Category: Popular Posts (page 2 of 25)

The cinematic splendour of Santorini and Mykonos

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Unmistakably Katikies is a visually stunning promotional film for the Katikies Hotels in Santorini and Mykonos

 

Visual rush: We’re really enjoying a just-released promotional video that we think superbly captures the magical atmosphere and exhilarating beauty of Santorini and Mykonos, two of the most popular and well-known islands in Greece.

Unmistakably Katikies is a cinematic-style travel  film that the media company Beautiful Destinations produced as part of a promotional campaign project for the Katikies group of seven hotels and villa properties on Santorini and Mykonos. The film premiered on February 16.

Featuring FPV (First Person View) video cinematography, the 4-minute film takes viewers on a thrilling ride above Santorini’s spectacular caldera cliffs, Red Beach, Black Beach and Ammoudi Bay, as well as through the maze of cobblestone streets in Mykonos Town, capturing remarkable vistas and the islands’ incomparable scenery during the flight. Of course, there are plenty of breathtaking views of the luxurious Katikies hotels and villas, too, including rooms, restaurants, pools and corridors.

Details of the filming project, including a list of the movie team members and a description of how the project came together, can be found in a February 16 post on the Beautiful Destinations page on Facebook.

Below are links to the Katikies website and social media pages, where you can find full information about the hotel and villa properties, along with photos and videoclips:

Web:  Katikies 

Instagram: @katikieshotelsantorini

Instagram: @katikiesmykonos

Instagram: @katikiesvillasmykonos

Facebook: @Katikies

 

Crossing 600 years of history at the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

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Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The  arched stone Kremasti bridge spans a stream in bucolic countryside near the town of Agia Paraskevi on Lesvos

 

Walking back centuries: Unlike the other two tourist couples that showed up within moments of our own arrival, we did cross the Kremasti bridge when we got to it.

We couldn’t pass up the rare opportunity to walk on a hand-built stone viaduct that may have been built as long as 600 years ago. Rare for us, because bridges even just a century old are few and far between back home in Canada, so crossing an ancient span isn’t something we can do  any old day of the week.

However, walking on medieval bridges might be something those other people can do wherever they live, which would explain why they didn’t share our enthusiasm to get up close for a better look at Kremasti. The two women from the first car strode  to the edge of the olive grove at the north side of the bridge for a brief look-see, then promptly drove off in the direction of Stypsi village. The driver of the second vehicle walked only a few steps from his car to snap photos — from a spot on the road that didn’t offer particularly good views of the monument standing 30 meters distant.  His passenger didn’t even get out; she seemed more interested in something on her cellphone. Photo-taking finished, the man climbed back into the driver’s seat, made a three-point turn, and drove off the way they had come.

In less than four minutes tops, both couples had arrived and departed, probably adding a “been there, seen that” checkmark to their lists of historic sites they had “visited” on Lesvos.

We didn’t mind having the old bridge all to ourselves; we got to appreciate its elegant architecture and examine its impressive masonry and engineering without getting in the way — or in the background — of someone else’s selfie.  And on such a sunny and warm spring afternoon, who wouldn’t want to enjoy the fresh air and quiet beauty of the countryside, take a stroll through the lovely olive grove, and imagine how crucial the bridge would have been for regional travel in the centuries before motor vehicles? Oh, right — we can think of at least four people who would prefer not to! But we weren’t keen to hurry back into the car to see more of Lesvos through the windshield and side windows. We would get to do that during the drive back to our hotel in Molyvos later in the day. Instead, we took a nice, slow walk across 600 years of Lesvos history, and savored the experience of simply being there for awhile. Besides, we were on Lesvos, where rushing around just isn’t the way to see and enjoy the subtle beauty and character of the island.

 

Kremasti bridge location on Lesvos island

This Google map pinpoints the Kremasti bridge location in northern Lesvos, approximately 3 km northwest of the town of Agia Paraskevi. 

 

Google satellite view of Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

This Google satellite image shows the historic bridge and the modern-era road that carries motor vehicle traffic through the countryside of rolling hills to Stypsi village.

 

Our travel materials and guidebooks didn’t provide much information about Kremasti. Most said basically the same things: it’s “the largest and best-preserved medieval bridge in the eastern Aegean” (to quote our 4th edition copy of The Rough Guide to the Dodecanese and East Aegean Islands); it is widely believed to be have been built sometime during the period the Gattilusio family of Genoa controlled Lesvos (1355 to 1462); it crosses a stream which flows into the Tsiknias River; and it stands 8.5 meters tall at its highest point. (Curiously, no further dimensions, such as the length and width of the span, were described in any of the publications).  

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

 

When we searched online for more details on the bridge’s history, we discovered that some websites dispute the date of construction, saying architectural details suggest Kremasti may have been built more than 100 years after the Gattilusio era, most likely during the 16th Century.  Some sources also mentioned that, according to local legend, the master builder buried his wife’s body into the bridge foundations.

