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Lesvos, the Natural and Architectural Star of the East Aegean

Nature seems to have offered its all to the island of Lesvos; the largest island in the East Aegean boasts mountain ranges abutting rugged shores, peninsulas of endless sandy beaches, large olive groves and oak tree woods, and fertile valleys with underwater springs and thermal baths.

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Lesvos was the centre of the Aeolian Civilization in the 10th century BC, when it reached great economic and spiritual affluence. The island of Lesvos, with superb architecture in its capital Mytelene and the traditional settlements of Molyvos and Petra, will also enchant us with one of the most beautiful villages in Greece: Agiaso. Built on Olymbos  mountain with its evergreen slopes and rare orchids, the village seems to have escaped time. The typical, traditional houses with extended wooden floor beams, its stone-cobbled lanes and its traditional coffee houses (kafeneia), remind the visitor of an old postcard. The carnival in Agiaso is rooted in antiquity, and is mentioned in songs, dulcimer music, and the lyrical local vocabulary. The village is a living museum, with buildings from the 1700s still standing (those that were rescued from the great fire of 1877). During the 18th century, Agiaso was burgeoning, as it was excluded from paying taxes to the Turks; the village also features historic buildings from the 19th and 20th century. Long houses and ornamental fountains are squeezed into the narrow lanes. The walk along the east side of the market is unique, with the butcher, grocer, barber, green-grocer and tailor seemingly unaffected by time.

Everywhere we encounter the descendents of the old carpenter’s “guilds”; wooden chancel screens, sea chests and furniture with carved cypress trees, vine leaves and suns all laid on the pavements. The village still produces skilled marble sculptors, fabric and basket weavers, and famous potters.

We can drink our coffee with the old men outside the wonderful church of the Virgin Mary, and enjoy a spoon sweet or semolina pudding made locally. A lucky few will have timed their visit, together with a thousand other pilgrims, for the 5th of August or the 20th of July, when men on horse-back carry the icon of Prophet Ilias from Olymbos  mountain to the village.

 

Where to stay:

In Agiaso we recommend the ascetic guest house “Agia Sion” [22520-22242] and in Mytelene, Loriet Hotel” [22510-43111, 41139, 46990]. The latter hotel is an old building, with newly constructed additions, located in the centre of a tropical garden with a pool. Painted ceilings and antique furniture decorate the luxurious suites and rooms of this classical mansion-house. If you are looking for a romantic atmosphere and majestic 19th century decor and classic furniture, the hotel “Pyrgos of Mytilene [27977, 25069] offers twelve luxurious bedrooms with a view to the sea, the garden or the town.

 

Where and what to eat:

 

Lesvos in well known for olive oil, dairy products, ouzo and various salted foods, such as sardines, anchovies and bonito. Try the delicious “giapratsia” (rice and mince rolled in vine-leaves), “ptria” meat balls, stuffed flowers of courgettes, spoon sweets, rye rusks, semolina dessert and sour frumenty from Agiaso. The taverna “Kipos tis Panagias” (the garden of Virgin Mary) is an ideal choice for a lovely dinner, due to its beautiful surroundings. 

 

Useful Telephone Numbers:

Code for the capital, Mytilene / 22510

Municipality of the Island / 46777

Tourist Police / 22776

Municipality of Agiaso / 22520-22219

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