Monday, 2 May 2016

April 24 – Clapping thunder flowers

(Thunder flowers)

“When thunder clouds appear, quickly burn your thunder flowers"* I won't follow this old saying, because I want those thunder clouds to give rain. I study the cloudy sky and search for any cauliflower forms. Dark masses of tiny water parts hang around the mountain tops, but will they release that much wanted water from heaven? The sun still knows where to find the cracks and keeps on shining.

The island is pretty dry. The oceans of flowers have started to wither, making orchid hunters desperate: where to find those orchids which people have flown to Lesvos especially in order to see? They will now have to do with the thunder flowers, who shamelessly and dazzlingly have gathered in masses and shine as red as any tulip field in Holland. Thunder flowers do not care about water or good soil: they flourish in poor and churned soil. This way they survived the battlefields of the First World War.

It was the Goddess of the Earth, Demeter, who created this sleeping flower*. She preferred to sleep throughout the six months of the year that her daughter Persephone had to spend with Hades in the Underworld. The God of Sleep Hypnos and his son Morpheus also used this flower to close their eyes and to dream. The sleeping flower has remained along with its derivatives, like opium, a symbol for sleep, and to help people have sweet dreams or lead them to damnation. When, like Alice in Wonderland, you pass through a field full of sleeping flowers, you'd better not lay down in that bright red world: you might risk an eternal sleep.

Sorcerers loved these witch flowers*, because they had so many properties to make healing concoctions. Their medical applications are many: used not only to have a good sleep, but also to fight a sore throat or cramps. And their tiny moon blue seeds, known from the tasty German or Swiss rolls, contain rare minerals and vitamins.

Had the soldiers in the First World War known this, they would have all become addicted to the witch flower. There were so many. Especially in Flanders, the poppies spurted out of the bomb and grenade-churned battlefields and thus became symbol for the lugubrious battle that took place there. Thanks to a poem about those blood red papavers (John McCrae: In Flanders Fields), many a veteran now wears a red poppy. Be aware: no real ones. As soon as you pick a poppy, its fragile petals become as free as a bird and whirl in all directions.

If you still intent on gathering poppies, take note: in England they believed that when you picked them, you could cause a thunderburst. While in Belgium, they believed that when you burned thunder flowers, you could shoo away those nasty thunderstorms. In fact, the real flower closes its petals when the rumbling begins and the Heavens threaten to weep.

While I watch intently to see if the poppies are going to close their flowers or not, I pick some petals. I read somewhere that children used to lay a folded poppy petal on their hand and when they slapped it, it gave a loud clapping sound. The only sound I heard was that of skin to skin. I probably need more exercise. It is said that the Dutch name for a Poppy, klaproos (literally translated as clap rose), comes from this children's game. Other say the name klaproos comes from the Poppies' rattling seed pods.

Lesvos should rattle its clouds more often so that the plants, especially the olive trees, get enough to drink. Otherwise the island will get, besides the economic problem that has been enlarged by the absence of a large percentage of the tourists, a new problem. The poppies can shine as brightly as they want, but if the island doesn't get serious showers or as many tourists as there are poppies in the fields, I am afraid that many an islander is going to need sleeping flowers in order to rest at night.

*(In Holland there are different synonyms for a Poppy (klaproos), like donderbloem (thunder flower), slaapbol (sleeping flower) and kollenbloem (witch flower).

(With thanks to Mary Staples)


© Smitaki 2016

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

April 7 – They are coming: the Cool and the Green Pope!

(The Cool and the Green Pope)

The only man in whose hands I would trust the world is Pope Francis. I said that recently in a discussion about failing world leaders. To me he is the only charismatic person with a bit of influence who cares honestly for our world. Although the influence of the church has shrunken a lot in our godless society and even when he holds the mace, I am afraid that big money nowadays has more power than God.

These days the islanders have lots to chat about: the deportation of refugees that is contrary to human rights, the hunger prevailing in the refugee camp at Moria, and possibly the worst tourist season ever that is approaching. The arrival of movie stars, artists or musicians provide a welcome diversion in the generally sad discussions and now the island is happily murmuring over the latest news: the Pope is coming to Lesvos.