We didn’t have any luck learning how the bridge got its name, but we did find some insight in The bridge of Kremasti, an interesting article written by Perris P. Vougioukas and published in 2015 by the local news and information website Agia Paraskevi Only.  

Besides discussing some of the history and legend behind the bridge, Vougioukas provided some dimension statistics that we couldn’t find anywhere else. Like other sources, he noted the Kremasti arch reaches a maximum height of 8.55 meters, but he furnished additional measurement facts: the bridge opening is 14 meters, while the span’s cobblestone walkway extends for approximately 50 meters, and is 3.5 meters wide.

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

 

We had been curious about the bridge length because we wanted to know how far into the past we had wobbled along the uneven surface, where weeds and grasses sprout from cracks and spaces between the stones. Unfortunately, we couldn’t cross the entire span — a section of wire fence blocked access to and egress from the north side of the bridge. We didn’t realize this until we were almost all the way up and over the arch, having begun our crossing from the south. Clambering over or around the barricade would have been awkward and unsafe, so we wisely retraced our steps. Although it was a bit disappointing to wind up just one or two steps shy of a complete crossing, we got to spend twice as much time on the bridge, and enjoy the different views in each direction. 

(We couldn’t understand why the fence had been installed; there weren’t any signs indicating it was off limits, and none of our tourist guides warned that walking on the bridge was either unsafe or not permitted. We wondered if the owners of the olive grove simply didn’t want people like us ambling around their trees or having picnics on their property! Or perhaps they had blocked the path to prevent their sheep or goats from crossing onto the bridge and possibly falling into the stream. If any of our readers know the answer, please share it with us!)

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

Our visit to Kremasti bridge took place during a day-long drive to explore sights and villages in northern Lesvos. We also could have seen the bridge by walking, since there are well-established trekking routes in the area, but we chose to leave long hikes for our next trip to Lesvos. For any of our readers who might be interested in such a scenic walk during an upcoming trip to Lesvos, here are links we had bookmarked for two websites that provide detailed directions for walking routes that pass the bridge:

Walking in the valley of Tsiknias on the Trekking Trails Network of Lesvos website; and 

♦ the Napi – Kremasti bridge route on the AllTrails website

Below are a few more of our photos of the bridge and its surroundings:

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The three photos above show the bridge as we approached and began crossing the span from its southern side

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The view toward the olive tree grove at the north end of the bridge. Even from this point, we couldn’t see the thin wire fence that blocks access to the grove.

 

Olive tree grove near the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Olive tree grove near Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

olive trees near the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The three photos above show views of the olive tree grove at the north end of the bridge. The ground was carpeted with tiny white spring flowers.

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

From the edge of the olive grove, a glimpse of the bridge’s arch

 

a man stands on the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The stream beneath the bridge is a tributary of the Tsiknias River, which flows into the Gulf of Kalloni

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

Above: two views of the arched stone span

 

a man on the Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

The wire fence that blocks passage at the north end of the bridge is partially visible in this photo. 

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos island

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

Above: two views during our walk back to the southern end of the bridge

 

Kremasti bridge on Lesvos

One final look at Kremasti, seen from the modern bridge that carries motor vehicle traffic across the stream

After the Elpis snowstorm: Amazing Mykonos landscape photos by Leanne Vorrias

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Leanne Vorrias photo of Mykonos island after a snowfall

Local resident and photographer Leanne Vorrias captured this striking image of Mykonos on January 22 after a storm system named Elpis blasted Greece’s Aegean islands with cold temperatures and snowfalls.  

 

Ornos Bay and Agios Ioannis beach Mykonos after a snowfall

Leanne photographed this hilltop view of snow-dusted slopes near Agios Ioannis beach (right) and Ornos bay (upper left) as a wide curtain of grey stormclouds hung over Mykonos.

 

Snow dusted hillsides near Ornos Bay on Mykonos

Emerald-green fields that were left largely untouched by the storm offer a colourful contrast to the surrounding snow-powdered hills that Leanne photographed near Ornos. 

 

Mykonos winter marvels:  After a cold weather system named Elpis dumped snow on many areas of Greece’s Aegean islands on January 23, we happily spent a few hours scrolling through hundreds of snow scene photos and videos that island residents had shared on Instagram and Facebook. It was both amusing and amazing to see how different, and sometimes completely unrecognizable, so many familiar places looked under an uncharacteristic blanket of white. 

This was certainly the case with images showing some of the famous Mykonos beaches covered in layers of crisp white snow. We have seen Ornos, Psarou, Agios Stefanos and other top Mykonos beaches often, their golden sands radiant under clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Not this time! With the seasides and surrounding hills covered in snow from the Elpis storm, and thick grey stormclouds lurking overhead,  some of the beach areas were almost impossible to identify.

