LESVOS



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Lesvos or Mytilene - The north of the island: Molyvos, Kalloni & Aghia Paraskevi - Molyvos


Molyvos

‘Molyvos’ is a Hellenisation of the town’s Turkish name ‘Molova’. For this reason some prefer that the town be called today by its ancient name, ‘Methymna’; but even that, in turn, is a word of pre-Greek, probably Anatolian, origin. The town has an enviable and radiant site. Its lay out is convex, whereas that of Mytilene is concave: this gives these two ancient rivals a quite different feel and appearance. *Molyvos clings to a rocky headland; the façades of its colourful houses fall in tiers down its south facing slope below an all-dominating castle. Its character is infused with Ottoman remains—marble fountains at street corners, and the jostling angles of projecting wooden Ottoman balconies (‘sachnisia’), protected by wide horizontal eaves. Such elements of an Anatolian architecture have survived here in surprising numbers.

In Antiquity Methymna was the second city of Lesbos, birth-place of the late 7th century bc poet Arion and of Hellanicus (c. 480–395 bc)—an important historian, sometimes neglected owing to the overarching fame of his near con temporary, Herodotus. The city was widely renowned for its sweet wine. Its territories extended south in Archaic times to include the sanctuary of Klopedi and latterly the city of Arisbe. Its history is dominated by rivalry with Mytilene— most significantly when it did not back the Mytilenean re volt against Athens in 428 bc. It later broke with Athens in 412 bc after the disastrous Sicilian expedition; but appears again as a member of the Second Athenian Confederacy in the early 4th century bc. In Roman times the preeminence of Mytilene was confirmed, leaving Methymna with secondary status. The town became an important centre under Genoese dominion, and served as the principal Gattilusi stronghold on more than one occasion when other parts of their island were attacked. During the Turkish siege of 1450, Dorino Gattilusio’s consort, Orietta Doria, donned male armour and led the defenders to victory. Molyvos maintained its importance during Ottoman times; as late as 1923, over one third of its population was Moslem.

In the town itself, little remains to be seen of Ancient Methymna, apart from a large open site revealing an ancient cemetery at the southern extremity of the town, which is one of the first things encountered on arrival from the south. In it are a number of late undecorated sarcophagi in situ, and stretches of building-walls in exemplary Lesbian (interlocked polygonal) masonry. The main stone-cobbled thoroughfare of the old town (17th November Street) begins just beyond these excavations and climbs steadily from southeast to northwest: it is a pleasant walk, lined by old wooden-fronted shops and shaded by a procession of mature pergolas of wistaria. The large stone building under which the street passes, shortly before the first junction, is the Valide Mosque, whose truncated minaret is still visible in the north corner: below it and to the left, are two defunct water fountains, one of which (right) is an ancient sarcophagus. Half way up the ascent, the street reaches a junction and continues as ‘Kastrou Street’ in its upper sector; the street to the left at the junction leads down to the port passing the restored stone and timber Ottoman mansion now occupied by the Demarcheion (Town Hall), with the bust of the local writer Argyris Eftaliotis in front. Above the junction, opposite the post office on Kastrou Street, are the old Turkish Baths: though abandoned and dilapi dated, the shallow dome still stands and covers the customary octagonal slab of the bath chamber. On the sea ward (west) side is the church of Aghios Panteleimon, a dignified 19th century building, with a curious entrance threshold improvised from an upturned carved marble lintel from a mosque, inlaid with late 19th century Sicilian faience tiles. A number of ancient column fragments are gathered in the courtyard by its southeast corner. Above and to the east of the church (reached by doubling back up the street almost opposite) is the Kralli Mansion, a fine example of an Ottoman residence with well-preserved early 19th century wall and ceiling paintings in the interior. The building now houses a centre of the Athens School of Fine Arts, and can be visited between 9 and 5pm. Just below the summit of the main street (which is marked by an ancient fluted column immured into the corner of a building at shoulder height) and to the left, is Plateia Andrea Kyriakou, with many handsome mansions in its vicinity.
   From the top of the street it is a steep climb back to wards the east, to the entrance of the Gattilusi Castle (open daily, except Mon, 8.30–3). In general, the castle is finely constructed and well-preserved. As seen from the west, it is clear that the walls incorporate large areas of ancient masonry, principally from Hellenistic fortifications on the same site. The projecting western corner of the inner walls (seen rising behind and above the outer curtain wall between the two western circular bastions) incorporates a Hellenistic fortification tower in its lower parts. Elsewhere most of the ancient stone has been re assembled into newer mediaeval walling; and there is a mixture of both mediaeval and modern mortar used to stabilise the structure. The enceinte is entered through a succession of three gates: an outer gate, modified in Otto man times and adorned with a carved marble plaque set into a blind arch, bearing an Osmanli inscription; a second, long tunnel-gate; and a final 14th century main gate, whose posts are composed of massive ancient foundation blocks. The interior is large and accommodates several late mediaeval buildings of secular function, and an area which is currently being excavated. A small number of ancient fragments in white marble lie abandoned inside. The castle’s northeast bastion commands the straits between the Turkish mainland and Lesbos: this was a busy sea-lane in all periods of history for traffic coming south from the Black Sea and the Hellespont.


Lesvos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.
Molyvos.


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Traditional Lesbian pyrgos
Mount Olympos in Lesvos

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Lesvos Island, Greece.


