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Lakki to Xerokambos
The British were the first to begin to organise the sheltered and hidden southeast corner of Lakki Bay, at Lepida, into a naval base; but it was the Italians who developed it most intensively after 1923 and established the ‘G. Rossetti Air Base’ there, out of which soon grew the need for the creation of the town of Porto Lago. The densely treed area was originally the property of a wealthy Greek from Leros who worked in Cairo, Nikolaos Tsigadas, whose villa and gardens here were expropriated by the Italians and used as an officers’ club. In 1923, Florestano di Fausto made designs for the two large buildings visible on the south shore—the long Air Force Officers’ Quarters and the much more classical Administration Building to its west—which has something of the look of a villa on the Italian Lakes. All these buildings are now part of the Leros National Sanatorium (or Mental Illness Institutions) and are therefore generally out of bounds to visitors.
As the road climbs to the south from Lepida, the site of Palaiokastro can be seen on the left, crowning the low ridge between the bays of Lakki (behind) and of Xerokambos (ahead); it is reached by a steep track from the main road. What is seen immediately—the whitewashed church of the Panaghia and the main enclosure wall—is not particularly old: but immediately below the chapel to the east are well preserved stretches of ancient wall in the precise, isodomic masonry typical of the 4th century bc, created from large, slightly rusticated blocks which have been drafted at the corners—the whole structure then rein forced by another course internally. The extent of the walls suggests that more than a tower stood here—probably a larger fortress, possessed of excellent controlling views of the two important bays of the south of the island, and with good sight-lines to the ancient acropolis of the city on the summit where the Knights’ castle now stands above Aghia Marina. A hastily erected mediaeval fortification, which now lies in rubble below, has also been raised on top of the walls here at some point. Traces of Early Christian mosaic in five colours in front of the west door of the chapel show that there was also a Palaeochristian church on this site.
From the quiet fishing harbour and village of Xerokambos below (4.5km), are magnificent views of the north of Kalymnos: this *marine landscape can be further enjoyed by taking the early-morning cai―que from here to Myrties in the bay of Telendos on Kalymnos, and returning with it, if desired, the same afternoon.
Five hundred metres along the eastern side of the inlet, a steep path leads down to the shore where the minuscule chapel of the Panaghia ‘Kavouradaina’ (Virgin of the ‘crab-fisher’) is built into a pyramidal cleft in the rocks, in the place where an icon was reputedly found by a crab gatherer. Inside the chapel is a charming, recent icon of the Virgin in an aureole in the form of a crab.
Leros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.