Much more surprising and remarkable were a series of breathtaking landscape photos that photographer Leanne Vorrias, a Mykonos resident, had posted on Facebook.

Shot from hilltop and coast locations in the Kanalia, Ornos and Agios Ioannis areas of Mykonos after the storm had let up, the photos capture marvellous winter vistas and scenery we’ve never seen ourselves, or even imagined. With snow cover changing the island’s appearance so drastically, some of the panoramic images left us wondering just what parts of Mykonos we were looking at.

(In the photo at the top of this post, for instance, it took us a few minutes to figure out that we were seeing a stretch of the island’s western coast, extending from the Tourlos and New Port areas all the way over to the Little Venice seaside and Kato Mili windmills in Mykonos Town. The source of confusion? The hills and mountains that rise behind the port.  We are used to seeing rocky brown terrain dotted with whitewashed houses and villas — not completely white peaks and slopes!)

Leanne also captured spectacular views of  nearby islands, including Delos, Rhenia, Syros and Tinos.

We’ve posted several more photos below, with the photographer’s kind permission, but recommend visiting Leanne’s Facebook page using a computer, so you can click on the individual images to view their impressive full-size detail on a bigger screen.

You can see more of Leanne’s work, including galleries of portrait and performing artist photography, on her website: Leanne Vorrias PhotoRevelation Mykonos.

 

Snow on Mykonos photo by Leanne Vorrias

View toward Ornos Bay from a hilltop road high above Agios Ioannis

 

Leanne Vorrias photo of snow on Mykonos island

Snow-dusted hills near Ornos Bay (upper left)

 

Leanne Vorrias photo of Agios Ioannis Bay Mykonos and Delos island

A sweeping view of the Aleomandra peninsula, Agios Ioannis bay and beach, and Delos island

 

Leanne Vorrias photo of Delos island and Rhenia island near Mykonos

A view of Delos and Rhenia islands under heavy stormclouds

 

Leanne Vorrias photo of Tinos island viewed from Mykonos

Tinos island under a shroud of grey clouds

 

Leanne Vorrias photo of snow capped mountains on Syros island

Dramatic clouds pass above snow-capped mountains on Syros. In the foreground is part of Rhenia island.

 

Leanne Vorrias photo of snow on Tinos island

Ominous stormclouds loom over Tinos

 

Leanne Vorrias photo of snow on Tinos island

Another view of snow-blanketed mountains on Tinos 

 

Leanne Vorrias photo of Baos island Tinos island and Mykonos

From the left: little Baos island, snowy Tinos, and the northwestern coast of Mykonos

 

The powdery white Mykonos beaches few tourists ever see

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Snow on the Mykonos Town beach

The snow on Agia Agia beach at the Mykonos Town harbour had at least one of the island’s resident geese in a flap. This photo by Argiris Chatzis has gone viral on social media.

 

Snow on Psarou beach on Mykonos

People who have danced on the sand at the world-famous Nammos beach club would probably never have imagined that Psarou beach could look like this in winter. The photo was shared on social media by Mykonos Live TV.

 

Snow on Kalafatis beach on Mykonos

Snow covers Kalafatis beach while ominous stormclouds lurk above the two hills at Divounia that Mykonos locals have nicknamed “Aphrodite’s Breasts.”  Ηλίας Παναγάκος shared this image to the Meteo GR weather group page on Facebook.

 

Snowy strands: Mykonos is renowned for its dozens of beautiful beaches, but few tourists have ever seen them transform overnight from gorgeous golden sands to fluffy white powder.  That’s what happened this week when a winter weather system that meteorologists named Elpis swept across Greece’s Aegean islands, leaving a layer of crisp white snow in its wake.

On Sunday January 23, Mykonos residents awoke to find their homes, yards and vehicles under a blanket of snow — the heaviest snowfall the island has received in nearly 40 years.

While parts of the island got just a light dusting of the white stuff, some areas attracted deeper accumulations — and some no snow at all. That resulted in the striking sight of patches of vibrant green winter vegetation — another feature most Mykonos tourists never get to see during the dry, barren months of summer — surrounded by wide expanses of snow-topped fields and hills.

On the other side of the Atlantic, we awoke to snowfalls, too (a normal January sight here in Canada), but were taken aback to find our social media pages filled with stunning pictures and videos showing Mykonos with snow-covered landscapes and moody winter stormclouds looming overhead — just like here!

The famous Mykonos beaches looked amazing, though rather than showing off their usual tones of golden brown, they appeared just as white as the island’s iconic sugar-cube buildings.

Below, we have re-posted some of the social media photos, to show you how striking the beaches looked in their white winter coats.

