We checked out of Turkey and headed over to Lesbos. On arrival we bumped into Petra and Bogden who had been on the Black Sea rally with us but they were just leaving Lesbos. They decided to hang on for a couple of hours so we obviously had to have a couple of beers with them.
Lesbos is the third largest Greek island. We hired a car to have a look around. It wasn’t far to the other side of the island as the crow flies but by road there are lots of twists and turns and so made it much further. We drove to the Agios Taxiarchis Monastery. The story is that all the monks at the monastery were massacred during a Saracen raid. The only survivor was a young novice who was hiding in the roof and saw the Arch angel Michael fighting off the attackers with his sword. The novice, whilst the vision was fresh in his mind, made an icon of the saint using earth and blood from the fallen monks. Pilgrims buy metallic shoes to offer to the icon, the idea being that Michael will wear them at night and appear to them in visions.
Three saints, Raphael, Nicholas and Irene lived on Lesbos in the 15th century. They were unknown for 500 years until 1959 when the local villagers reported seeing them in visions. Following the visions excavations were undertaken and human remains were found and believed to those of the three saints who were martyred. Raphael was the Abbot of Karyes near the village of Thermi, . St Nicholas was a deacon at the monastery and St Irene was the 12-year-old daughter of the mayor of Thermi. During the Turkish invasion, on the 9th April 1463 a group of Christians went to St. Raphael’s monastery to hide from the Turkish. The Turks tortured the saints and St. Irene’s family in order to reveal where the other Christians were hiding. The saints are remembered by the Church in April on the first Tuesday after Orthodox Easter.
We visited the Petrified Forest, what the hell is that you may ask? A scared forest? No! There are hundreds of fossilised tree trunks from a 20 million year old forest. The petrication, which in layman terms, is the natural process in which dead things change to a substance like stone over a very long period of time and was created by lava and ash from volcanic eruptions. The lava and ash disappeared leaving the tree trunks behind.
The highest standing fossilised tree in the world, with a height of 7.20 meters and a circumference of 8.58 meters was here in the forest.
Additionally, there were quartz crystals, these due to the presence of iron became a deep violet colour and so called Amethyst. The name originates from the Greek word “amethystos” meaning “not intoxicated”. Ancient folk believed that the stone protected its owner against drunkenness. Also the birth stone for February, aptly mine!
We found a lovely restaurant by a very quiet beach where we had lunch followed by a dip.
Also on Lesbos is the Roman Aqueduct of Moria dating back to the second and third century AD. This 160-metre structure is the largest remaining section of an aqueduct that channelled water 26 kilometres to ancient Mytilene from the springs on Olympos Mountain. Two spans are complete at the top, giving a clear idea of the magnitude of the aqueduct 1,800 years ago. We arrived here late afternoon and there was a 5km running race just about to start.
We went to the lovely quiet island of Inousses. Some of the most important owners of Greek shipping companies were born on this island. Many now live abroad but return for the summer. At the entrance to the port is a bronze mermaid with a crown and a sailboat in her left hand. The sculpture was made by sculptress Maria Papaconstantinou in order to welcome the visitors of the island.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit many of the small bays due to the meltemi (strong wind) coming through and so we headed to Chios to hide from the wind for a few days. Chios is the fifth largest Greek island. Even though we were in Greece there was an old Hamam, which dated back to the 18th century, inside the Castle walls when it was once part of the Ottoman empire.
Chios is known as the Mastic Island, and that’s not the stuff that fills the gaps between the wall and the skirting board. Mastic is a resin that comes from mastic trees. It is also known as the “tears of Chios” as the resin drops from the trees. Apparently, it is the only place that mastic trees grow. They tried to grow them on some of the other islands to no avail.
Various things are made from the mastic, in the main chewing gum which it is suggested has some health benefits, but there was an array of items in the museum shop including shampoo and moisturiser. Mastika, a liquer, is available all over the island.
We visited Pyrgi, known as the painted village. Many of the buildings are decorated with geometric motifs. The motifs are created by applying a plastering to the wall which is then painted and then the designs are scraped out.