Man Makes Miniature Crete in Brooklyn, Wife Keeps it Alive [pics + video]

DATE: 9/19/05 DESK: CITY SLUG: CRETE ASSIGN ID: 10008375A George Kortsolakis, 77, has created a miniature replica of the Mediterranean island of Crete, his homeland, in a structure he built outside of his family's home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The lights in the background are from his replica of Crete. photo by Angela Jimenez for The New York Times photographer contact 917-586-0916

Late retired tailor George Kortsolakis was born in Vamos, Crete, in 1955. Though he moved to Brooklyn he never forgot his homeland. Now, the deceased Bay Ridge resident’s labor of love is being kept alive by his widow, Flora, who wakes up every morning at 6 a.m. to preserve her husband’s work after he passed away in April. She pays homage to his memory by ensuring that his miniature replica of the island of Crete is kept in good condition.

His creation is made of thousands of pebbles, shells, plastic figurines and other figurines that model the island where he was born. Started as a homage to Crete in 2002 when Kortsolakis pieced together concrete fragments and patches of deep blue flowers to resemble the Mediterranean sea. Rocks were added to complete the 7-foot-long island of Crete as he remembered it. Populated with palm-sized figurines, toy cars and ceramic lighthouses it wasn’t long before Kortsolakis expanded the structure to include neighboring islands using plexiglass and wood.

The structure includes mythological figures such as Alexander the Great’s mermaid sister, the leper colony of Spinaloga as well as Icarus who escaped from Crete using wings of wax but flew too close to the sun.

Flora, his wife of 55 years, now takes care of her late husband’s model of Crete. She says that he became ill and died of a broken heart following his daughter’s death from cancer.