We’re sure the images will astound people who have spent summer holidays partying , sunbathing and swimming at these beaches, but never imagined how drastically different they might appear in winter. The photos might even come as a complete shock to many people around the world who mistakenly believe Mykonos weather is similar to the Caribbean’s, since they’ve only seen pictures and videos showing the island in summer, with beaches, palm trees and swimsuit-clad tourists basking in the sunshine.

— Ornos beach —

 

Ornos beach area of Mykonos after a snowfall

The Ornos beach area is seen in a photo that was widely shared on social media formats and credited to Dimitris Paterakis

 

@katerina_brb Instagram photo of snow on Ornos beach on Mykonos

Ornos beach and hillside view from an Instagram photo by @katerina_brb

 

Snow on Ornos beach on Mykonos

Snow on Ornos beach on Mykonos

Above, two ground-level views from the southern end of Ornos beach as snow continued to fall. The images were both shared on Facebook by Kostantis restaurant, one of the beach tavernas at Ornos.

 

Snow at Ornos beach on Mykonos

Another  photo by Kostantis restaurant, this time showing  Ornos from the northern end of the beach

 

— Super Paradise beach —

 

Snowfall at JackieO Beach Club and Super Paradise beach on Mykonos

Views of snowy Super Paradise beach and the JackieO Beach Club, seen in images shared in the club’s Instagram stories

 

— Kalo Livadi beach —

 

snow on Kalo Livadi beach Mykonos

With this layer of snow giving it a different look, Kalo Livadi beach might be unrecognizable to people who have been to Solymar Beach Restaurant or Lohan Beach House in summer months. The photo was shared on Instagram by Island Mykonos Suites.

 

— Agios Stefanos beach —

 

Snow on Agios Stefanos beach on Mykonos

Agios Stefanos beach next to the Mykonos New Port is seen in an image, credited to O. Kyrantoni, shared on the Delos Tours Instagram page

 

Snow on Agios Stefanos beach on Mykonos

A ground-level view of Agios Stefanos beach from the opposite direction to the image posted above. This picture was shared on Facebook by Olga Pavlidi.

 

Snowy Mykonos beach photo shared on Instagram by o_lofos

The view toward Delos and Rhenia islands from Agios Stefanos beach, as seen in an image shared on Facebook by  O Lofos Luxury Boutique Suites

 

— Psarou beach —

 

@kostis_krg Instagram photo of snow at Psarou beach on Mykonos

The snowy slopes surrounding Psarou beach seen in an image shared by @kostis_krg

 

Aerial view of snow at Psarou beach on Mykonos

Another aerial view of the snow-covered hills and beach at Psarou. This image was shared on Instagram by Betty Chanozidou.

 

Snow on Psarou beach Mykonos

Mykonos Live TV captured this image of sunshine sparkling on the turquoise waters at snowy Psarou beach

 

Snow on Psarou beach on Mykonos

 Another Mykonos Live TV view of Psarou

 

Ioannis Revithis photo of Psarou beach on Mykonos

Ioannis Revithis shared this photo of Psarou beach on Facebook

 

snow on Psarou beach Mykonos

Snowy Psarou beach and the surrounding hillsides are shown in an image Mykonos Animal Welfare shared on its Instagram account, along with a message urging island residents to open their hearts and doors for strays and farm animals that might need food, water and shelter during the cold snap that will last several days.

 

— Agrari beach —

 

 snow on Agrari beach on Mykonos

A Mykonos Live TV social media image of snow-laden Agrari

 

snow on Agrari beach on Mykonos

The golden sand of Agrari beach is completely covered by snow in this image shared on social media pages for Mykonos Live TV and Agrari Beach

 

— Paraga beach —

 

Snow on Paraga beach on Mykonos

Snow on Paraga beach on Mykonos

Snow-dusted Paraga beach is seen in two screen captures from a video that Paraga Cafe shared in its Instagram stories

 

— Kalafatis beach —

 

Snow on Kalafatis beach

Skandinavian Bar shared this photo showing a view toward Divounia from the snow-powdered sands of Kalafatis beach

 

snow at Kalafatis beach on Mykonos

A view of Kalafatis from the southern end of the beach. The photo was widely shared on social media and credited to Stacey Papaiannou.

 

— Elia beach —

 

@yioris_gk Instagram photo of snow on Elia beach Mykonos

Sunshine breaks through clouds above Elia beach in an image shared on Instagram by yioris_gk

 

— Agia Anna beach at the Mykonos Town harbour — 

 

Snow on Agia Anna beach at Mykonos Town

This photo of Agia Anna beach in Mykonos Town was shared on social media by Delos Tours and credited to photographer V Delarosa

 

Snowy Agia Anna beach in Mykonos Town

An Agia Anna beach photo shared on the Facebook page for Mykonos Promo

 

Geese pigeons and snow on Agia Anna beach at Mykonos Town

The wing-flapping goose and its companions are joined by a flock of pigeons for this shot, which was shared on social media by Mykonos Animal Welfare. 

