Category: Top Lesvos posts (page 1 of 2)

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

 

Lesvos island stars in Dutch singer’s music video

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Danielle van Doorn filmed the video to her inspirational song Fly at Molyvos, Petra and other places on Lesvos island

 

Scenic backup: Lesvos island plays a co-starring role in Fly, a pop music video released this month (April 2020) by talented young Dutch singer/songwriter Danielle van Doorn.

The beautiful town of Molyvos, the historic Molyvos Castle, Petra village and numerous inland and coastal locations on Lesvos provide scenic backdrops for the 3.5-minute video which van Doorn made as a posthumous birthday gift for Justin G. Valk, who produced the studio recording of the song prior to his death two years ago from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Known professionally as JRedsun, Valk also produced van Doorn’s 2017 single, Leave Me Alone.

We recognized several of the video filming locations since we stayed in Molyvos and visited Petra and other places  during our first-ever trip to Lesvos in spring 2019, but I’m sure many more sites shown in the clip will be familiar to regular island visitors.

If you haven’t been to Lesvos before, the video will give you glimpses of some of the pretty town, coast and landscape scenery that await your discovery on this truly wonderful East Aegean isle.

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