Lesbos blog with Andrea Sarris on Lesbos Island of Greece


  May 2009

 

 

 

MAY day arrived with a bang bringing thunder, lightening and rain.  Tavernas  in the North of Lesvos were

crowded with partygoers from Mytilene and surrounding villages going out into the fields to collect flowers for

their stefani  (May Day wreath).   As I left my village, dark rain clouds  parted making way for a glimpse of bright light. 

And then through the valley, I saw the most brilliant double rainbow - it stretched from Kalloni to Ipsilometopo. 

Immediately, I made a wish. 

 

Kalo Mena - which is what you say to folks on the first day of the month in hopes of "a good month."

 

With the early May Day showers came some of the most brilliant flowers as witnessed by another group of

Ross Holiday makers on walking tour with me. The first group were all couples and as much as I entertained them

they in turn entertained me with stories of Holland and Willa's spectacular impersonation of Donald Duck.  One

of the most memorable moments on the trail was the final 10 minutes of the walk from the Panagia Krypti to the

taverna in Melinda when Co and Cor began the hup, army march 1, 2, 3, 4 with Rob in tow.  We were all in unison

and marching to our own beat and especially to our goal "a mythos at Maria's." We had a splendid day, picknicking

on the olive trail and then finding the hidden Virgin Mary in the cave.  It was getting hot but I wouldn't know hot until

I took the second group to the Panagia Krypti two weeks later when it was really hot. 

 

Another walk in Lesvos is the monastery walk.  And because we visit the Women's Monastery, Mirsionitisis

in the first 10 minutes of the walk, my friend, colleague, and walking expert, Eva says, "It's like giving your walkers

a piece of candy within the first 10 minutes of the walk."  The women's monastery is quiet and just off the beaten path.

It's always a wonder to me how people will dress from walking duds of shorts to being monastic proper.  Well, my

group of Dutch walkers, ever so chic as well as 'tis modas' (fashionable) brought out the most elegant wraps I had

seen on the trail.  I was particularly taken with Co's color coordination and astounding resemblance and transformation

 into "Ghandi."  Ever so gracious his wife, Cor just laughed and said, "you have an active fantasy calling Co, Ghandi."

 We all laughed however, I am still waiting for the Ghandi pictures.  Onto the Leimonas monastery we went.   On this trip,

I suggested we may see some wild life after telling my previous group that this was the turtle trail.  And of course, on the

last trip we didn't see one turtle let alone animal. 

 

I guess I learned my lesson, as I almost tripped over a coffee colored snake.  The first snake actually seen moving on

the trails this year.  We lucked out again when the male peacock with all his vanity and pride extended his feathers in an

 attempt to lure in his female mate at the Leimonas Monastery.  I had to admit this was the first peacock I had seen doing

 this and I was as enamoured as was the group.

 

I digress here because I thought about one of those ancient myths - about how the peacock got all the eyes but I

could not remember it to tell the group at that moment.  D'Aulaire's "Book of Greek Myths," reminded me.  Here is my

 attempt to condense the myth and it is paraphrased from the book. 

 

Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus had a beloved faithful servant, Argus, who was big and strong and had 100 beautiful eyes all

over his body.  Zeus, ever the charmer would often disguise himself and sneak down to earth to marry mortal girls.

 

One day, Hera noticed a dark cloud where there shouldn't have been one.  When she went to investigate it, Zeus was there

with a a little snow white cow.  He had seen Hera coming and in order to protect his newest bride, Io from Hera he turned

her into the sweetest looking cow.  Because the cow was as lovely as the girl, Hera was not deceived and begged

Zeus to let her keep the cow and he finally Zeus agreed.  Hera chained poor Io, now the cow and sent her faithful servant,