A springtime stroll at Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

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uses at Skala Sykamineas village

Skala Sykaminias village

Trees on the seaside at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Mouria Tou Mirivili taverna

fishing boats and Panagia Gorgona church at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Scenes from our visit to Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos. From the top: Verdant mountainsides rise behind the village; a man relaxes on a bench near the fishing boats; spring wildflowers blanket the ground beneath a row of trees along the coast; harbourside tables at I Mouria Tou Mirivili taverna; fishing boats moored below the landmark church of Panagia Gorgona (the Mermaid Madonna).

 

“Skala Sykaminias is easily the most picturesque fishing port on Lesvos.” — The Rough Guide to the Dodecanese and East Aegean Islands (2005).

 

Seaside walkabout:  We have rather hazy memories of the several hours we spent exploring scenic Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos island during our last trip to Greece.

Just to be clear: by “hazy,” we aren’t suggesting we over-indulged in ouzo at one of the village’s portside cafes (we actually didn’t have anything to drink) — we’re referring to the lackluster sky and sunlight conditions that prevailed on that particular afternoon.

Either by sheer bad luck or complete coincidence, we had arrived in Greece four days earlier just as winds from the Sahara desert swept across the Mediterranean Sea and clouded the skies above Greece with minute particles of sand and dust. 

At Cape Sounion, where we spent the first two nights of our holiday, the dusty atmosphere dulled the day-time light, muted the normally vibrant colours of the sea, sky and landscapes, and obscured the breathtaking views from the historic Temple of Poseidon.  We had been hoping to experience one of the glorious Sounion sunsets we have seen pictured on Greece travel guides and postcards, but we couldn’t catch either a fleeting glimpse of the sun or its golden light; thanks to the dust, it was completely invisible.

Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

A glimpse of Skala Sykaminias village, from a lookout point along the highway from Molyvos to Mantamados 

 

From Sounion we travelled to the town of Molyvos in northern Lesvos, hoping for clear skies and bright sunshine there. No such luck — the sky looked just as leaden, and the sun remained as elusive, as both had been back on the mainland. Our pleas for better weather were either not received or blatantly ignored by Zeus, the Greek god of the sky, because the haze persisted almost the entire week, including the day we drove to Skala Sykaminias to take a look at what’s considered to be the prettiest fishing harbour on the island, and one of the most charming in the entire country.

The village still looked lovely, of course, but we couldn’t help but feel a little let down that we weren’t experiencing its full visual beauty — with brilliant and clear blue skies,  the vibrant turquoise hues of the Aegean Sea, and the vivid colours of fishing boats, flowers and foliage.  

There were occasional moments when the sky suddenly seemed brighter and more clear, but those were merely a tease — the sunny periods were short-lived. But those brief breaks of brightness did give us a good impression of just how stunning Skala Sykaminias would look on a completely clear day. Admittedly, we do feel a bit of jealousy when we see crisp, clear and richly colourful photos of the village on Instagram and other social media. But those also make us look forward to a paying a return visit some day, hopefully under more auspicious weather conditions.

So, what was there to see at Skala Sykaminias on that hazy April afternoon?

The village was pleasantly quiet and peaceful, with probably no more than three dozen people out and about — including local residents and a small clutch of daytrippers, like us. We weren’t expecting crowds, though, since the summer tourist season hadn’t yet begun, and Greek Easter celebrations were still a few days away.

The village cafes and tavernas

Several cafes were open for business, including two that had placed chairs and painted tables right at the harbour’s edge. At Traverso Cafe, a young couple relaxed with coffees while their daughter eagerly tucked into a luscious chocolate crepe. At Kavos Cafe, staff were busy performing maintenance chores and setting up the seaside bar patio while the cafe’s mascot, a multilingual scarlet macaw named Dias, supervised their work.

Kavos Cafe at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

The harbour-facing side of Kavos Cafe

 

Kavos Cafe at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

macaw at Kavos Cafe in Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Above: a table on the back patio of Kavos Cafe, and Dias, the restaurant’s resident macaw 

 

cafe tables on the harbourside at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Cafe tables line the harbour’s edge in front of Kavos Cafe and Traverso Cafe

 

Traverso Cafe at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

The hand-painted sign at Traverso Cafe depicts a sailboat arriving at Skala Sykaminias

 

Traverso cafe  at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Tables on the patio at the front of Traverso Cafe

 

cafe table at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

cafe table at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Above: two of the beautifully painted tables at the Kavos and Traverso cafes.  Images of mermaids adorned several tabletops at both cafes, artistically acknowledging the Panagia Gorgona (Mermaid Madonna) church and local lore about the village’s encounters with the mythical sirens of the sea.