I have never been a fan of the Pope. Earlier Popes were no more than plaster saints. I was shocked watching the television series Borgia, which related the story of the family of Rodrigo Borgia, also known as Pope Alexander VI. He did everything God ever forbade and he would have joined ISIS if that would have given him another kingdom. After him the popes became more pious, maybe even too pious.

I have lost faith: in a God who accepts so much sorrow in this world and in those old crooked men wearing clothes adorned with gold and jewellery in the Vatican. That has changed a bit with the arrival of Pope Francis. For the last three years he has blown a fresh wind through the corridors of the Vatican: not only refusing to wear too much bling-bling, this Vatican enfant terrible loves the simple life and has a wise tongue which he uses to tell the rich and powerful which responsibilities they are neglecting. A really saintly man who has to take it up against the complacent and old-fashioned bishops in order to humanize his religion.

As only the second Pope to visit Greece since the Big Schism in 1054 (when the christian church split into the Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox churches) Francis seeks rapprochement between the two religions. But until now they have not even managed to make Easter for the East and West coincide every year, instead of only once every four years. The Orthodox Church still calculates the day of Easter according to the Julian calendar and the Catholics according to the Gregorian calendar. This means that this year in the West all the Easter eggs have already been eaten, while in the East they are in the midst of Lent and only on May 1st will the lambs be put on the spit.

The Pope does not come alone. Visiting the refugee camp at Moria, he will be accompanied by a man who, just like him, wishes for rapprochement with other religions: the head of the Orthodox Church, the ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeus I, who has his seat in Istanbul (a town still stubbornly called Constantinopel by the Greeks). So for all Greeks once more the song: Istanbul (not Constantinopel).

Bartholomeus I earned his nickname Green Patriarch or Green Pope because of his manoeuvring for a better environment. I imagine that these two gentlemen like each other: the Green and the Cool Pope. Who knows if their visit together may bring more than just solidarity with the refugees. They should join each other to fight evil and put themselves forward as examples to their believers. Certainly the Orthodox Church also needs some fresh air: to teach their pontiffs some mercy and less bling-bling. In the garden of Bartholomeus I you will find priests who, like disobedient thorn bushes or overconfident ramblers, look more like bankers and are not prepared to help Greece out of its ocean-deep recession. If the Greek Church paid taxes for all its land and monasteries Greece would flower again.

According to the media the Popes will not have time for a touristic excursion. But I think they really should visit the grave of Papa Stratis from Kalloni, a priest who is the example of a Good Samaritan. For years he helped the poor and refugees. Last summer, as ill as he was, he kept on taking care of all those thousands of refugees who passed through his home town. He died last September and for me is a Saint.

It will be the first time in history that a roman catholic Pope visits Lesvos. This poor and crisis-ridden Island (and Greece) will be happy to receive this Holy man. I hope with all my heart that Francis will not only cast blessings with the flutter of his hands, but will also use his mouth to voice judgement on inhuman Europe. Long live the Cool and the Green Pope!

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016





Thursday, 31 March 2016

March 20 – Flower park Lesvos

(Asphodel)

What can you say after such a Black Tuesday? I will not be the only one, feeling the fear rising. When I go outside (walking is a good remedy for panic attacks) and the wind plays over a field of bright yellow rapeseed, then Brussels seems worlds away. But even on the island there is fear: not of a terrorist attack, but because of the insecurity surrounding the refugee problems. Even though most islanders have a roof over their head, times are getting more and more uncertain and incomes are reduced. Lots of tourists are afraid to come, even though the numbers of refugees arriving have reduced dramatically and you rarely see them anymore. The refugees who reach the island only want one thing: not to be sent back to Turkey, a country they consider to be, just like their homeland, a country without future or hope. Most volunteers and NGO's have retired from the camps, which are now said to be prisons. Many of them have departed for places where their help is still needed, like Athens or Idomeni.

