Sprawling in the sea just off the coasts of Turkey, the island of Lesvos is a varied patchwork of sophisticated and simplicity. Lesvos, is Greece's third-largest island (after Crete and Evia), shaped like a lumpy, sideways letter K split by the gulf of Yeras in the southeast and the bigger gulf of Kalloni more or less in the center.
Its rocky, pine forested landscape is highest at Mount Olympos to the south, though there are steep wooded hills to the north as well. The western hills are rolling and scrubby. Recent evidence show that the people of Lesvos were closely related to those of Troy(c.3000B.C.)
Outside the tourist areas like Molivos and Petra, the islanders are busy with their olives, sheep, fields and goats, and maintain e precarious living. Most of the roads seem to have been made for Trojan donkeys, whose descendants are still around, faithfully lugging loads of goat fodder and fruit.
Traditional houses are built of gray stone with tiled roofs and brightly painted shutters, nut the largest , most elaborate building in every village is the schoolhouse. The white boxes among the trees are beehives; sometimes you can see a keeper - bare-handed, with only his eyes protected.
Aristotle the Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great lived on Mytilene for two years, 337-335 BC, with his friend and successor, Theophrastus after becoming the tutor to Alexander, son of King Philip II of Macedon.
Mytilini, the capital and port on the eastern coast facing the Turkish port of Dikili and, farther inland, ancient Pergamum, is a busy town overlooked by a big, marvelous castle, built in Byzantine times and rebuilt in 1374 by the Genoese Gattelusi family. It is one largest castles in the Mediterranean, and strange crypts and dungeons are hidden in its towers and bastions.
The southern curve of the port is lined with shipping offices, tour agencies, hotels, restaurants, and no doubt it always has had such commercial enterprises because the island's naturally superior harbor is right on the trade routes between Asia and Europe.
The island always produced wine, oil, grain-and lyric poets, such as Arion, Terpander, and later, Sappho. There must be something in the air, because artists and poets thrive here.
The Petrified Forest, open during the day, is about a 25 minute drive south to Sigri along a very poor dirt road. It's well worth a trip. Now a paleontological park, the forest is the result of a volcanic eruption some 15 million years ago that devastated this end of the island. Even now there is only a thin layer of soil over the rocks, which roots cannot penetrate.
Sigri sits at the far west coast on a long stretch of beach. A minicastle from the years of Ottoman rule crowns the tiny fishing village, where peace and sunshine reign and a strong breeze cools.
North along the east coast road are beaches and pretty settlements. A side road just north of Mytilini leads to Moria, near which stands the arches of Roman aqueduct.
At the northern tip of the island the attractive village of Sikaminia tumbles down the hillside to the skala, a wee harbor with fish tavernas and rooms to rent. The tourist shop sells, in addition to the characteristic blue pottery and glass, tapestries, woven by the owner, depicting little vignettes of island scenery.
For nude bathing, make your way to Eftalou, 4 km east on the northern coast.
Seven kilometers south of Molyvos is Petra, dominated by the church of the Panayia Glykophiloussa, which stands on an astonishing rock formation thrusting straight up, 114 steps high.
The star of the southern peninsula is the lovely mountain village of Ayiasos, perched high up on mount Olympus- a white-faced rock that sticks out of the surrounding shrubbery like a lighthouse, topped by a giant aerial. This area is hard to beat for natural forest beauty. Pines and chestnuts shade the winding road that reveals more and more panoramas.
Mountains with their tiny bright villages, white churches perched on impossible peaks, forests, and always, near or far, the sea. This is bird watchers paradise. The air is so pure on this mountain that a sanatorium is located in the pine forest near by.
Ayiasos, 28 km west of Mytilini, is a step, cobble stoned village of great charm surrounding the great church of the Panayia, where an ancient icon reputedly painted by Saint Luke himself is honored.
Other roads south from Mytilini skirt the peaceful Golf of Yeras, lined with elegant, empty beaches among cypress trees and groves. For years the tanning factories of Perama polluted the water of the gulf, but it has now been declared clean enough for swimming. The water retains its murky look.
Around the bend near the ferryboat dock is the Archaeological Museum, where beautiful rooms in a handsomely restored Neoclassical building display prehistoric to Roman finds. Almost overwhelmingly informative posters in Greek and English explain Lesvian history clearly, with maps and illustrations.
Under the castle walls is a beach supplied with umbrellas, lounge chairs, and pedalos, and under the waters are ruins for the Cousteaux among us. Opposite the beach is a woodland recreation area with picnic tables and drinking water. A statue of Liberty with torch held high overlooks this scene from the pedestal.
The town's main shopping district is in the market behind the harbor, especially around Ermou street.
The central road passes through plains, orchards, and olive groves. Hot-spring baths still bubble at the edge of the Gulf of Yera, 10km from Mytilini, where men and women(separately) enjoy a communal bath of natural hot water-terrific in cold weather.
Twenty km farther west at a site called Mesa - very hard to find down a bumpy dirt road and guarded by sheep, barking dogs, and a wooden kiosk - is a ruined Temple of Aphrodite.
You may choose instead to swim instead at Plomari, the island's main Ouzo centre and a popular resort on the southern coast.
Plomari (Greek: Πλωμάρι) is the only sizable coastal settlement in the south, and indeed the second largest town on Lesbos Island.
The best ouzo in Greece is the Plomari Ouzo because of the geographical location of the island, the sea and the fertile soil yield an abundance of aromatic herbs and seeds. The aniseed coming from Lisvori, a neighboring village to Plomari, is considered the best in the world.
There are at least four daily flights from Athens, at least one daily from Thessaloniki, and one weekly from Limnos.
Ferries connect Mytilini almost daily with Piraeus, Kavala and Thessaloniki.
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