 

At the nearby taverna I Mouria Tis Mirivili,  we saw two long rows of tables readied for dinner time customers, along with some of the seafood delicacies awaiting them — octopus tentacles dangling from a line, and crustaceans crawling inside a large glass tank.  The taverna is probably the most well-known eatery on the island, since it’s reputedly where noted Greek novelist Stratis Myrivilis would sit and write, under the shade of what is now a 130-year-old mulberry tree, while enjoying views of the village landmark, the Panagia Gorgona church.  (The restaurant name translates as “Mirivili’s Mulberry.” You can read more about both the writer and the legendary church in our post The Mermaid Madonna church at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos.) 

Next door, Anemoussa Restaurant wasn’t yet open, but several octopus were hung from a line strung above the shoreside where the taverna sets up tables and chairs when it’s operating.

Also open for shopping and browsing were a mini market, Art Shop Niki at the village square, and a craft and jewellery shop beside Kavos cafe.

taverna tables at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Mouria Tou Mirivile taverna at Skala Sykaminias

Octopus hanging at Mouria Tou Mirivili taverna at Skala Sykaminias

Above: I Mouria Tou Myrivili taverna, where customers can watch the fishing boats and admire Panagia Gorgona church while dining on fresh fish, seafood and traditional Greek cuisine. 

 

octopus drying on a line at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

Above: Octopus hang on a line near Anemoussa restaurant, while tourists browse the jewellery and craft displays at Art Shop Niki. Below: photos of the central square and some of the village houses and buildings.

 

Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

buildings in Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos island

a building in Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

buildings at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

 

The iconic harbour

Next up was a stroll around the Skala Sykaminias harbour, which travel guidebooks and tourist brochures say is the prettiest on the island.  With an array of fishing and motor boats moored in the U-shaped port, and the gleaming white Panagia Gorgona church standing sentry on a large rock next to the mole, the harbour certainly appears as charming and picturesque as the travel guides claim.

On this afternoon, it was as serene as the rest of the village. The water was calm and there wasn’t any  maritime traffic — no boats coming into or leaving the port, at least not while we were there. We saw four fishermen chatting as they mended nets and worked on their adjacent vessels,  a few tourists strolling along the pier, and a local man sitting on one of the harbourside benches, but that was as crowded as it got. Even the Panagia Gorgona was relatively undisturbed, with just a handful of people climbing its stairs to look at the church and enjoy its port, sea and village vistas.

Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

harbour at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

fishing boats in the harbour at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

fishing boats at Panagia Gorgona church at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Skala Sykaminias harbour on Lesvos

outside Panagia Gorgona church at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

Above: Various views of the harbour, fishing boats and Panagia Gorgona church

 

Along the coast road 

After a meandering stroll around the village and harbour, we took a long walk down a road that winds along the coast to Eftalou, the location of a popular thermal spring near Molyvos. Just outside the village, a long line of trees separates the road from the rocky shoreline. Benches provide shaded spots to relax and gaze at the sea and the distant coast of Turkey; underfoot, the ground was covered with white and pink wildflowers. We walked about 45 minutes before retracing our steps to the village. We had the road all to ourselves most of the time, seeing only three other people — one man walking, two others driving vehicles — during our trek.

Had we continued a couple kilometers farther, we could have seen a natural hot spring which we later learned about while reading the Skala Sykaminias page on the molyvos.eu website.  Based on a map the website provided to pinpoint the spring’s location, we figure we had walked more than halfway there before turning around.

Below are some of the photos we took along the way.

along the coast at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

wildflowers on the coast at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

near Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

a property at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

near Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos

a road at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

coast road from Skala Sykaminias to Eftalou on Lesvos

along the coast near Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos island

along the coast road at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

along the coast road at Skala Sykaminias

along the coast road at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

view along the coast road at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

coast near Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

along the coast road near Skala Sykaminias

 

Views from above: the Mermaid Madonna church and Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

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Skala Sikamneas (Panagia Gorgona) is a 3-minute aerial film by Nick Drone

 

Bird’s eye views: In our previous post, The Mermaid Madonna church at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos, we recounted a visit to the charming island village, and described interesting information and stories that we didn’t learn about until after we returned home from our holiday.  We also shared some of our photos of the church, a veritable Greek island icon.

We subsequently stumbled upon the YouTube channel for Nick Drone, where we discovered this aerial video from September 2020. The film captures beautiful views of the village, harbour and church as they’re bathed in the golden glow of late afternoon sunshine.  The church and village appear radiant in the warm autumn sunlight, while the sparkling, crystal clear waters below the church look striking. 

The camera makes several overhead passes to capture the impressive landscape and coastal scenery, and it circles above the Panagia Gorgona church for 360-degree views of the building. We think you’ll enjoy the scenic 3-minute flight.

