Christine

About Christine

I first visited Lesvos in 2001 - only my second trip to Greece - and I knew I had found the perfect island.  I enjoy walking and exploring - even after seven visits there are many places still to be discovered.  Having at first arrived via the package route (but always done our own thing!) my partner and I now travel independently, hire a 4WD & stay in 3 or 4 locations around the island during a stay.  This allows more variety in places to see, places to eat and a different view in the mornings. Apart from the scenery and the food what I really love are the people.  We have met so many interesting people on our travels and they always welcome us back like old friends. Our last visit was in 2013 and our next is already on the drawing board.

Agios Ermogenis

South of Mytilene airport the road stays close to the coast, with wide views across the sea to Turkey on your left and hills covered with thick vegetation rising on the right to the ridge that runs northwards along the centre of the peninsula.  As it heads for the end of the peninsula the road turns inland and eventually arrives at a junction. If you keep to the right you will head back north along the Gulf of Gera towards Loutra.  However if you take the left hand junction at this point the road narrows down to a dead end at pine trees  overlooking a jaw-dropping view of the bay at Agios Ermogenis.

Agios Ermoghenis

Below you is a beautiful cove with clear turquoise waters, a rocky shore, a white church and vivid blue paint details on adjacent buildings that create a scene reminiscent of the Cyclades.  There are two small south facing beaches, separated by a rocky outcrop.  You can park at the roadside under the trees, or drive down a short dirt track to a car park and here is a fish taverna with a shady terrace overlooking the glistening sea and a small fishing jetty.  The iconic little church is a short walk away and its walls provide a shady picnic spot as well as further panoramic views.  It is worth a look inside – there are modern paintings of saints and a fresco on the interior of the high dome.

This is a popular beach spot for locals from Mytilene at weekends, but catch it mid-week out of season and you may have the place to yourself.  This has to be one of the scenic highlight locations of the whole island.

Agios Ermogenis Agios Ermogenis - Gulf of Gera Agios Ermogenis - Gulf of Gera Agios Ermogenis - Gulf of GeraAgios Ermogenis - Gulf of Gera  Ag Ermogenis - Church


Agios Ermogenis Location

Mytilene Kastro

Mytilene Kastro (Castle), located on an ancient site where there was once reputedly an acropolis, is perhaps the greatest treasure of Lesvos and ample time should be allowed to explore the extensive ruins.  The main public access is off Odos Novembriou and the entrance fee is such a bargain at €2. It is also worth splurging another €6 (2011 prices) on the souvenir guide book, although all the buildings and features have explanatory boards – with most items described in English. It does pay to wear sturdy shoes to visit the site, take care where you put your feet and stay away from edges of walls – please beware of crumbling stones and after any rain it could also be slippery.

The Kastro covers a massive area which from all angles and corners affords excellent views over the city, the coast and across the sea to Turkey.  It is itself a major landmark from all over Mytilini, from the coastal roads north and south and especially from the air as you fly along the coast past the city en route to/from the airport.

The Kastro sits on a large promontory, at one time effectively an island as it was separated from the city by a canal that ran between north and south harbours roughly along what is now Ermou Street.  The complex had three main building stages – Byzantine, Genoese and Turkish.  The oldest section is the Epano Kastro (Upper Castle), this being the main fortified enclosure. Here were constructed the  main administration buildings and religious housings, including  the Christian church of Agios Ioannis whose ruins were later used as the base for the construction of a mosque.  Dating from 1373 and being the work of Francesco Gatelussi, the Mesaio Kastro (Middle Castle) encompasses several imposing buildings – a military hospital, a prison, the powder magazine, the Ottoman Theological School, the domed monastery (home to the Ottoman monks), and the cistern storage facility for the water supply.  The Kato Kastro (Lower Castle) dates from 1644, constructed to protect the north harbour and was accessed from the middle castle via a Byzantine gate.

On our visit we meandered around taking dozens – no hundreds – of photos, peered at the  ruins of the vast complex of buildings, climbed up the walkway onto the walls and generally had a good mooch around.  There was a man cutting the grass and decapitating wild flowers for which I silently cursed him as I think these sites are made extra special by the profusion of flowers which are now the residents where people once lived and worked.  Life goes on.

Having arrived at opening time we spent a good two hours exploring, with the site to ourselves, after which we walked up to the northern harbour, where the castle boundary meets the sea and you can see evidence of the ancient walls and breakwater stretching out under the water.

