My WWOOF experience working on an olive farm gave me the unique opportunity to explore an island that not so many tourists get to see: Lesvos.
And yes, people from there are absolutely called Lesbians.
Lena and I decided to rent a car one weekend and hit the road. I’m amazed she’s still friends with me. You know how when a baby won’t sleep and then you take him or her for a drive around the block and they pass out within five minutes? That’s me. Always.
Mytilini is the main town on the island, and it’s one of the prettiest I’ve seen yet in Greece. The waterfront is lined with sailboats and fishing boats — some turned into homes with clotheslines strung across the deck — and the giant dome of the Church of Agios Therapon entirely dominates the “skyline.” We indulged a lot here since we’d been living in isolation, and I was eager to eat all of the things and drink all of the beers. We Couchsurfed with two wonderful sisters, Natasa and Daniella, and they welcomed us into their social circle with open arms. That’s not easy to do in Greece. The language barrier is tough.
Mytilini is a university town, so there are a ton of pubs and clubs and restaurants. The entire waterfront consists of open cafes where the Greeks drink frappe like it’s water and play riotous games of backgammon while the sun sets over Turkey, just an hour away by boat. Lena and I were a bit overwhelmed by all the life everywhere – the busy Old Market, the shops pouring out smelly seafood and white buckets of god-knows-what. We bought chocolate gelato with crumbled Oreo topping and wandered around for hours.
We stopped into the Church of Agios Therapon, but the dim lighting and rather dark paintings gave us the creeps. The Mytilini Fortress, a Byzantine Castle, is worth a visit. Most of what you see is from when Francisco Gateluzzo occupied and rebuilt the island, between 1355 to 1462.
My favourite spot was a tiny pub called Mousiko Kafenio. It has homemade iced tea and interesting artwork, and a good mix of people live here. Mytilini has a somewhat punk-ish vibe to it.
We blew out a tire on the road and had to stop in Madamados to get it changed. This isn’t really a stopping point but the tiny town is worth a walk-through. Cobblestoned streets, fallen-down houses, and Greeks talking loudly in butcher shops and tavernas. This place is known for its honey production, however, so pick up a bottle of that sweet, sweet nectar!
If you’re here during the summer season there’s a really nice waterfall called ManKatsa, where you can go zip-lining and swimming.
Skala Sykamineas was the only real touristy place we came across. Its tiny harbour is crowded with colourful fishing boats and a small boardwalk lined with restaurants and cafes. We ordered a coffee at Kostas Kave and sat at a table laughing about the couple dining with 15 cats (I counted) sitting around their table begging. Don’t take that the wrong way. The cats in Greece are pretty well fed.
This is a popular stop for the Turks who come over to Greece so it’s a bit hokey, but the people are lovely and I still feel kinda bad about not buying some jewelry from the kind lady who chatted with me for awhile.
Skala to Vatoussa
The best part of this road trip was actually the drive itself. Lesvos is fairly mountainous, and its main road takes you up, up, up with the Mediterranean Ocean sprawled out before you. The road from Skala Sykamineas was unpaved and ridiculously fun.
We stayed with a doctor, Sofia, in Vatoussa. I get the feeling she’s a little bored there. We drove in as a farmer on horseback herded his sheep across the road. Meanwhile an elder gent was riding sidesaddle on HIS horse while leading a donkey, and a police car picked up a local and sped away with tires squealing. Cobblestoned streets and the kind of barbershops that have newspaper-ed windows and an old radio playing in the corner. If you want quiet, you’ve got it.
We breezed through here in search of coffee on a Sunday morning. Silly of us. Everyone was headed to church in their finery, while “Hallelujah” broadcasted throughout the town via a giant megaphone.
A little lady saw us observing a café with a sign that said “We speak German” (Lena is German) so we decided to step inside. I never did figure out the name, because it was in Greek. The woman running the shop was a squat grey-haired sweetheart who rattled off in perfect German to Lena while I sat there grinning like a dumbass. I mean, what are the odds? A little old lady speaking German in a little ‘ol café in little ‘ol Lesvos. So we ordered cappuccino and some rice pudding.
Molyvos is probably the most popular tourist destination on the island. The town is built into a hillside with a medieval fortress overlooking the village. It’s a protected site, and many of the mansions in Molyvos date from the late 18th century. The way up to the fortress is a labyrinth of old streets winding through courtyards, balconies, and clustered homes made of stone.
The Petrified Forest
Alright, so, the name is a bit misleading. It’s really not a forest, but a group of fossilized trees dating 20 million years old. There’s only two like it in the world. I don’t really know what I was expecting when I showed up, but I had to appreciate the fact that they were some pretty old tree stumps.
The drive there, though, is ear-popping and fun, and there’s a great little museum.
Lesvos is a BIG island. We crammed a lot into two days, but three days is ideal. This is also the birthplace of Sappho, the famous poet, and so every year several writers’ festivals take place in various locations. Sappho was also reputably a lesbian, and led a popular cult of women into authorship, and so lesbians will often make the pilgrimage to Skala Eressou to pay homage to the famous poet.
let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us”