The Mermaid Madonna church at Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

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Panagia Gorgona church of the Mermaid Gorgona on Lesvos

Panagia Gorgona church on Lesvos island

Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

Three views of the church of Panagia Gorgona (the Mermaid Madonna), in photos from our visit to Skala Sykaminias on Lesvos

 

Greek island icon: Sometimes we learn fascinating facts and interesting background details about places we’ve been to in Greece long after we get home from holidays, rather than while we’re there in person, and this certainly proved to be the case for Skala Sykaminias village on Lesvos.

Mid-spring of 2019 found us staying in the beautiful town of Molyvos at the beginning of our first-ever Lesvos vacation — which coincidentally wound up being our last trip to Greece before the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted our annual travels.

During breakfast one morning, we were mulling where to go on a sightseeing drive that day. Our maps and guide books described nearby Skala Sykaminias as one of the most picturesque fishing villages on Lesvos, and other travellers at our hotel in Molyvos agreed, effusively praising it as “lovely,”  “charming,” and “not to be missed.” Since it was an easy, short drive from our accommodations, we decided to make the village our first stop.

We thought it was just as pretty as people had promised, in large part thanks to a quaint whitewashed chapel that gives the harbour much of its unique character and photogenic appeal. Built atop a large rock formation on one side of the port, the small, simple church is the standout feature of the Skala Sykaminias seafront.

 Like the handful of other tourists wandering around the village that late April afternoon, we made a point of popping by for a closer look at the little church. The door was locked tight, so we couldn’t look around inside, but we did enjoy pausing to take in the impressive views of the sea, harbour and village from the elevated position of the building and its adjacent terrace.

Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

Panagia Gorgona church

Skala Sykamineas village on Lesvos

Top: Approaching steps leading from the harbour mole to Panagia Gorgona church. Center: Terrace view of the chapel, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Bottom: Terrace view of the harbour.

 

Some of our travel guides said the church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and called Panagia Gorgona (the Mermaid Madonna), but they didn’t explain how or why it got that name. In fact, they didn’t provide any information about the village’s signature attraction at all, and very little about Skala Sykaminia, either, apart from saying it’s famous for its fish tavernas. During our various travels in Greece, we have seen shops, hotels and tavernas named Gorgona, so it didn’t strike us as odd that a seaside chapel might be called that, too.

It wasn’t until months after we returned home from our holiday that I came across some curious stories and interesting information about Panagia Gorgona and the Skala Sykaminias settlement, and learned that both owe much of their tourist fame to a novel published in 1949 by a locally-born writer, Stratis Myrivilis.

I had never heard of Myrivilis until I noticed his name in the excellent photography book, Aeolian Lesvos (Liza Evert, Constellation Books Athens, 1995), which I had purchased on the island as a personal souvenir from our trip. Captions for two of the book’s beautiful photos of Skala Sykaminias were excerpts from Myrivilis’s novel, The Mermaid Madonna, which is regarded as the writer’s best-known work.

The quote in one of the photo captions described how a group of masons had been travelling by boat to a village in northern Lesvos, where they were scheduled to construct a soap factory. En route, they encountered a sudden storm squall that nearly capsized their vessel. When the masons noticed a rocky crag on the nearby coast, they said a prayer: “Save us and we’ll build you a chapel.” The weather settled immediately, and the masons and boat crew safely reached the shore at Skala Sykaminias. “They tied up the vessel and carried out their vow. That’s why the little chapel looks so like a small oil shop.”

Intrigued, I searched online for more information about Myrivilis, and found an informative PowerPoint presentation that students at the junior high school in Petra, Lesvos, had prepared for an Erasmus+ project entitled Every child matters: refugees and immigrants in education (Ermasmus+ is an EU governmental program for education, training, youth and sport).

Greek writer Stratis Myrivilis and the cover of his book The Mermaid Madonna

Photos of Greek writer Stratis Myrivilis and the cover of his popular 1949 novel, The Mermaid Madonna, are seen in an image from a presentation the Junior High School in Petra, Lesvos prepared for an EU educational program

 

The slideshow provides a brief biography of Myrivilis, a 3-time nominee for the Nobel literature prize, and includes a synopsis of The Mermaid Madonna, the novel he named after the little chapel in Skala Sykaminias. The book tells gripping stories based upon the harrowing refugee crisis that took place in 1922, when Turks torched the coastal city of Smyrna and forced more than a million native Greeks to flee the Anatolia region (Smyrna was part of what is now the Turkish city of Izmir). Besides describing the arrival of refugees at Skala Sykaminias, Myrivilis tells the tale of the masons who built Panagia Gorgona, and recounts some local legends about mermaids and village residents.

One story relates how village inhabitants reacted to a little green-eyed girl who was discovered in a fishing boat, and believed to be the daughter of a mermaid who had seduced a fisherman. Elsewhere, the book describes how villagers began to worship a mural that a sea captain purportedly painted inside the church, depicting the Virgin Mary with a mermaid’s tale. (The painting disappeared from the church decades ago, if it even existed in the first place.)

