Around Mount Lepetymnos
Less dramatic than the rock at Petra, but of the same vulcanological origin, is the stack to the south of the road at Stipsi, likewise surmounted by a 19th century church— here dedicated to Aghios Giorgios, and probably the last in a series of many antecedents on this site. The rural settlements of the southern slopes of Mount Lepetymnos along the road between Petra and Kapi, benefit from the mountain’s abundant spring-water, and command views over an impressive expanse of olive groves, pine-woods and pasture which sweep gently down to the north shore of the gulf of Kalloni. From the southern end of the attractive village of Ypsilometopo a rough track descends 1.5km to the isolated ruins of the Early Christian basilica of Aghios Demetrios, surrounded by vestigial remains of a baptistery, baths and habitations. Remaining from the church itself are the three entrance thresholds and the stone paving of the floor of the nave, which is lined to both sides by a procession of broken columns in trachytic stone which have been re-erected on their original bases. The templon, which conserves its carved uprights, and the remnants of the mosaic floor (now covered) of the sanctuary, have been roofed over for protection. It is not uncommon for the sites of ancient rural shrines dedicated to Demeter, protectress of the harvest and of the productivity of rural areas, to have been converted into places of Christian cult dedicated to St Demetrius; this may explain the founding here of a substantial basilica church at such an isolated spot in the 6th century. (Paths, only intermittently signed, lead south from here to Ancient Klopedi and the Bridge at Kremasti (see below) in just over one hour.)
Eighteen and a half kilometres from Petra the road rejoins the main east-coast road above Mandamados. A kilometre north of the junction is the steep, panoramic village of Klio, commanding the northeast corner and coast of the island. Towards the Bay of Tsonia below is a wooded hill with the remains of a fort, possibly the historic castle of Aghios Theodoros where Orsano Giustiniano encountered the Turks in 1464 in his abortive at tempt to liberate the island from Ottoman rule.
Beyond the turning for Klio, the main road skirts a deep ravine and reaches Sykaminia after 5km, with wide views across the channel to Turkey and to the acropolis of Assos opposite, which was the home of Aristotle for three years between 348 and 345 bc; so close is the Asian mainland here that, on a clear day, even the columns of its 6th century Doric temple are visible across the water. In the centre of the village, by the plateia, is the house where Stratis Myrivilis grew up: much of one of his best known works, The Mermaid Madonna (1959), is set in the village’s picturesque harbour, Skala Sykaminias, 2.5km be low on the coast—locally known as ‘Little Egypt’ because of its temperate climate in winter.
Myrivilis was perhaps the most powerful prose-writer in Greek of the last century: Life in the tomb (1923), his gripping, tragi-comic account of life in the battlefields on the Greek front in World War I, written in the form of a fictionalised memoir of his own military experiences (1912–22), brought him wide acclaim and renown. It is written with unflinching directness, propelled by a poignant sense of the cruel ironies and futilities of war. It remains one of the greatest pieces of anti-war literature of the 20th century, and takes its place alongside the masterpieces of Robert Graves and Ernest Hemingway. His writing is shot through with memories of the peace and beauty of Lesbos, his native island. The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes (1964)—also on a war-related theme, about a soldier returning home after the war, dutifully carrying out a request made by one of his dying comrades—is a meditation on the figure of Sappho. Myrivilis was nominated for the Nobel prize for literature in 1960. He died in 1969 at the age of 79.
Three kilometres west of Sykaminia is Lepetymnos: the old village, destroyed by an earthquake and now an over grown mass of ruins, lies to the uphill side of the road some distance above the new village which has been laid out on a plateau below the road. From here the road descends through less fertile landscape to the village of Vapheios, with striking sunset views of Molyvos and the northeast coast. The 45km loop ends at Petra.
Lesvos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.
Around Mount Lepetymnos. Stratis Myrivilis.