Argus with 100 eyes to watch over the cow.  Io or the cow now in distress cried for help From Zeus.  At last Zeus not afraid

anymore of Hera's jealousy, couldn't bear Io's suffering and so he sent his craftiest son, Hermes to run down to earth and

set Io free.  Disguised as a shephard, Hermes came to earth playing  a pipe and sat next to Argus, who bored by watching

 a chained cow welcomed the company.  After Hermes played, he began to bore Argus with a story with no beginning and

no end only the middle.  Eventually Argus' fifty eyes began to close and then slowly one by one the next fifty eyes began

 to close.  Hermes quickly touched all the eyes with his magic wand and closed them in eternal sleep.  "Argus had been

bored to death."  Hermes untied the cow and she ran home.  Hera, furious because Argus was dead and the cow set free

decided to put the 100 eyes on her favorite bird the peacock so that Argus could always be remembered.  Of course this

went to the peacock's head and it became the vainest of all animals.  Io was still on the run because Hera in her jealousy

had sent a gadfly to go and sting the cow.  Trying to escape from the torment of the sting, the cow jumped over the strait

that separates Europe from Asia Minor and ever since has been called the Bosporus, "cow ford."

 

Back on the Monastery trail, my digression ends - we were entertained by frogs and plenty of turtles at the pond outside

 of Leimonas.  Apparently, some of the ancients heard my distress from tours past, and produced a variety of animals

along the way.

 

My second group of Ross Holiday makers were equally as entertaining as well as

inquisitive on our four walks.  The second group was 9 in total and out of all the groups when

given a choice would deliberate for a long time in what they wanted to do.  Clara on our first walk entertained me with

the word Muts - silly person in Dutch.  Considering I pride myself in remembering names, (it took me until the third

walk to get everyone's) learning a new word in Dutch was just another day on the trail.  One memorable moment was

 when the woman close to the Ovrio castro on the Skalaxori walk came running out of no where to tell the group that

we couldn't go through her field and that there was no way to the river.  (I disagreed since I had taken that approach

twice before).  I would have kept walking but the Dutch got the best of me and we turned around, I apologized and went

back up the road we came.  That was one of my favorite shortcuts and it was being cut out.  Unfortunately, this time of

year the field wasn't filled with chamomile but only green alfalfa or parsley.  We didn't manage to shake our friendly

companion, the dog, who followed us over the Bulgarian river.  This time the river cross was up river and we utilized

rocks and our walking sticks to cross.  All but one crossed with boots on!  Clara decided to wade through barefooted. 

And we all waited patiently as she put her shoes back on.

 

A curious thing happened as we went into the the Women's monastery (my second trip this month). Again we waited as

Clara zipped up her pant legs inorder to reach monastic clothing guidelines, we watched as Miriam ever the strap expert

helped each and everyone with their latest gadget and how it would look strapped by the expert.  I do my usual speech

about the monasteries, you have to be dressed properly and you can't take pictures of the nuns.  I always get the question,
how many nuns?  And I answer 5.  However, some books say there are 2 others say there are 5.  This time one of the nuns

 after we entered into the deep sanctuary came down and offered us all a dry cookie not really a bread but cookie. 

"Euxaristoume," - we thank you,"  I said.  This was my first real contact with any of the nuns.  Generally, I take some

 photos like the rest of the group and I leave them in peace.  I was curious why this nun had offered us pilgrims some dry

cookies?  Curious but also maybe because this was the third time in the last 6 weeks she had seen me taking a group in.

 And by the way, I noticed three nuns that day.

 

Our final meeting with this group was at the Panorama Restaurant up at the castle.  To our delight and from a cultural point

of view, the group got to witness a wedding with one of the best bazooki players on the island.  (I know this because I've

heard him play at various panageri's (festivals). We had managed to walk into a nice spontaneous Greek Night with great

music and dancing.   Another nice farewell to another group.

 

The next morning, all my groups will be happy to know that I finally invested in some beautiful leather Italian hiking boots.

 Now, it's time to break them in.  My next group is the beginning of June.

 

The end of May always heralds those people who come to the island year after year.  Despite the supposed economic

crisis, the usual suspects showed up.  And we marked our meeting with a spur of the moment, fishing, scouting and just

plain afternoon out on our friend, Stratis' fishing boat.  As we walked to Molyvos Harbour, I could feel a bit of a chill in the air.

 Unloading coolers, gas and the days' apparel out of the car and hoofing it to the boat, we saw tourist boats, caiques and

sail boats shoving off for their own days adventure.