 

Cafe table painting of Mermaid Madonna Church

The Mermaid Madonna church is depicted in a table-top painting at a harbourside taverna in Skala Sykaminias

 

I felt dismayed that we hadn’t known about Myrivilis and his captivating stories, or the Smyrna refugee connection to Skala Sykaminias, before going to Lesvos. I’m convinced all the background information I discovered afterwards would have enhanced our visit, giving us a much better appreciation for the history of the church and village. We probably would have scoured the seaside for signs of mermaids, and peered through the chapel window to try and spot where the famous mural may have been painted!

Though we didn’t realize it at the time, we obviously had fallen under the siren’s spell simply by going there.

As an insightful article in the Lesvos-based blog Smitaki Boulevard News observes, “Skala Sykaminia is the village of the mermaid, who in modern times, continues her ancient craft, by seducing tourists.” Indeed — her charms had certainly worked their magic on us. I can still feel them sometimes, gently trying to lure us back.

If a trip to Lesvos is in your future plans, be sure to heed the siren’s call and pay Skala Sykaminias a visit.

For more information and photos of the church and village, here are links to several online articles and social media posts:

♦   A detailed description of the Stratis Myrivilis story about the church is outlined in The Mermaid of Sykaminia post on the blog Smitaki Boulevard News Lesvos, which we mentiioned above;

♦ Photos of the chapel, including three pictures of its interior, can be seen on the Ι .Ν. Panagia tis Gorgonas – North Aegean Islands page of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens website of Religious Tourism Destinations;

The Mermaid Madonna post on the NixPixMix blog includes several photos of the church (inside and out) and the Skala Sykaminias harbour, as well as a modern painting that depicts how the legendary mermaid Madonna fresco may have looked;

♦ A few Instagram photos and brief descriptions of the stories about the church are included in the Travelgirl blog post The church of Panagia Gorgona on Lesvos became famous from the novel by Myrivilis.

Below are several more of our photos of the church and harbour:

Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

Panagia Gorgona church

Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

Church bell at Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

Panagia Gorgona Church on Lesvos

 

A Christmas fairy tale in Sparta

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The Drop Cafe in Sparta Greece

Christmas elves have transformed The Drop Cafe in Sparta into a fairy-tale wonderland for the holiday season

 

All decked out: With snow on the ground and ski resorts opening in various parts of the country this month, it’s beginning to look at lot like Christmas in Greece. Especially in the Peloponnese city of Sparta, where festive elves have turned The Drop Cafe into a sensational Christmas wonderland.

The cafe describes itself as a “themed coffeehouse,” serving coffees, cocktails and deliciously decadent desserts  in a quirky yet cozy mansion-style living room space. The place delights in dressing itself up for special seasonal events, and for Christmas it goes over-the-top with fantastically festive decor.

This year, decorating duties were assigned to a team of exuberant elves who magically transformed the place into a dreamy setting that looks like something you would see in a Hollywood Christmas movie.

“Many times you may have wondered what it might be like to live in a Christmas fairy tale. The elves took care of that!” says the caption for a video The Drop Cafe posted on its social media pages on December 10, showing the sparkling lights and festive trim that adorn the shop from top to bottom, inside and out.

Besides going all-out with garlands, Christmas tree ornaments and twinkling lights, the multi-talented elves concocted a special Christmas cocktails list (the red velvet is one of the most popular drinks on the menu), along with heart-warming seasonal beverages like cinnamon apple tea and hot chocolate “bombs,” all of which pair well with the cafe’s scrumptious cakes and sweet treats.

You can bet that children will be thrilled by the display, which features countless lights and ornaments, stuffed animals, toy elves, a circus carousel and a giant Christmas cake, while adults are bound to feel like they’re experiencing Christmas as kids all over again.

The cafe unveiled its Christmas look in mid-November. We reached out to ask how long management plans to keep the decorations up, but haven’t heard back yet. If you’re within driving distance of Sparta, we recommend taking a roadtrip there ASAP to partake in some holiday cheer and experience a real-life Christmas fairy tale.

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The Drop Cafe

Likourgou 142, Sparta

Instagram: @the_drop_cafe

Facebook: @thedropcafebistrot

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Below are several photos of the cafe’s glowing and glittering holiday decor, all of which were shared on The Drop Cafe’s social media pages. Check out their Instagram and Facebook profiles to see more photos and videos of their Christmas garb, as well as their theme decors from this past Halloween, last Christmas, and seasons in between.

 

The Drop Cafe in Sparta Greece

The Drop Cafe in Sparta Greece

The Drop Cafe in Sparta Greece

The Drop Cafe in Sparta Greece

The Drop Cafe in Sparta Greece

The Drop Cafe in Sparta Greece

The Drop Cafe in Sparta Greece

 

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