Sunday, 13 July 2014
(Beach Street Festival, Mytilini)
According to the Guardian the oldest erotic grafitti was recently discovered on the Greek island of Astypalaia: some phalluses, carved into rocks, with inscriptions telling who did it with whom. The surprising fact is that it is about men loving men.
Was there a secret cult or was the place an army camp in ancient times? This is not known. What is fact is that this Aegean island, lying next to the Cycladic islands, but belonging to the Dodecanese group, was a fairly unknown island, that became news when they discovered mass graves with newborn babies.
Lesvos is known as the island of Sappho. Her many poems about women made lesbian women think that Sappho might have been the first lesbian. This is how the name lesbian came to the world. As far as I know there has been no ancient grafitti found on the island, depicting anything about lesbian love. The grafitti that has made news on the island is not ancient at all and has a more social and political meaning (although some of them do contain some erotic details). Last year during the Beach Street Festival the big unfinished hotel at the end of the longest beach of Lesvos in Vatera finally became a destination because grafitti artists with their astonishing wall paintings turned the big concrete spaces into a kind of an open air museum. And all this to honour the famous painter of Lesvos: Theophilos Chatzimichaïl (1870-1934), who, in his time, decorated lots of walls with his art.
The art of Theophilos was anything but erotic. The naïve style was characteristic of his work; another aspect was that he loved to depict clothes and old costumes. The people he depicted were far from erotic, wearing lots of clothes.
This Lesvorian early grafitti artist will be celebrated again at the Beach Street Festival which presents music and grafitti on August 1, 2 and 3. This time the festival will take place in Mytilini, just below the castle at the seaside. Some hundred artists will kind of pave a road towards Theophilos and to the man who introduced Theophilos to the international art world: Tériade.
Stratis Eleftheriades, better known as Tériade, was born in 1897 in Mytilini, went to Paris to study law but obviously fell in love with the arts. He became a known art critic, helped artists with their career and finally started to publish art books. He also brought the art of his fellow islander to attention of the French art world and this is why today we can find works of Theophilos in the Louvre.
In 1979 the Tériade museum in Lesvos was opened, just south of Mytilini in the village of Varia, alongside the museum of Theophilos which was opened in 1965. In the Tériade museum it is mainly his books that are exhibited, with original works from, amongst others Picasso, Matisse, Miro and of course there are the famous drawings made by Marc Chagall for the Lesvorian fairy tale Daphnis and Chloe.
During the Beach Street Festival the route from the castle in Mytilini to the museums in Varia will be marked by lots of artists who will decorate empty walls and other buildings with their art. That promises to become a nice party! Also because there are workshops given in grafitti art: put your mark to the city!
Another reason to visit the festival in Mytilini are the 50 music acts which will be presented on different stages: the capital is going to swing! And for sure swinging lots of times after that: if the new grafitti will be as impressive as the ones in Vatera, we may enjoy the art long after the festival will be closed.
There is a lot of dancing going on also in the north of the island. Last week the fancy modern open air club oXy (pronounced not as the Greek ochi, but as oxi, of oxygene) opened its doors. The club is settled high on a mountain between Molyvos and Petra, on a kind of boat-like construction (previously the Gatoluzzi club). The enormous platform houses a pool, seats, restaurant and a VIP-lounge where after midnight you’ll be sure to find a swinging crowd. For people who prefer more calm nights, in daytime it is a chic and relaxed lounge club with a superb view over the Aegean and with a pool to cool off.
The oXy club has revived the most well known empty building in the north of Lesvos. The Beach Street Festival not only makes an interesting connection between an older culture (Theophilos) and new grafitti, but also gives empty buildings a new function. Some old olive presses already have been transformed into hotels (Olive Press in Molyvos, Hotel Zaira in Skala Loutron) and museums (olive museums in Aya Paraskevi and in Papados), but still many of them, spread all over the island, remain vacant, just like other interesting buildings like the Arion Hotel in Molyvos, the old spa hotel Sarlitza in Thermi, the old night club in Skala Sykaminia, a school with a magnificent view in Ypsilometopo and plenty of old factories in Plomari and Perama. I do hope that there will come more creative people who think out new functions for these monumental buildings, so that Lesvos’ Old Glory can become the face of the new sparkling and swinging island that has everything for the modern tourist.
(The Tériade museum might open in 2 weeks, after a year of rebuilding (tel. 22510-23372); The museum of Theophilos is open from Monday to Friday, from 09.00 to 14.00. None of the museums will have special opening hours/days during the festival.)
(with thanks to Mary Staples)
© Smitaki 2014
Geplaatst door smitaki op Sunday, July 13, 2014
Sunday, 6 July 2014
After a few months on Lesvos, I have pretty much started to integrate: I increase my number of naps in the afternoon and in the evening I begin to go out later for dinner. Even though my stomach starts to grumble around seven, I no longer go to a restaurant before nine thirty.
This schedule pleases me, because since started dining so late, I no longer have to eat alone. And thus no longer have to endure the prying looks of the holidaying couples that start with their moussaka or stifado at 7 o’clock, a time that the Greeks just wake up from their siesta. I am amazed that a person eating alone attracts so much attention. Normally I do not care and I openly stare back at such couples sitting there without any conversation. And then I wonder to myself why is it that they have nothing to say to each other. In the past I sometimes invited such couples to join me, but the answer was never yes. Although my intention was never more than to pass time together, have a nice evening with good conversation: it was the female member of the couple that would refuse the invitation. Why? I have no idea!