 

Our destination, around Molyvos, past Eftalou, Skala Sikiaminia to the small islands off of Mandamados called

"Tis Nissis Panagia," the Islands of the Virgin Mary.  Experiencing Lesvos from water always incites many moving

 images for me.  I wonder what it would be like to have been a refugee from 1922, the burning of Smyrna, the Megalo

Catastrophia - the big catastrophy or for that matter someone trying to find a better life leaving their homeland behind

to risk it all on a rubber raft as a refugee. 

 

Always, so interesting to see the island from the sea.  The day was calm when we set out and passed the light house after

Skala Sikiminia around the Cape.  Stratis'  modern fishing boat has all the bells and whistles the latest depth monitors as well

as fish signals.  Apparently, we weren't the only ones enjoying our boat as we saw the army soldiers run out of their post to

 make sure in fact we were a Greek fishing boat.  This is the closest point to our neighbor Turkey and is guarded by the Greek Army.

 The other eyes upon us were distant sheep and goat on a secluded beach.  My friend, Irwin the geologist and

 Mary a Cultural expert on the island pointed out where the lava flows stopped 20 million years ago.  The islands that we were

 going to visit were of limestone and layers of ash.  As we got closer to the islands we anchored and enjoyed the different blue

and greens of the sea.  A picnic of some bread, cheese and olives and the crack of can of beer brightened our day. 

As did the intensity of the sun.  Mary took the ladder down the boat for a slow dip in the sea.  My approach has always been

 a toe dip and then just go for it. Splash, dunk and my first salt water swim of the year.

 

We paddled around and swam toward one of the islands.  I was curious to see the shoreline of the islands and what I thought

looked like a computer monitor, which it was.  Mary pointed out that the seagulls were dive bombing us because they probably

had nests on the island.  I quickly dismissed the idea of a landing on the island and slowly swam back to the boat. 

I had attempted a day earlier in Skala Mystegna to swim but the water was too cold.  Our trip ended with a windy and bumpy

 ride back into Molyvos.  It seemed on the way back that it took us forever to get to Skala Sikiminia and as we motored around

 Molyvos looking at the deserted beaches in front I could imagine what it must of felt like coming upon this beautiful spot and

wanting to capture it.  This of course would be during mid evil times and then the trance was broken and I was handed the

 long pole to find the red rope so that we could moor.  Back to land and reality.

 

 

 

 

April - Easter 2009

 

Wild Flowers, Pasxa and the tourist Invasion

By Andrea Sarris

 

 

 

After a long March of continued rain on Lesvos, April came bringing sunshine, showers

and a myriad of colorful botanical wonders. This time of year anything can happen with

the weather you never know if you have to fire up the woodstove again because a cold front has come through. Luckily, I remembered last Easter - it was cold – and I made sure I saved some wood so I could sit by my cozy woodstove fire on those nights the thermometer dropped.

 

Around the island there was a lot of activity in the fields as farmers were collecting their

last olives, pruning their trees and fattening up their sheep and goat for the biggest holiday of the year - Easter. Winter blues were washed away as the start of a new season took hold. Each day, I heard the familiar sound of a concrete mixer, a hammer banging and a grass cutter some where in the distance. And the women cleaned, washed and painted the inside and outside of their houses.

 

Inspired by crisp spring days, my girlfriends and I relished in our last days of freedom.  

Part of our ritual was to find a monopati (a trail) for walking. This year with the help of the sisterhood and Ioanaki we walked the walks I designed for Ross Holidays, another Dutch company coming to the island this year.  

Mother Nature was glorious to us. From the earliest buds that turned full bloom - each walk got better and better as the weeks approached Easter. We saw anemones, rare orchids, the Sylvester straw flower, red poppies, yellow Spanish prickled broom, myrrah (wild lavender), wild oregano and asparagus, just to name a few. My Dutch and

German compatriots educated me to the wonders of wild flowers and shared in the exploration of the monopati.  

Our ancient forefather Theophrastus, Assistant to Aristotle in the Lyceum was whispering in my ear read ancient Greek and find the genus of each of these flowers. After each walk, I would consult my flower, plant and shrub oracles to educate myself to these fine spring mysteries. I still have a long way to go!

 

The beat of the island during this time is a little Anaxos (anxious) as the Greeks would say.  It's a combination of the caffeine in a strong frappe, the nicotine of a cigarette and the long wait for those who are about to arrive. This sleepy island of Lesvos all of a sudden bursts into a green, religious, noisy scene.

