surrounded by a large garden with a stone well. Now it is used as a room to give health classes and other activities. It is known as the "French block". Hooky explains that it's because 500 French sailors stayed here in this quarantine."
And nearby is the chapel, very small and surrounded by bars so that the sick could not approach. They were in a kind of gallery, around the chapel, several yards away.
Bridges for cars
We passed under some bridges and the guide tells us that in fact they are roads that were made so that the carts with merchandise from the boats could go up to the warehouses.
And next to it is a large building that is like a museum where old medicine books are kept, ceramic jars in which they kept herbs and other elements such as medicines. There were also curious medical devices built.
There is even an old electrocardiograph that, they say, still works!
Fidelius at the door of the lions
We took advantage of a small playground to rest for a while whilst the adults went to see the cemeteries of the island.
We are going to the door of the Lions and from there we will return to Cales Fons on the boat.
It is curious that, before, among the people we had not noticed a sculpture next to the door. The guide tells us that it is Fidelius, a bronze figure who represents a man breaking chains. Freeing ourselves from the pain and diseases, the guide tells us. Is awesome!
Almost 14,000 boats in 100 years
In 1993 this island was declared as Cultural Interest and it is clear that it fulfilled its mission of protecting the men from the great epidemics. In 100 years of operation almost 14,000 boats, more than 270,000 crewmembers and more than 110,000 passengers spent time in the quarantine on the island Lazareto.
Had you ever known a place with such history? When we arrive at Club Kikoland we will tell all our friends about our adventure. Hooky placed himself at the bow of the ship and takes us to the harbor safely. Do you also like to sail?