The island looks as if nothing has happened. Nature also helps us to forget: for the unseasonably high temperatures have encouraged plants and flowers to bloom as never before. They offer consolation in these dark days and I feel very happy that at least I may enjoy this beautiful Lesvos. Amazing landscapes, changing coastlines and villages that seem to be forgotten in time mean that, just for a while, you can forget the evil world.

I love asparagus and because of the scarcity on the island of these fat stalks from Holland or Germany, I have to do with the wild variant. This doesn't grow in the earth but is a prickly bush whose young shoots try to reach high above all other bushes and whose tips are considered a delicacy here. The Greeks bake them in an omelet; I prefer them parboiled with a vinaigrette, or made into a ragout with eggs and shrimp.

Gathering asparagus is not simple. The thin shoots lend themselves to invisibility and many a time you come smack-up against one swaying in the wind right in front of your nose, despite the fact that that you've been intensively staring unsuccessfully in the bushes for the last five minutes. They like to hide in the midst of all kind of prickly bushes, so it's best to wear gloves. I don't like gloves and I dare to thrust my hands deep into the thorns because I have to have that very thick asparagus, the thicker the better they taste.

I force myself a way through flowering prickly Spartium, I climb over odorous thyme, oregano and other spice-like bushes, I gaze along slopes hoping to see fresh green stems shooting up to heaven and I even dare to descend into ravines to get some of the most illusive asparagus.

Nowadays I even have to fight a way through fields of Asphodels, where thousands of them reach higher than my hips. They too, this year, seem to want to set new flowering records. They grow like hell and whilst it is such a pity that they do not offer an enchanting scent like the almond does; perhaps it's just as well, as the whole island would be scented like a broken perfume bottle.

Asphodels are of the same family as the lilies, but they have not got their sweet odour. When your nose approaches an asphodel, it will detect an unpleasant smell. Once I brought a thick bouquet of Asphodels into my house to enjoy their beauty, but only the once and never again! According to Greek mythology they are the flowers of Persephone, and smell of death. Homer even described fields of asphodel in Hades, the afterworld, where restless souls await their verdict. Another story says that for every dead soldier an asphodel flowers.

Even though I know these associations, walking across a field filled with these to towering heavenward flowers, I fall silent because of their beauty. They grow in soil impoverished by draught, overgrazing or erosion, which is not good for the field. But the good news is that they get pollinated by bumblebees and honeybees: insects that are ready to be put on the list of endangered species.

Asphodels grow from oblong tubers, in some countries are used to make bread, and in others used as fodder. The Persians used them to make glue, in other Eastern countries they were used to thicken salep (salepi), a milky brew made from orchid bulbs. I am not sure whether they ever did that in Greece (a country where you still can find some salep sellers in the streets - even though it is forbidden to make this drink from orchid bulbs). I have only once tasted salep and found it to have a horrible taste!

While the huge asphodel with her many flowers overshadows all other flowers in her surroundings, the orchid loves to play hide and seek. Most of them are small and their flowers also pretty teeny. But be aware: when you study them up close, you can become bewitched by their beauty and special forms - especially the flowers belonging to the Ophrys-family, with their imitation of the bees that inseminate them. They can have great designs, extreme colours and funny humps, some that may look like the horns of the devil. But in Hades there is no place for orchids.

Yesterday we went for an orchid hunt close to Koudouroudia and there we found giant Ophrys who tried to reach far above the prickly bushes. I am sure no salep maker would have crept into those bushes to steal their bulbs.

While Europe desperately tries to master the refugee problem, spring on Lesvos has been exploding. On show: the bright coloured anemones, the blood red poppies, the honey-scented yellow rhododendrons, the fat peonies, pine woods hiding slopes full of red tulips, the wind-tinkling Fritillaries or the shy crocuses and wild hyacinths and many more. They all have their own place on the island. Until the end of May (and in the mountains until the middle of June) Lesvos will be one big park of flowers. Come and see it!