By air:
Domestic flights from Athens, four times daily with Olympic Air and two or three times daily with Aegean Airlines, serve Mytilene through out the year.
There are daily Olympic Air connections with Thessaloniki, and 6 days a week with Aegean Airlines, including a twice weekly local, Eastern Aegean route with Olympic, from Thessaloniki to Rhodes , via Lemnos and Chios and (once a week only) Samos . The airport is 5km from the centre of Mytilene.
By boat: The principal route from Piraeus to Mytilene is served by Hellenic Seaways, via Chios, with a daily 12.30 departure from Piraeus, arriving at Mytilene 21.00, and returning to Piraeus again overnight.
GA Ferries run 3 times weekly along the route from/to Chios and Samos to the south, and Lemnos and Kavala to the north.
There is a weekly Saos Ferries service from the port of Sígri (north west Lesbos) on the route be- tween Kavala, Lemnos, Aghios Evstratios (to north), and (to south) Psará and Lavrion (for Athens). Crossings to Turkey (Ayvalık/Dikili) run 4 to 5 times weekly during the summer season (May–early-Oct) only.

Lesvos Travel Guide

beaches

Lesvos Island, Greece.

 

KaloniKaloni

 

Lesvos Travel Guide

eating

Lesvos Island, Greece.

The port area of Mytilene has many small (mostly new) tavernas, dedicated to providing interesting, fresh and varied Levantine–Aegean dishes with localredients, good local breads, and offer a pleasant atmosphere.
Two which are particularly to be recommended, are: *Matzourána (30 Komninaki St.), one block in from the east side of the harbour;
and *Machalás (27 Mitrelia St.), two blocks in from the north side of the harbour.
A more "folkloric" setting and some good local dishes are provided by Zoubouli, on the corner of Sarandoporou and Venedakis Streets, behind the north- east corner of the port.
For traditional vegetable and fish mezedes, prepared with care and imagination, nothing can beat the Taverna "Rebetis" on the waterfront, overlooking the north harbour from its southeast corner.
11km north of Mytilene, shortly after Pyrgi Thermis, beside the church of St George, is the Taverna Aghios Giorgios—good for fresh fish, and popular with locals on Sundays especially.
On the road to Polichnítos, below the village of Asomatos and 3km after the junction at Kerameia, is the Taverna "Karini" in the deep shade of plane-trees and vines beside a stream; the food is ordinary, but the setting delightful.
At picturesque Skala Sykaminiás on the north coast, the tavernas in the port have mostly become, through popularity, over-priced or poor in quality; but 1km to the west along the track by the shore from the harbour, is To Kyma, still unspoiled and with good fish dishes.
Taverna "Vapheios", in the village of that name 6km to the east of Molyvos, has good local specialties and sunset views to match.
Right in the heart of Molyvos, the tiny and basic *Obelisteria "Methymna" (further up the street past the Demarcheion) deserves special recommendation for the care with which the owner chooses his excel lent meats and produce, serving the client with the tastiest salads and grilled meats to be found on the island, simply seasoned with fresh herbs, and provided at very modest prices. Space is limited, especially in winter.

Lesvos Travel Guide

further reading

Lesvos Island, Greece.

Longus (2nd century ad), The Pastoral Story of Daphnis & Chloe, an ancient romance novel set on Lesbos (translated in Reardon’s Ancient Greek Novels, 1989).
Richard Brooks, Birding on the Greek Island of Lesvos—revised 2002, is an invaluable guide to the island’s unusually rich birdlife.

Lesvos Travel Guide

lodging

Lesvos Island, Greece.

Notwithstanding the décor which is a little over the top (an endemic problem in the two or three converted man sions which offer accommodation in Mytilene), the hotel Pyrgos of Mytilene (T. 22510 27977, 25069, fax 47319, www.pyrgoshotel.gr. Upper price range.) on the hill to the south of the harbour, is the city’s smartest hotel—welcoming, comfortable, providing a good breakfast with freshly baked items, and open all year round. The road-side rooms can be noisy, however.
An inexpensive alternative is the Hotel Orpheas (T.22510 28523, fax 21930), in a converted mansion mid-way between the two Archaeological Museums.
Not far outside Mytilene (11 km to the north), at Pyrgi Thermis, is the delightful Hotel Votsala- (T. 22510 71231, fax 71179; www.votsalahotel. com. Apr-Oct. Medium price). Welcoming, informal, and pointedly un-touristy and unpretentious, this simple and beautiful hotel on the shore, run by a Mytilenean architect and his wife, is perhaps the most civilised and enjoyable solution on the island.
Molyvos has a wider variety of places to chose from: on the shore below the town, is the Olive Press Hotel (medium price), arranged around the courtyard of a converted olive mill (T. 22530 71205, fax 71646).
In the heart of Molyvos is the delightful and simple Nassos Guesthouse (inexpensive; T. 22530 71432, www.nassosguesthouse.com);
and nearby, for real simplicity in an old Ottoman-style house, Pension Chrisi (T. 22530 72193). Not far away, between Petra and Anaxos, is the Clara Hotel & Bungalows (T. 22530 41532, fax 41535, www.clarahotel.gr); the complex, which has comprehensive facilities and is set in its own gardens, has fine views of Molyvos and Petra, but is a little distance from both and is not on the beach.
In Plomari, the nicest lodgings are provided by the Hotel Leda (T. 22520 32507; open May–Sept only) in a fine traditional mansion with views out to sea: it is in the centre of town, up a flight of steps from the main square.
The only accommodation which is part of one of the thermal spring spas are the rooms offered at Thermes Polichnitou (T. 22520 41201).

Lesvos Travel Guide

museums

Lesvos Island, Greece.

Archaeological Museum

Lesvos Travel Guide

practical info

Lesvos Island, Greece.

811 00 09, 812 00 & 813 00 Lesbos:
area 1630sq km
perimeter 370km
population 108,000
max. altitude 968m.
Port Authority (Mytilene): T. 22510 40827, 47888.
Travel and information: Pan Tours 22510 46595, www.pantours.gr, Dimakis Travel 22510 27865, www.dimakistours.gr

Lesvos Travel Guide

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