 

During the Megalo Ethomada (the big week), we were blessed with charters from England, and Holland.

I labeled it the invasion of the tourists but it's also the time of year when Greeks go back to their villages and celebrate their biggest holiday - Orthodox Easter. I generally tell my friends from away, it's a combination of Christmas and Easter all rolled into one. Church bells ring, outside ovens are fired up making Easter bread. Eggs are being saved so that they can be dyed red to symbolize the "blood of Christ."

The souvla's which were stored in the apothiki (storerooms) are brought out to put lamb on the spit. 

 

Stores are open late, hair is being cut and dyed, and shopping for the Easter best is all part of a long week. 

The local demos' are finalizing the roads and everything is getting cut and swept to start a new.

 

My walking week started on Saturday (Megalo Sabato- Big Saturday) with 15 Dutch walkers, all part of Ross Holidays being hosted by COM Travel in Molyvos. After the kinks were worked out of pick up times, always on Greek time- late that is - we started our first walk of the 4 walk journey. 

The group, bless them, all fit, arrived the day before, were ready for their first adventure. 

Unbeknownst to me, some of them, Tony, Gerde, Mauria and Bert had been on tour before together.

And were the first to volunteer and carry our food provided by Axilleas - COM Travel's owner. 

 

Our first obstacle was a herd of sheep being herded by an old woman. Our gang scared

the sheep back up the mountain and the old woman, cursing us under her breath let us pass complaining she had pain in her side and she was too old to be doing this.    I asked her name and her answer was "giati" - why?  The day was glorious full of sun and I could feel as we started down the mountain towards the stunning views of Petra and Molyvos it was going to be a hot day. We found refuge in Agios Dimitrios where as a group we had an early breakfast of tomatoes, feta, oil and bread. Some were educated about lighting a candle. Onto Vafeios we went and as we walked through the village, we stumbled upon an open bathroom which was quickly utilized by the women and some men. I had to

remember that "the pee break" needed to be instituted. MountKilamanjaro, Mauria, I dedicate that bathroom to you!

 

Eric, (the last man), or so I called him on my tour (because he was helping me bring up the rear of the group) wanted a coffee. In retrospect, I should have listened but I didn't.  In future tours, we will stop for coffee there. I had a program and I knew that there was a stretch of road that would be hot. And it was. We trudged on down the Argenos road and into the small footpath to Efta Lou - the 7 hills. 

I was a bit of a drill sergeant that first day with time. I was used to walking with a smaller group and finally found the rhythm of the bigger group. We got to Efta Lou and there was Kostas with the 50 passenger bus waiting.   

 

11pm, the church bell rang in my xorio (village) and I was greeted by my community.  We lit our candles from the light that was brought from Jerusalem and participated in the resurrection of Christ.  "Christos Aneste," - Christ has risen.  "Alethos Aneste" - Indeed he has.  Kalo Pasxa....boom boom boom.  Fire crackers, liturgy and broken red eggs. 

 

Day 2 - no 50 passenger bus but taxis - Kalo Pasxa.  Kali Mera!  Good Morning.... We went the back road to Paleoxori through the small village of Akrasi. This is the road behind MountOlympus. Some were a bit green from the hour and a half ride, we all stretched and regained our stomachs before embarking on the monopati. As we

approached Paleoxori, we could hear the church services and smell lamb roasting on spits.  Breaking their fast, Greeks were preparing for their day of lamb and Easter goodies. We approached the center after a cheerful walk down the monopati through olive groves and sat at Paniotis' cafenion.  He was a gentle old soul, who had lost his

voice due to some sort of tracheotomy and used an electric vibration machine to talk. To our delight, coffee time was perfect, we were able to watch the Priest and the village parade by with Christ on the Cross. The villagers all marched in a procession with their Easter best through the center of Paleoxori.  A cultural delight. 

 

We continued down the monopati to some of my favorite spots on the trail.  Peter or was it Ad asked me how we called the elves? You know those little creatures with the red hats?  Because this was Elf country or maybe an Irish Leprechaun would jump out? The fields were greener than you can imagine and dotted with beautiful colors and the oldest olive trees with big knots and old branches reached out as if they wanted to grab us. The sound of the river and the newly built bridges added to the allure of the trail. And then it was onto the fine beach of Melinta where we picnicked and played in the ocean and looked at the ancient rocks. The oldest in the group, Piet ever the detail man reminded me

that the tour was too short by walking hours according to the brochure. This tour will be lengthened. Irene one of the flower specialists as she left the bus thanked me for the beautiful tour. I was happy day two was over and successful.