(with thanks to Mary Staples)
© Smitaki 2016


Thursday, 25 February 2016

February 21 – Almond explosions


 (Almond trees)


Last week it looked like summer on the island. The sun even chased those dining outside into the shadow and terraces turned into changing rooms. It was nice to observe this ultra mix of winter and summer clothes: bare legs into heavy muddy rubber boots under daring short skirts; bare feet, milk-white legs under thick woolen way-too-big pullovers, fluttering shorts with high summer shirts. If all those international volunteers hadn’t been here, we never would have been enjoying this funny parade because the locals only came up with t-shirts.

There were more metamorphoses, because everywhere on the island there were explosions of pink clouds: the almond trees – always first to blossom – tried to make Lesvos look like the famous Hanami Sakura (cherryblossom festival in Japan). There are years that these pink to white flowers are nearly made invisible by wintery bad weather and you can’t even remember that they were there. But this year the trees are so clouded with blossom that you cannot pass them without noticing.

Every spring I wonder again how many almond trees there are on the island. Around Molyvos there are too many to count, but driving to the south I passed villages like Vasilika, Polichnitos and Vrisa, that are showered by the blossoms. Under the bright sunlight these villages offered such a picturesque view that you easily could forget in what an ugly world we are living today.

I wonder if each tree here on the island is being harvested and what they do with all those gathered nuts (actually almonds belong to the stone fruit). I know that locals make some marzipan, but I am sure that there are so many almonds on Lesvos that Ai Weiwei could have surprised all visitors of the international Filmfestival in Berlin with a lifejacket made out of marzipan.

Most almonds come from California, a dehydrating American state where more and more protests are heard against the water consuming almond growth. The fruit originally comes from the less dry Mediterranean regions and the other countries in the Top Ten of almond producing countries are: first Spain and Italy, followed by Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, Greece, Morocco and Turkey.

With so many people fleeing and so many destructive bombs and grenades I wonder if Syria still is in this Top Ten. According to the Syrian Times last year in the area of Sweiria (south from Damascus) there were 606,000 almond trees, producing some 700 tons of almonds. But when I look at the war map, I see that there must be fighting going on between the government troops and the rebels. Can you use almonds instead of bullets?

In most countries the almond harvest starts in September, but in the Middle East it’s April when they start picking them from the trees — when the fruit has just taken form. Then they are still green and soft and soaking them a few hours in salt water makes the skin more soft and reduces bitterness; the fruit is considered as a great snack at this stage. You put it, skin and all, in your mouth, bite and the explosion of a little bitterness, a little sweetness and other tastes will surprise you, the ultimate joy brought by the jelly coming out of the stone. In Greece these green almonds are called tsagala, but they seem to have been forgotten. It is rare to find a salad or a wild-vegetable-dish larded with spring almonds.

I have become quite a lazy cook. I used to enjoy endless hours hammering pine nuts and almonds, but nowadays I mostly buy them peeled. I love almonds and each year I want to harvest all the trees around the house. And then? I always intend to pass the long winter evenings cracking almonds, so that I can roast them or use them for a sauce, cake or marzipan. In my shed bags full of walnuts and chestnuts are waiting for the same treatment. It is only that winters – the same story for summers – are long gone when you remember you wanted to do something. That is why now I am going to watch closely the forming of this fruit and when they have their almond shape, I will experiment with this unripe fruit that asks for so little time to be made ready for consumption. No other choice left than to do it myself, because there is no Syrian Supper Club nearby.

Most of the refugees reaching Lesvos come from almond countries where this fruit is a base for most delicious dishes. All refugees think that there is no future for them in Greece, let alone on an island like Lesvos. Is there not one fleeing cook coming from the Middle East who wants to apply for asylum in order to start a restaurant here? Most ingredients used in the eastern kitchen are also abundant in Greece and I promise I will come to eat weekly, especially when they serve almond pancakes.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016




Wednesday, 10 February 2016

February 7 – Ai, Lesvos!

(Sykaminia)

The island is buzzing like a furious beehive and whoever dares to
stand out from the crowd is suspect. Fingers are pointing, mouths tight-lipped, hearts are beating like a drum because of the coming time. The twittering people know who caused the flood of refugees and seeing a hopeless summer coming, the scapegoat has to hang. Ai, ai, ai, better that Ai doesn't hear this, otherwise we might be confronted with a huge monument of flaming tongues.