There is something to learn from the Greeks in social behaviour. In Greece having dinner is a social event. A Greek never eats early in the evening and almost never alone. When most tourist couples on a Saturday night are on the way back to their hotel room or apartment, the restaurants will fill up for a second time, this time with Greeks. Everybody knows each other, everybody is welcome, chairs are shuffled around. So it can happen that when arriving in the harbour at 22.00 o’clock I might share some sardines with Nikos, then later Stavros will take a seat at our table to have a ladotiri saganaki, that Manolis will join us for an ouzo, followed by Maria who may come just to greet me and then a fisherman might want to show off the squid he had caught some minutes before. And at the end of the evening the owner of the restaurant and the cook might appear at the table to celebrate their evening’s work.
The later it gets, the more animated the evening and the more I hear about what is going on in the village: about the four fish that danced in the full moon yesterday; About that arrogant tourist with his catamaran moored in the harbour and is a malaka (asshole) because nobody is allowed to pass his gangway to reach the quay; about the daughter of Heleni who has a boyfriend and about the stubborn donkey of Michaelis who has escaped. I hear that Yannis has shaved off his beard and that the Captains Table – the restaurant that blew up at the start of the season - is trying to make a new start up.
When everybody knows what is going on and the empty ouzo bottles on the table are too many to count and after some dirty jokes, around 2 o’clock it is time to go home. Even though it is Sunday, in a tourist village work still needs to be done – every day, every morning and at the beginning of every evening. The end of the afternoon is for the siesta, otherwise you will not survive the night. The end of the evening is for maintaining social contacts. This is how it works here. Since I have started dining late I have begun to understand Greek life much better as well as to hear much more about what is going on in the island. So if you want to integrate – you had better start with having a nap in the afternoon.
(with thanks to Mary Staples)
© Pip 2014
Geplaatst door smitaki op Sunday, July 06, 2014
Tuesday, 3 June 2014
(written by Pip)
Many other Greek islands haven been transformed into amusement parks, but Lesvos has not. This island is the perfect destination for people who want to live the real Greece. This is what the travel guides say and from what I have seen from the island so far, the guides are right. The question however is how long Lesvos will remain an island unspoiled by tourism.
As the island is really a large green nature park, tourists have fun on Lesvos; but instead of aqua parks with complex-constructed slides, bearing names like Water city or Aqua Plus, tourists here have to make-do with some sixteen waterfalls like the one of Pesas. For others, climbing up Mt Olympos or Mt Lepetymnos with a rented car may be even more exciting than having a ride in a dangerous rollercoaster. And, when arriving home, being able to tell the story of how you survived an earthquake, sounds far more interesting than the one of how you were nearly shaken off a banana towed by a speedboat.
But this year there have been developments in order to raise the amount of fun for tourists, a change that might attract another kind of public. It is clear that not everybody is happy with these ‘improvements’. There has been lots of commotion around the two tractors that tow two wagons between Molyvos, Petra and Anaxos. This slow train, which disrupts the traffic on the small boulevard of Petra and the not-too-wide road between Petra and Molyvos has got the name Village Train. The drivers of these trains and those from the regular buses and cabs have been close to a fight on more than one occasion. The resulting road blockage was so bad that the police had to come and restore order. There is talk through the grapevine that this was done on purpose – an attempt to harm the train company. I’d best say no more about this. Even if they ask me for my opinion about this train I‘ll keep my mouth shut. Whether you approve or not, before you know it, you may make enemies for life. The good thing about this train is that since it now crawls all the way up to the medieval castle above Molyvos, the local beach bus between Anaxos, Petra and Molyvos now goes up the steep hill too and tourists no longer have to do the climb themselves or to take a cab to visit the crown of the town.
Another development is the reconstruction of the ‘flying saucer’, a building that has been standing empty for a decade (changing into a typical Greek ruin) on a mountaintop between Petra and Molyvos. Next month will be the opening of the Star beach-like club and then Lesvos will have a fancy night club with swimming pool, just like on Crete: the Oxy-club. Years ago this used to be a nightclub, but for reasons I do not know it closed down. The young Lesvorian men are all looking out for this new event, ready to practice their seduction tricks on the female tourists. With some cocktails, a nocturnal swim while accompanied by music of a famous DJ, they will feel confident success may be at hand. Another kind of men (and women) are not too happy about the opening of this club. They are the masses of birdwatchers who come every spring to Lesvos. The area around this nightclub is the breeding habitat of the Rüppell’s warbler. Even though the nightclub will probably open after the shivering spring nights, birdwatchers are afraid that this little bird will have to look for another spot to lay and breed its eggs and the birdwatchers will also have to change their beautiful look-out over the Aegean Sea.
That a Dutch snack bar, with real Dutch snacks, has been opened is not worth mentioning. For years you could find English breakfasts all over the place. Tourist attractions and foreign entrepreneurship remain small on Lesvos and I expect will remain small in the near future, especially now that the whole island has been named as a geo park. So it is Nature that still has the last say. It is still unknown what the warblers are going to do. Maybe they like Dance music and will remain where they now are.
(With special thanks to Gerard van Zeele for his photograph and Mary Staples for the English corrections)
© Pip 2014
Geplaatst door smitaki op Tuesday, June 03, 2014