Trip report- Lesvos

Old May 6th, 2002, 03:36 PM
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Trip report- Lesvos

Thanks for help- especially to Dennis and Carol.

We’re just back from a week’s holiday on the island of Lesvos in the Aegean. (12th- 22nd April)

The weather was not so great, but we didn’t expect it to be; we chose it for the birds, which performed wonderfully, and had the added, slightly unexpected, advantage of the most amazing island sized carpet of spring wild flowers. Lesvos was on the list because it’s becoming very well known for brilliant numbers of passage migrant birds. Anyone reading this who cares can email me and I’ll let them have a list and more details, but meantime I’ll assume the rest of you are normal individuals who don’t want to know.

This place is hard to get to, believe me; especially out of season. Leaving Aberdeen at 6.30pm on Saturday, we flew BA to Heathrow, and had a long wait for a connection at 11.30pm, then, with the time differences, we got into Athens about 4am. Flight was, in itself, fine, but was full of noisy yachties meeting ups for the first time since the last race. Frankly, give me girning bairns any day of the week. Out of Athens at 6am and into Mytilini with Olympic at 7am. The new Athens airport was clean, organized and efficient, and it took us less than 30 minutes to land, collect our baggage and check in to the next flight- admittedly there wasn’t much competition for attention at that time in the morning.

We put the trip together by using my husband’s airmiles to get us to Athens and back; and we got BA to book the link with Olympic, because the turn round time was so tight I was worried that we might make it but our bags wouldn’t and if BA had responsibility for getting us all the way they would HAVE to send the bags after. Because it was a Sunday it was the only flight.

Mytilini airport is tiny and very friendly. Not quite like Paphos in the 70s, but nearly.

The car hire was through Best Cars who were booked by Eresos travel in Mytilini. I found Eresos on Matt Barrett’s site and they were very helpful. (phone numbers available on request).

Lesvos is fairly wealthy by the standards of most Greek islands and tourism is only about 5% of its economy. So it really has an off season and we were there during it. The whole island is really refreshingly undeveloped, and you get a real sense of the pace of Greek life.

We spent the week based in Skalla Kallonis, mainly because it’s where the birds are. We stayed in a studio apartment-Studios Irini, booked through Eressos- very close to the centre of the village. We were clearly the first in this year, and it was pretty chilled for the first 24 hours or so. The place had no heating- normally, why would they need it?- but it really could have done with something to take the chill off the sheets. The apartment had two rooms with 3 beds and two shower rooms(which had proper things for putting the shower head in- normally the lack thereof is the thing I hate most about Greek showers) and a small street facing terrace, which would have been very pleasant if the weather had been warmer.

Old May 6th, 2002, 03:38 PM
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We slept till about 1pm, then had a quick explore of the village. Skalla Kallonis is a small fishing village about 2 miles from its grown up neighbour of Kalloni. Lots of little tavernas, nice sandy beach which has the European Blue Flag, nice harbour, a few cafes and a couple of shops.

There is a night club but it wasn’t functioning. There are a fair number of “Rooms Rent” and studios available, and a four or five good hotels- Meltemi, Kallonis II and Pasiphae for
Everywhere we ate was OK, tho’ in Skalla Kallonis, nowhere was to die for. Only three of the tavernas were open off season and we sort of discounted one which had us switching between the other two. On the first day the weather was fine and we lunched out of doors at Dionyssius on the harbourside, and were amused by the resident pelican.

I then went for a long walk to orientate myself, and we came back and sat in the café Post in the square for a glass of wine and nibbles before going for supper next door.

I got up at 6.30am on Monday to look for birds and got lots. We couldn’t get breakfast. The Greek thing is to have coffee and that’s about it. In previous trips there’ve been places that did bread and toast and yoghurt and fruit and stuff. Not here- at least not off season.

We drove up to the north coast of the island to Molyvos, a lovely town on the edge of a hill with a big Turkish fort on the top of it. No cars in the main part of the town- the streets are all winding steep alleys and stairs. Very pretty and quaint. Thunder and lightning at night.

It was raining on Tuesday so I allowed myself to sleep in. We drove up into the mountains, to a little town called Stipsi and then followed the road round the hill and through three other little villages. What I wrote about Molyvos is true of these villages too, but the streets are NOT closed to traffic. Which makes going through the villages in a car exciting, to say the least. We went down to Mandamados which houses the monastery of the Archangel Michael and his astonishing icon. They also make lovely pottery. But the shops are all closed in the off season (not quite all- we got some lovely bowls, after visiting half a dozen closed shops). Then we drove back north and down to Molyvos again (it’s quite a small island) and backtracked along the coast road to Skalla Sykimminias

A lot of Greek roads are not paved. This one is not. Remember I said it had been raining? Well some of the road was in the sea and the rest of it was coated in slick mud. It took just under an hour. Was Keith happy? You bet!!

Skalla Sykimminia is a lovely little harbour town with a church built on a rock over the sea dedicated to St Mary Mermaid. We had lunch in one of their 4 tavernas (this for a town with 17 houses- you can tell they make their money in the summer!) Keith ordered kalamari and instead of the usual deep fried rings, got 2 whole squid!!

Wandered home over the mountains and went to the local pizza place (it does real food too) for supper. This is an absolutely beautiful beach with an offshore island and a lagoon to die for. Until relatively recently it had no road access and you had to walk or get a boat to get there. That is no longer true and it is a bit overpopulated now. You can wade through knee deep water to the island, which has very few people on it.
Old May 6th, 2002, 03:40 PM
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The following words

"This is an absolutely beautiful beach with an offshore island and a lagoon to die for. Until relatively recently it had no road access and you had to walk or get a boat to get there. That is no longer true and it is a bit overpopulated now. You can wade through knee deep water to the island, which has very few people on it."

snuck into this report by mistake. Please ignore (duh!)
Old May 6th, 2002, 03:44 PM
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Wednesday, it wasn’t raining so I got myself out of bed at 6.30 and went down to Kallonis pool, ahead of the crowds. Walked right around and then down to the salt flats at the mouth of the East river.

