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Vasilika, Lisvorio & Polichnítos
After the junction for Aghiasos, the main road to Polichnios climbs from a landscape of olives to one of rocky gorges and pine-woods, passing (33km from Mytilene) the junction with the road for Pyrrha and Kalloni (see below in this section) and then descending towards the southern shores of the gulf of Kalloni through Vasilika. This is an attractive village whose streets—as at Aghiasos—are shaded into ‘outdoor rooms’ by dense pergolas of climbing plants. The central kafeneion has 19th century folk-art figures of a standing woman and a man sitting cross-legged (or else dancing energetically—it is somehow rather hard to tell which) carved on its imposing, stone door-frame: they are the primitive and serious faced guardians of the locale. Two kilometres further by taking a right branch, you enter Lisvorio, passing a long stretch of wall made in so-called ‘Lesbian masonry’ to the right-hand side as you enter the village: the meticulous, ‘jigsaw-like’ fitting of irregularly cut blocks into a solid and homogeneous surface is typical of the island, and is part of a continuous tradition going back to the polygonal walls of early Antiquity. Lisvorio is famous for its notably hot (c. 70°C), ferrous and slightly sulphurous springs of Aghios Ioannis, which are to be found 2km west of the village. The waters rise just to the right of the bridge and flow down to a small 19th century bath-house below, where they can be enjoyed at more clement temperature in a couple of simple pools.
Already in Lisvorio, and to a greater extent at Polichnios (42km), a quite different style of architecture prevails from that at Aghiasos. The houses are discrete, four square, symmetrical buildings of the period between 1870 and 1930, meticulously embellished with details in the grey-magenta trachytic stone of northern Lesbos, and frequently characterised by an unusual accentuated pediment in the window cornices. Polichnios is a large settlement spread across a valley between two steep rises. From the summit of the hill of Aghios Stephanos to the south, the full extent of the village comes into view; the roofs are uniform, but the façades are various and highly individual. Near the centre of the town is the olive-oil processing factory, marked by an octagonal brick chimney whose summit is now home to the yearly visits of a family of white storks.
In the flat and marshy area 1.5km to the southeast of Polichnios rise several mineral springs which, at between 81°C and 92°C, are among the hottest in Europe. In the 2nd century ad, Galen observed that the locals used them for cooking food. The steam and the strong colours of the yellow, red and magenta mineral deposits beside the springs, lend a fantastic touch to a forlorn landscape of tussocks and ruined bath-houses. The waters rise at several points, mixing almost immediately with passing cold water, in the open area between the Old and New Baths: the latter are pleasant and well run (open throughout the year, except Jan and Feb, 8–1, 4–7); the former, the ‘Christianos Baths’, are now dry abandoned structures dating from the end of the 19th century. There are also cold, mineral, drinking-waters at the New Baths.
Four and a half kilometres south of Polichnios is the attractive village of Vrisa. On the main square is a small Natural History Collection housed in a former school building, comprising an interesting display of fossilised plants, fish, and early vertebrates, both from Lesbos and from elsewhere, which explains the background to the remarkable early flora and fauna of the island at a time when it was still attached to Asia Minor. (Open summer daily 9.30–3, 4–7; winter Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon 8.30–1.) The finding of a large number of petrified mammal and rep tile remains of gigantic dimensions in the low lying area between Vrisa and Vatera, gave rise to the creation of this museum by the University of Athens.
The road reaches the coast at Vatera (52km from Mytilene), whose long, sandy, south-facing strand curves towards a promontory to the west, marked by the modern church of Aghios Phokas (4km). Beside the church are the remains of the temple of Dionysos Bresagenes, oriented perfectly towards the east and crosswise to the promontory. The remaining elements reveal it to have been of curious design—namely monostyle, in antis: the two massive marble antae and the one fluted column of its porch, placed equidistant between them, have been reerected. Some of the paving where the cult statue would have stood is still visible in the interior. In Antiquity the temple and its headland, which would have been visible from afar, constituted the principal landmark between the entrances to the two gulfs, and on the journey between Mytilene and Eresos. The waters south of here are home to both the common and bottlenose dolphins which are sometimes to be seen from this headland. Arion, the 7th century bc musician, poet and citharode, was from Lesbos (Methymna); it was by the intervention of one such dolphin that his life was supposedly saved when he was thrown overboard on his journey back from Sicily.
Lesvos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.
Vasilika, Lisvorio & Polichnitos.