Wet but beautiful Lesvos
17 April 2019 | Skala Loutra, Lesbos - 7,722 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Wet and Cold followed by Sunny, and Warm
After a day of torrential rain, with thunder and lightening thrown in, we woke to a much brighter day. We understood there was a bus from Skala Loutra to the island's capital, Mytilini, at 10.15 and so the four of us collected at the bus stop next to the quay and waited. 10.15 came and went with no bus and we entertained ourselves with short walks and photos while enjoying the sunshine, after all, it was a very pleasant place to wait. 11.15 came and went and we were still there but a passing lady told Paul there would be one at 11.30 and sure enough it arrived - old and battered with a very lively character at the wheel but a bus nevertheless. Half an hour later we were deposited on the quay in bustling Mytilini after a beautiful drive over the verdant green hills.
Mytilini is home to the University of the Aegean and feels like a city with a buzz. We start by wandering the narrow streets full of interesting shops - but we were on a mission to buy the parts to make "splitters" for our single electricity supply, so that we can share it, rather than swapping the cable over when one boat gets too cold! We found a shop that had most of the bits and they directed us to another shop to complete it. By then the shops were closing for the afternoon and so we sat down for lunch on the quay (which was a bit average!) before heading off to find the castle we could see on the other side of the port. It's a huge castle. The biggest in the Med apparently and dominates the city. We found the entrance after exploring more windy cobbled streets but, of course, it was closed! We were able to walk all the way around it however which was lovely. It's in various states of ruin with some parts sliding into the sea, but you could easily imagine how threatening it would have been to approaching enemies. As we approached the end, the heavens opened (we knew it was too good to be true!) and so we donned our waterproofs and headed for a coffee shop conveniently situated next to a car hire shop where we'd booked our transport for the next few days. After we collected the car we headed for a very "exciting" stop at Lidl's before going back to the boats via a detour to a huge Roman aqueduct spanning a valley. This was near Lesvos' huge refugee camp and at this time of day we were stunned by the number of refugees lining the road walking back to camp after their day of doing what! We had no idea other than it must be so frustrating and boring.
Our first adventure in the car took us west to Sigri. Lesvos is stunning, so green and mountainous. Wherever we went over the next few days the drive was always amazingly beautiful and full of spring flowers. Our first stop was to the Lemonas Monastery. It was in a beautiful location overlooking the huge Gulf of Kolloni and had lots of baby churches in the fields around the monastery itself which had monks cells going back hundreds of years. It is a working monastery but we didn't see any sign of life except for a very vocal peacock full of his own importance guarding the entrance.
Our destination today was a petrified forest. 20 million years ago before Lesvos was an island volcanic activity buried a huge forest petrifying it's trees. It's a huge area including several parks but also fossilised trees along the road. Unfortunately most of the parks are closed this time of year as the trees need to be covered as protection against the rain but Sigri has a museum plus a 2 hectare park to visit. The uncovered trees included huge sequoia and cinnamon (which no longer grow in Europe) as well as those still around plus ferns and nuts and root systems. Absolutely fascinating!
Our next day was a wash out - literally! We thought we had to go out as we had the car and to avoid another day hiding from the rain on board but it was difficult to see anything. We stopped for coffee in the seaside town of Petra where the highlights were a man riding along the sea front on a donkey carrying an umbrella (the man not the donkey!) and a church perched on a huge pinnacle of rock in the middle of town but it was too wet to climb the 114 steps to the top where the view would've been obscured anyway! Next was the castle and old town of Molyvos right at the north of the island which I'm sure was beautiful but after a very wet walk around the port and a damp lunch we decided to head home. We spent the evening playing Rummicub in the taverna next to the boats followed by a simple but delicious dinner.
Our last day with the car was much brighter and we headed north. We had an impromptu stop at the ruined city of Thermi which was really interesting but I think the most amazing thing was the liberal covering of spring flowers. We detoured to see a waterfall further up the coast. The road was a bit rough and so we parked and walked a kilometre up a lane surrounded by olive trees and spring flowers as well a a pond with terrapins to the spectacular waterfall following all the rain. We stopped on an old stone arched bridge to eat our picnic lunch of Greek pastries. Next was the Taxiarhon Monastery which is a major Orthodox pilgrimage site which was a bit disappointing after the beautiful monastery a couple of days before. Strangely there was a fighter jet at the entrance - the Archangel Michael is the patron saint of the Greek airforce. After some difficulty on the way back we eventually found the sanctuary of Zeus at which we peered through the railings as it was closed. Looked quite interesting with pillars from what we could see! Finally, we dropped the car off in Mytilini, wandered around town and the marina and had a gyros to end our tour.