 

The next day was a rest day for the group.  For me, I had another tour of Ipsilometopo.  Again, I had mostly Ross Holiday makers. This is a tour of the village of Ipsilometopo which was once half Greek and half Turkish.

We walked down to one of the oldest Christian churches now called Agios Dimitrios but known from an archeological perspective as the Paleoxristian church, 323AD. I was fortunate to have Eric (the last man) from my other group, who helped me bring some folks up the mountain; Marcel, a plant and flower expert who educated the group to some rare species of flowers and me to the hickory tree from North America which maybe my grandmother or grandfather planted in the schoolyard?  Andrea and Eugene, reminded me that at 79, you just have to keep walking! 

 

On our trip from Skalaxori to Gavathas we lost a few people due to falls happening in and around the Molyvos area. Fortunately, Joop and Tineka were not hurt but just sitting it out for the day. The sky was overcast and we walked in a procession down the long road.  Annette and Irene asked me why there were so many oak trees on this side of the island?  I didn't know? After a brief stop we were greeted by Georgia, a lady living

past Kato Limani and before Ancient Antissa. She offered the group coffee. I would have accepted but Maria the taverna owner was waiting for us at Agia Barbara. Georgia let us know that there was a faster way down and we all smiled and said, “we want to walk the kilometers."  "The Greeks think we are absolutely crazy for walking."  The smell of the sea filtered into our senses as did Maria's coffee near the Ovrio Castro. My favorite part

of the trip was skipping through the chamomile field and then crossing the Bulgaria river.  The week before I saw two geese flying off. I laughed as Bert repurposed to Mauria and held her hand through the river. Ad threw a rock at me - "the guide" or was it Peter who threw the rock?  We all crossed - some with boots on and some with boots off. Our next destination Kampos, where the sea was like ladi (like oil - as the Greeks say) - this was a stretch of beach with beautiful sand dunes. As we walked up the river bed looking for Costa's warm comfortable taverna we heard the brag of a donkey and the scurries of green lizards. 

Costa's was closed - a disappointment but it was beginning to rain and we still had a few kilometers to go. Onto Gavathas, where we were greeted by our taxi driver who said, "it's going to rain."  Yes, we know... and we continued walking.

 

Our last day - we arrived at the river before Mirsionitis and we had the entire group. As we were dropped off by Christos our taxi driver it started to rain and thunder and lightening and he wished us, "good luck."  Food was distributed and carried by Tony, Bert and myself and we started for the first monastery.  Eleanora, the Ross Rep called because apparently in Molyvos it was downpouring and hailing. We had a light steady rain. Mirsionitis was a bit deserted but set the mood for our last spiritual journey. 

The group checked out the Women's Monastery set up by Saint Ignatius in 1526. There was one nun walking out of her room and the grounds were meticulous with the most splendid aromas from rose bushes, gardenias and jasmine. Tineka got her sprained ankle wrapped by Gerda. We bushwhacked a bit of the path, which I had marked the week before and found the real path and then crossed the river looking for the ever elusive turtles. Sorry Mieke and Ad or was that Peter ... ? and of course, Tony... not a turtle to be seen on the path. 

Slowly the group stopped talking and all I could hear were birds and the slow beat of

boots hitting the ancient rocks of the trail. As we approached Leimonas Monastery the sun came out and it was hot. Joop and Jani concurred, "it was hot."  We took refuge a bit at the cantina and waited as a Greek group visited the monastery. And by sheer luck we ducked into the monastery just as it started to down pour. 

The monastery houses one of the oldest libraries and is an educational delight. Peacocks are hooting and the wisteria looks and smells delightful. There are rooms, churches and a museum to visit. 

 

As we walked out, the sky was dark and foreboding but only off to the North the skies were unleashing hail and rain.