After I’d collected my spouse we went over to Kalachori and up to see the Petrified Forest. The Petrified Forest is a forest of redwoods which was overwhelmed by an erupting volcano and they have managed to excavate a number of petrified trees; where you can se the flakes of bark and the rings in the on trunks- all in visually perfect condition.

We went down the hill to Sigri, a pretty little fishing village with handful of tavernas, an OK beach and half the Greek Navy. The Rough Guide panned this place and I can’t think why. We had lunch in a harbourside taverna (Keith had tuna steaks) and then drove round a dirt track to Eressos and home round the south west main road. Eressos is, like so many places on Lesvos, a perfectly ordinary little town about 2 miles inland with its own port- Skalla Eressos. We couldn’t get to the waterside because of so many one way street- and it was late and we were not up for more walking, but I’m told it’s pretty and the place in Lesvos every one goes to celebrate the poet Sappho!!

Thursday I went out early with a strange man (birder I had met earlier in the week). Lots of step retracing as I showed him places we’d been earlier in the week, and he pointed out all the birds I missed on the way. Terrific walk up past the reservoir outside Molyvos, where we had dozens of new birds. Won’t bore you with the details.

Friday I was allowed to sleep till 9am, since I was aiming to go to Mytilini with Keith. We stopped on the way to see the water mill at Mylelia. It’s absolutely undeveloped and the guy there speaks no English, so there’s a lot of pointing and gesturing. The signing to get there is a bit hit and miss, so be alert.

We went on into Mytilini and parked on the harbourside to get our bearings then went round the museum of archaeology, which was pretty good, considering how little excavation has been done. We were well taken with the stuff on the viaducts (the water mill was powered by one.)The museum is in 2 parts, with the old bit at the foot of the hill near the harbour and the new bit in a purpose built extension a few blocks closer to the castle. The old bit has the Greek stuff and the new bit some amazing Roman mosaics.

Then we walked on to the castle, which is very undeveloped (ie it’s an impressive heap of rubble). It’s worth the visit for the views and the eclectic mix of architecture. We wandered round then down to the main street, just as it was coming up to siesta, so we blew that. We took Dennis up on his suggestion and went up to Panagoudia for a late lunch. Considering how busy and dirty Mytilini is, it’s remarkable to have this little place so close by. For the first time in days it was warm enough to sit out and we took advantage of the sunshine to sit on the harbourside at the first of a collection of tavernas. The one next door had octopus legs drying over the awnings. Meal was very good.(Kosrates).

So we went to find the Roman aqueduct at Moria. VERY impressive even if it was covered in scaffolding. Dropped Keith off and spent the next hour at the salt works seeing more birds. Neither of us bothered with supper after our late and excellent lunch.
Old May 6th, 2002, 03:45 PM
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On Saturday, I slept in by mistake. I had intended to get up and walk around the Kallonis inland lake, but was an hour late, missed the turn and went uphill instead. We decided, after I’d collected my spouse to retrace our steps on the Sigro to Eressos route but in reverse. So we went to Eressos then followed the main road to Sigri and drove up the beach road to Faneromeni beach. We wandered back and had a pretty dreadful lunch in a different taverna- go with the blue painted one on the harbour front- then followed the coast road back to Eressos again. Masses of wonderful birds. Supper at Dionysius- by this time we were regulars, and they had a new menu for the season.

On our last day, I again rose at 6 and found the inland lake- which turned out to be little more than a large puddle, and hardly worth the effort. So I headed off to find a Kruper’s Nuthatch. Failed miserably. We had a plan to drive up into the mountains to the mountain village of Agiassos, have a pleasant walk through its picturesque streets and a relaxing Sunday lunch. All went well- apart from the lunch. Agiassos was closed. It was off season. After considerable effort we gave in and hightailed it to Panagoudia again. We had lunch with dozens of locals in a super restaurant- I actually preferred our outdoor one from the Friday, but it was still very good.

On the way home we diverted back past the Kruper’s site which was overrun with chattering English birders, some of whom had been waiting almost 2 hours. They left eventually and about 30 seconds later out came the nuthatch, much to the delight of me and a German fellow. When we got back to the village I made a desperate search for Olive Oil- remember we’re off season here- to take home from this island famed for its olive oil, and eventually scraped together the three bottles I needed. I was certain you see, I’d not e able to get it at the airport where our flight next day was at 7.30am.

So, at 4.30am on Monday we drove back to Mytilini. Duff advice about check in. 7 am would have been plenty of time. And the shop DID open and it was awash with Olive OilL.

Arrived at Athens sharp and managed to catch up with the famous George- or at least with his wife on the phone and his friend Paul and a large Mercedes in person. We did the grand tour- The Akropolis, the old Olympic Stadium, the Plaka, the Changing of the Guard at the parliament, the Lecabettus then a tour past Piraeus and the coast south of the city to link up with the road to the airport. The Parthenon was wonderful. It was heaving with people- goodness knows what it must be like in midsummer. I thought the Plaka a bit on the tacky side.

Back in Aberdeen, via Gatwick at 9pm, in time for a bright and breezy start in the morning
Old May 6th, 2002, 05:10 PM
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Great report. It makes me long to go to Greece and visit the islands. I have such wonderful memories of the few trips I have taken.

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