On the origins of the term Lazaret

During my studies into the former lazaret (leprosarium or leper colony) on Moreton Bay’s Peel Island, people often asked me where the term lazaretoriginated. The obvious connection is with the biblical parables about Lazarus: ‘The rich man and Lazarus’ (who was a leper) and ‘Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead’ (another Lazarus who was not a leper). Perhaps it was the conflation (often erroneous merging) of these two parables that led to the declaration of Lazarus as a saint.

Saint Lazarus Island

In the 12th century, leprosy appeared in Venice as a result of trade with the Levant (Middle East). Thus, a leper colony—hospital for people with leprosy—was established at the island, which was chosen for that purpose due to its relative distance from the principal islands forming the city of Venice. It received its name from St. Lazarus, the patron saint of lepers. The church of Saint Lazarus (San Lazzaro) was founded there in 1348. Leprosy declined by the mid-1500s and the island was abandoned by 1601. Over the following years, the island was leased to various religious groups but by the early 18th century only a few crumbling ruins remained.In 1717 the island was ceded by the Republic of Venice to an Armenian Catholic monk, who established a monastery with his followers. It has since been the headquarters of the Mekhitarists and, as such, one of the world’s prominent centers of Armenian culture and Armenian studies.

Saint Lazarus Island in 2013 (photo Anton Nossik)

During the nineteenth century, many prominent people visited the island: the English Romantic poet Lord Byron from November 1816 to February 1817; composers such as Offenbach, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner; writers included George Sand and Marcel Proust; monarchs from Spain, Austria, Britain, and France. 

Today Saint Lazarus Island continues as an important centre for Armenian studies, and is a popular tourist destination.

An Innocent Abroad (London and New York)

Dolphin Lamps long Chelsea Embankment

At a recent meeting of our local Probus Club, I was intrigued to hear one of our members talk about her first tourist impressions of London. While her husband was studying at a business college, she was left to explore her fond Monopoly Board sites of London. Being left to her own devices, she found the process an empowering experience in a place she loved to explore, and it has endured with her ever since.

It brought to mind my first empowering experience of London, too, and It was just 50 years ago this November. It occurred suddenly as I was riding home in a London cab from Phyllis’ flat in Pimlico to my digs in Earl’s Court. We had been to a ball and it was sometime after midnight. I think it was our first night out together. As the cab weaved through London’s streets whose names were so familiar and yet so new to me, I felt a bit of a dandy in my dinner suit and leaning on my umbrella as if it were a cane (I didn’t wear a top hat!). Suddenly I felt that London belonged to me, or more accurately, I belonged to London.

Another ‘owning’ experience occurred to me in New York some forty years later when I left Phyllis and daughter Karen frantically shopping at Macey’s while I decided to take a leisurely walk back along 7th Avenue through the once thriving Garment District to our hotel near Times Square. Once again I suddenly felt this experience of belonging to the city. I think it resulted from the security of having loved-ones close by, but still having the freedom to explore such a world famous city on my own.

Reminder of the once flourishing Garment District in New York

An Innocent Abroad (Japan and Russia)

To continue my jubilee quest of 50 years ago (see my previous post of 06.10.2018 – An Innocent Abroad (Hong Kong):

Stopover in Tokyo

After leaving Hong Kong I had a stopover in Japan. Unlike Hong Kong where street names signs were duplicated in English, Tokyo streets were all in Japanese. Understandably, they made no concessions to Australian tourists. Oh, how I wish that Google Translatehad been invented then! And there were no Hotels.com or Google Maps: not even an internetto share my frustrations with my Facebookfriends. So after spending two nights in Tokyo and Yokohama YMCA’s, I took the easy option and booked a bus tour to Mount Fuji and environs.

October 1968 – cone of Mt Fuji

The beautiful Japanese countryside was a welcome relief from the throngs of Tokyo and Yokohama.

Stopover in Moscow

After a rattling 10 hour flight across Siberia, the Russian Aeroflot airliner touched down in a chilly Moscow where the trees were wearing their autumn garbs, the skies were grey with clouds, the Muscovites were donned in their thick black coats, and their faces were already set grimly against the onset of winter. But it was not only the weather that was cold, for in 1968, it was still the Cold War with the West. I could still feel the excitement at arriving in an alien territory.

October 1968 – Moscow – Red Square crowds

Even so, Moscow was a beautiful city and one steeped in history. I again took the easy option and boarded a sightseeing tour.

Destination London

When I touched down at Heathrow, I immediately felt at home. I was greeted by friends who spoke Australian, and who introduced me to familiar sites that I had up until then only been able to read about in books and travel brochures. The first night I was taken to Piccadilly Circus and the statue of Eros. I have been in love with them ever since.

I hadn’t fully realized the solitude that necessarily accompanies the lone traveller. Nor the anxiety of travel: of having to deal with timetables and unfamiliar situations. It’s something the travel agent didn’t deem necessary to relate.

From the perspective of 2018, I wonder how I could have been so naive and unprepared for my journey – just throwing my clothes into a port on the morning of departure from Brisbane. No travel money, no travel books. I was focused on my destination in London. I forgot that travel, like life, is a journey not a destination. Young people today have it easy. All their travel information is online – so much so that they almost don’t need to actually travel at all.