We walked fast towards Metoxi, even the turtles knew to seek shelter from the weather.  We walked the last stretch faster than I wanted however; we all knew we didn't want to get wet!  And luckily we didn't. Birds chirped and fields of poppies greeted us on our descent into Kalloni. Our last coffee, beer, tsipouro, ouzo, metaxa was at the Dream Cafe. 

The group bonded and gave me a nice send off we all met later on that evening at Salt and Pepper and rebounded!  Here's to dopia tsipouro.... Gia Mas!

 

Nice group of people, nice walking with you all and thanks for the Dutch treats!  Duie.... (sp?)

 

 

 

February / March 2009

 

 

 

Clean Monday

 

Today is Clean Monday - in Greek, "Kathara deuftera." My neighbour’s sister shouted

out to me in a Aussie accent, "Kalo ethomada," - good week and something else that

I have to say I couldn't understand and so I came into the house and goggled Clean Monday

on the internet.  I think she said something like "Kali Kyra Sarakosti", "Good Lady of Lent."

And then she said, "Aren't you Greek? And don't you know what I said?"   I yelled back,  "Yes,

but I need you to spell what you said so that I can read it and then understand it!" 

 

Under my breath, I asked "for forgiveness for not knowing the Greek language better

than I do."   As it turns out "Clean Monday," comes after the Sunday of forgiveness and

thus begins the 40 days of Lent.  If you are a good Christian, one needs to clean

not only their physical house but spiritual house and so this is the day that begins

the cleansing and the road we all take toward the Resurrection. 

                     Today was my cleansing and forgiving myself for not speaking this bloody language better!

 

This day is also unofficially the first day of spring. I celebrated by taking a walk

to one of my favorite churches, Agios Nikolaos and lit some candles. I have been away for some time from the island of paradise, so it was nice to come back and hear the streams overflowing with February's rain and snow.  Looking down the valley towards the Bay of Kalloni, the island is emerald green with almond and cherry trees blossoming beautiful pink and white flowers. 


 

The air is a crisp 10 degrees here on Lepetemnos and I breathed it into my lungs. 

As I walked, I was passed by cars full of Greek families on their way to their own spiritual cleansing.

 

Most Greeks celebrate the day by going on an "ekdromi" - a trip to either fly kites

or visit with family or friends and eat a traditional meal that consists of "lagana" a specific bread for the day, "tarama salata" - fish roe dip, fava beans and halva.

                    These foods are fixed according to Lenten restrictions which means nothing can be eaten

that is derived from red blood and animals. So, that means no milk, eggs, cheese or yogurt.

Traditionally, shell fish is eaten on Clean Monday so plates are filled with shrimps, mussels, kalimari and octopus.

 

The weekend before Clean Monday there are masked carnival parties with streamers and noise makers. In Molyvos, Kalloni and Agiassos the Demos (municipality)

have parties on Clean Monday where men dress as women and act out ancient skits followed by a parade. At these community gatherings, some merry makers like to make fun of the Mayor, some children fly kites while others make special dolls called Kyra Sarakosti - Lady of Lent paper dolls with 7 legs.  Each leg represents the 7 weeks of Lent. One by one, as each week passes a leg is plucked off the doll to mark the approaching Resurrection.

 

Coincidentally, the approaching Resurrection of Christ marks the beginning of the tourist

season on the island. So, in just 7 weeks the island will host a new season.  And so the countdown begins. However, for those who don't depend on tourism the countdown begins toward Easter.

Days are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger and the flowers are beginning to bud. This is Mother Nature in her finest - the season of Spring.

 

Farmers continue to fatten as well as milk their livestock. And new animal life

can be seen throughout villages.  The birth of Spring sprouts every where. 

My thoughts turn toward Spring cleaning my house as well as preparing my garden so that I can lay new seeds.  And so with the sleepy end of Winter comes the new dawn of Spring. 

 

This is Lesvos.

 

 

 

January

 

"Turn off the lights," 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 "KALI XRONIA!"  filakia, filakia, kisses, kisses. 

Lights....

And so, the vassolopita was cut and that marked the beginning of a New Year on Lesvos/Lesbos.  

I cut the first piece for "the house" or "Jesus" whichever tradition you are from and "to vrika" - I found the coin.    

"Game Over," said my Greek and Dutch guests disappointingly.   

