I like to begin where winds shake the first branch.
Not so far from Turkey, being the third biggest island in Greece, stands Lesvos. A mountainous island, which has been in the center of attention and in the news, not for its tourist attractions, but due to the unexpected arrivals of refugees from Syria.
I was lucky enough to visit this place and explore with my own eyes the situation and its every hidden beauty. And so, the time has come and I was flying once again!
Luckily, the weather was on my side while in the rest of Greece, low temperatures were ommon visitor, but thankfully not throughout my stay …!
Lesvos might not have plenty of tourists. But that could also be ideal for explores , since it has not been turned up into another amusement park. It attracts particularly families and couples, but I had to be the exception.
As I arrived on the island, my host and personal friend, along with another one for company, took me right away to a spot in order to enjoy my coffee and a traditional sweet with a view of Mytilene, from above. When our stomachs weren’t feeling empty and we were awake, we hit the road with our rented car.
First of things, I had to visit one of the many traditional villages on the island and with a long history on the art of ceramics, as old as the place itself: the mountain village of Agiasos. At this site, it is featured the island’s highest peak. Wandering through the cobblestone in the alleys of the village, with small shops, traditional coffee shops and beautiful houses, I got myself lost for a while, since it seemed to me that I have been transferred for a while back to the past of this place.
Long before a monk, Agathon, who, according to tradition, came to the village with an icon of the Virgin Mary holding the Holy Infant (Panayia I Vrefokratousa), as painted by Luke the Evangelist. Today, Agiasos owes its existence to this event and his activity in the hermitage that Luke built that following time, became a known monastery.
Next on the program, we drove straight to one of the most beautiful beaches in Lesvos, Vatera. Light blue water, suitable for relaxation, tanning on the longest seaside of the island with approximately 8 km length. I was also lucky to identify Chios Island as I was enjoying the view.
Lesvos has also great food and I had the chance to taste it at the first day of my visit. On top of that, the experience of dining was by the sea. What more to ask for!
Due to its size and morphology, Lesvos has many places worth a visit, from the main city to the north and from the west to the east side. Another day, following another way, it took us to Skala Sikamineas, a small fish village, known to be the place where a famous Greek writer, Stratis Myrivilis, spent most of his time as child and adult, writing, close by his source of inspiration.
It is those places with such natural beauty that exude an aura of serenity and peacefulness as you visit them. The blue of the sea, the little church of Panayia I Gorgona on the rocks, the small port with colorful fishing boats and few taverns and, all over across the site, one could see Ayvalik, in Turkey.
Far northern from Sikamineas, one of the most well-known and most beautiful sites in Lesvos could be found in Molivos. A small city, with a long history throughout time, built upon a hillside. It has been surrounded by fortification and on the top, a byzantine castle, still standing as a reminder of this place’s glorious past, overlooking the small town, being also one of the best preserved castles in Eastern Mediterranean. Today is part of UNESCO’s world heritage.
I wandered from the bottom to the top in an attempt to feel for a little while as part of this place, once called Mythymna in the antiquity, through courtyards and hidden balconies, to stone mansions and small markets in an idyllic scenery.
Quite close, but less popular as Molivos, stands the settlement of Petra, a quite small picturesque village. In there, many tourists were gathered and seen wandering around the cobbled streets and by the pleasing to the eyes seaside. Main attraction, its church of Panayia I Glykofilusa, built upon a huge rock that could be seen from below.
Of course, nobody could have a fulfilled trip in Lesvos, if not a visit in the birthplace of ouzo, Greece’s national drink, is paid. That is Plomari, another tradiotional and colorful village, due to its stones houses by the sea, where one could taste the authenticity of the ouzo’s flavor, this anise-flavored liqueur. All along good friends, tasty food and drinks in a short distance from the beach and with a sunset like no other (ok, maybe Santorini is still winning, but whatever). Surely, a place that was worth the time spent in there.
But, I had to pay a visit to another main attraction of this island: the Petrified Forest. Not really a forest, but fossilized trees dated back 20 million years, when a great eruption with lava took place on the island. Large, upright trunks complete with root systems, covering a large area in Sigri. From 1985, it has been declared as a National Monument. It is really unique, especially when we visited the museum to get a better and more organized view.
For this, we had to drive from the far eastern to the most western side of the island, in Sigri. A long and quite strenuous trip as we realized, since, when we got there, we realized that the car had not so much gasoline and it was Sunday! So, lesson of the day, never overestimate your car’s capacity. Thankfully, we didn’t end up spending the night on the mountains. Phew..!
At a close distance, is Skala Eresou, another beautiful beach, with many beach bars and touristic spots. I had take a breath after our little adventure to enjoy the silence as I could hear mostly the waves and capture the main image on my mind: Aegean sea and a small island standing along over the horizon, close to the big one.
In the main city of the island, what the islanders call “Chora”, in Mytilene, I loved the architecture of the building, in houses and common spaces, little shops as well as the waterfront lined with fish boats, a common scenery from typical Greek islands.
Here, under the influence from contemporary architectural trends that prevailed in the Western Europe, the Church of St. Therapon was built in the beginning of the 19th century. Being the characteristic landmark of the city, in the night, its dome is the most beautiful sight to the eyes, standing under the lights, glowing and magnificent, dominating the skyline.
Similarly to Molivos, there is also another castle fortified on the hill, built during the Byzantine Empire. Today, its remains are the result of rebuilt from Francisco Gateluzzo when he occupied the island in the mid 14th century to mid 15th century.
Lesvos has also two great religious protectors of Christianity that could be found in the churches of Saint Raphael and Taxiarchis. Each church has a unique story to tell, which has been transfered from generation to generation.
In the end, what has been carved in my mind, would be to just sit on the shore, eating grilled sardines and ladotyri (oiled chesse), drinking ouzo and watch the glimmering sunset on the Aegean sea.