Walking back along the coast road which runs below the castle you pass through the Kato (Lower) Kastro complex, with its ruined mansions and a bath house which is being restored.  This part of the castle, including an Ottoman gate, was partially demolished to make way for this city relief road back in the 1960s.  Today they would no doubt be compelled to find another solution!  This had originally been a dirt road, but has now been surfaced and provides an attractive alternative route to Novembriou  street, with the sea on one side and the green pine-clad slopes up to the impressive castle walls on the other.

There is a small museum on site – with displays of pottery, coins and artefacts found during excavations.

Mytilini Kastro - Ottoman Fountain Mytilini Kastro - gateway


How to find Mytilene Castle

Ambeliko Folk Museum

We were passing near the village of Ambeliko one day and never having explored it before we decided to take a look. It looked inviting as there is a noticed board at the entrance to an empty car park extolling the virtues of this isolated village at the foot of Mount Olympos. From the car park, there was a footpath through to the lower village where we found the Folk Museum. This looked fascinating, but with our usual luck in these things it was closed. There were several items outdoors and we peered through the windows, intrigued by the treasures that lay within. The adjacent church was also closed but there was a fire service vehicle parked nearby with a website address on its door. It is all in Greek, but there are pictures which help you get the gist of some of it. There is a section for the museum and lots of other details about the village and its history.

In search of a possible key holder for Ambeliko folk museumthe museum (plus beer and food would not go amiss) we walked up a cobbled path into the village, which was very quiet. Along the main street we said hello to a couple of ladies sitting outside a small taverna and inevitably got chatting. The younger of the two introduced herself as Maria and whilst this was her home village and she was visiting her mother (the older lady – also Maria) she lived now in Sydney. She therefore spoke good English and on our enquiries told us that the key holder for the museum was the priest and he was away from the village today.

Ambeliko folk museumAs we chatted Mama Maria ambled off and came back a few minutes later and presented me with a small sprig of herbs from her garden. It appeared this was the family taverna, but unfortunately they had no food to offer today and there was no bakery in the village. Maria said we might get food at the taverna up on the main road which passes by the top of the village so we headed up there. Yes – we could get a beer, but no, there was no food here either. So we settled for a Mythos apiece and took a seat under the trees at the side of the road, above the village rooftops and neat terraced gardens. We shall definitely go back – it is a well-situated village, perched on a hillside with great views and have no doubt that exploration will prove rewarding. We ambled back down though the narrow streets, again passing the museum. If we manage to find it open in 2013 I will update this report. If someone else gets there before me please feel free to add your own piece.

Ambeliko folk museum Ambeliko folk museum Ambeliko folk museum Ambeliko folk museum

How to find Ambeliko Folk Museum

 

Voyages of Discovery

Mt Olympos © Christine AspinallLesvos is a wonderful island for walking and exploring.  There are now several guide books available with walks of all lengths, described in detail.  Many of the tracks are also accessible by 4WD jeep.  By getting off the beaten path you really do see other aspects of the island and island life.  We have walked all day and seen no-one; other times we have had the most interesting encounters with local people and have to drag ourselves away with the reminder that we have several miles still to go.  The Greek people in general have a friendly curiosity about “strangers” in their midst and if you walk into a small hill village language is no barrier to them wanting to know who you are, where you are from, where you have been and why you are here.  And they will sit you down, bring you drinks, plates of fresh food (often from their own gardens) and display the generous hospitality that the Greek people are justly famous for.yiammas!

By walking you will find places that will never be seen by the visitors who gather in the main resorts and you could be on another island entirely.  Because Lesvos does not rely on tourism for more than perhaps 10% of it’s income it can afford to treat you as if you were family, not as a cash cow to be milked in a short season.

The scenery is so varied across the island it is Rhododendron Luteum © Christine Aspinalldifficult to round any corner and not go “aaah!”.  There is always a new vista, a interesting church, some dilapidated shepherd’s hut etc that stops you in your tracks and absolutely demands you take a photograph or three!  We have seen rock tombs on a beach, the rare and beautiful wild Rhododendron Luteum with its gloriously scented yellow flowers, tiny churches built into rocks, sheep grazing seaweed on a beach, waterfalls, ruins of watermills, ponds alive with turtles and frogs.

Evidence of current military activity can be seen around the island, but you can also find rusting old tanks (usually facing towards the Turkish coast!) and mysterious holes in the ground.  We have even accidentally driven onto a firing range during practice.  Ooops!

Lesvos really is an island with something for everyone.  YOUR voyage of discovery is out there waiting for you.