The coin signifies the superstition of a good year for the person who finds it in their piece of cake. I was happy to be off to a good start! 

 

Men diving for a cross in the cold water happens on the day for Fotis (the light) - the epiphany - when Christ was baptized. A nice tradition, by the sea but a day earlier in my village the liturgy was canted out over the loud speaker.  The priest came with the vovo (the deaf and dumb man) into my house and blessed my space with holy water, sweet smelling incense and a big Orthodox cross. 

Kiss the cross and you are blessed!

 

In Northern Lesvos - rain and cold weather hindered olive picking at the beginning of the month. In the last days, the halycon days have come. These days are called Alkonides and are like an Indian summer in January. 

Harvested olives are being packed into white woven grain bags and brought to the ladoterio. Farmers with knee deep rubber boots and one piece overalls are busy milking. The rain a blessing for the nature of the island becomes a muddy mess for those working in the great outdoors.  Mothers of sheep and goat are tending to their young kids. Cheese is in production at various tyrokomeias as well as in village homes. 

 

My neighbour’s sister informed me that her brother got a coveted job in a cheese factory in Skalaxori. BRAVO! Work is hard to find at this time of year!

 

The island is quiet. Winter is here. The mountains once majestic with white snow from December, now in warmer weather grin with moss green on tops of rocks and in the fields.  Breathe... fresh air... it's so beautiful here.

 

Walking or should I say trekking around Lepetemnos, the rivers are running and the air is clear with a few wood fires spread out in the fields and houses for warmth. On a small trek, a friend and I literally stumble upon an old monopati coming from Agios Nikolaos and into the village. Those are the little fun things that you grow to love in exploration of the island.

 

It's Sunday and I drive down the mountain stopped by a passing herd of bell clanging sheep near Petri. My car moves with the herd and then they pass and I am alone again. Molyvos looms in the distance with some clouds but the blue sky has finally poked its way through the gray rain skies of two weeks past.

 

Renovation is every where as locals and storekeepers prepare for a new year.I see a black work horse with its winter thick coat sweat soaked bringing supplies up the cobbled dromos. 

Workers are slowly getting into the rhythm of Sunday. I am on an ekdromi - short trip down the mountain. 

My Sunday drive includes a visit to a property in Molyvos to check if the rain or wind elements have caused any havoc? I am happy to see they haven't and that in fact they have given the rose bush and the jasmine a new lease in life.

 

I walk a different dromo down and find what I am looking for - a friend's guest house. My friend is doing major renovations to restore the turn of the century house. He has vision and is completely laid back with three months to go before the first tourists arrive - the house is a charm.

 

A few souls are out in the streets because the day is bright and fresh.  As we walk down the agora, we admire the ancient wisteria vine now turned tree trunk.  Someone actually wanted to cut it down. "Ti Krima" what a shame.  It's unnoticed when the market is in full swing because it becomes part of the fabric of the place. Happily the vine/tree has turned another year as the Greeks would say. 

We fast walk past local kids on their motorbikes trying to plan their next move and in the background somewhere near we hear a whistle and some shouts - a football game? 

 

To the harbor we go greetings to local foreigners and Greeks.Most shops are closed but we notice the new ones that have opened and the others that are being renovated. At our destination, the coffee bar we greet other locals and friends and sit on an outside canapé and soak in the afternoon sun. Out of nowhere, a prop plane flies low over the harbor. It's an odd sight which reminds me of the The ophilos painting of the plane over Petra, I think circa 1920. It's as if everything is in a suspended moment, everyone stops and watches the plane fly over PsyrraBeach and into Petra. A cacique approaches with it's squeaking seagulls and the suspended moment breaks. 

 

It's coffee time and we manage a cappuccino and a caffe latte, a bit of chit chat, a bit of business and a bit of staring. We watch the next arrivals, and we settle in as the ones before us did staring at the blue sea. 

 

The mountain to the right of the castle beckons me and we walk slowly and methodically up the long cobbled street - refreshingly, there are no cars, no motorbikes, only pedestrians. The day has already turned afternoon and the sun is dropping in the sky.A short drive and I meet again with the herd of sheep this time behind a farmer’s truck leading them back to shelter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Lesbos blog with Andrea Sarris on Lesbos Island of Greece



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