It was not even a century ago that the suffering of earlier refugees piled up, like in Skala Sykaminias, where the villagers now stand united on the barricades. Amongst them grandmother Emilia Kamvisi and fisherman Stratis Valiamos whose names have been put forward to be crowned with a modern laurel: the Nobel Prize for Peace.

The loose tongues of that same village could to be read about in the novel The Mermaid Madonna of Stratis Myrivilis, who just missed out on the laurel of literature in the Sixties. He earned the nomination for the literature prize for his writings about war, refugees and the gossiping life in the village of mermaids, where the 'Greeks of the other side' were treated as if they were people with another religion. The village now knows better and has a renewed change to get this priceless ode for peace.

In the Twenties the Greek Red Cross was also nominated over many years for the Peace Prize for the blood, sweat and tears it gave in order to return a decent life to the thousands of refugees who came to Greece after the Big Catastrophe. Now we all know what a Herculean job that must have been.

Odysseus Elytis, whose parents had their roots in Lesvos, was himself the owner of a little cottage in Eftalou. He put the sun in his poems and is one of the three Greeks crowned with a precious Nobel prize. His words, combative and light, taught a lesson about pointing fingers and injustice, would appeal to Ai, I am sure - perhaps bringing him ideas for a monument on Lesvos.

Ai Weiwei, who came from faraway China, landing like a colourful exotic bird on lamenting Lesvos, immediately set to photographing, filming, writing and creating. His portrait where he poses as the drowned butterfly Aylan on a beach, was not appreciated everywhere. He is an artist, once his wings cut by China, whose work focusses on setting tongues free, so that the world does not forget.

In faraway Australian Melbourne his work is making history next to that of the King of Pop Andy Warhol, who also had his own personal way of breaking free from conventions.

Ai Weiwei, hear the villagers, who imagine that they are as poor as the refugees, cry. 'Ai'; he will think, 'what a whining people'. Ai never had his life stopped, not by poverty, locks or passport. He crumbles his work behind him, leaving a trail far into the insecure future. Fourteen thousands lifejackets will make a bridge between Lesvos and Berlin in one of his projects.

Lesvos has to climb into the future and not remain stuck in self pity. She must honour her heroes, as Alfred Nobel wanted - not only the three nominees (Susan Sarandon is the third nominee), but also all the other local heroes and those people, like Ai Weiwei, who have come to care for the refugees and the islanders. Lesvos, where have you hidden your pride!

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016














Saturday, 30 January 2016

January 27 - May you be happy?

(Molyvos)

The white tops of the Lepetimnos mountains tower over the north of the island. Nestled against the mountain, the medieval village of Molyvos, which consists of houses of dark stone with colourful wooden extension is given the look of an Afghan mountain village, exotic and mysterious, by the snowy mountains.

The harbour offers a splendid view of this rare scenery because winters on this island are not always provided with a white blanket. It is marvellous to linger some time there in the harbour where all the boats are tight up at the quays. A fisherman busies himself in his kingdom and volunteers walk up and down, some busy with work to do, others at an easy pace waiting to be called to action.

The sun is as strong as in spring and warms the bones that have suffered so much with the intense cold of the past days. Conversations always roam around the subject of the refugees. What else should one talk about here, in what some call a war zone. And while my body purrs with pure happiness because of the heavenly warmth, the wheels in my brain whirl around, becoming red when a subject passes that agitates me. The stupid political world-theatre makes me feel powerless and angry.

Here on the island you can find the new world, that politicians refuse to see. Instead of the bankrupt state or the failing Europe, hundreds of volunteers have come to act. While the Schengen borders are being closed, they cross borders because they have lost faith in the politics and have decided to act themselves. Meanwhile boats with refugees keep on coming, their timetable not altered by any storm or snow fall, even though some arrivals are a disaster and not everyone reaches safe ground.

It is difficult to choose: shall I make a fuss during a discussion or shall I surrender to the feeling of happiness caused by the warmth of the sun. Much of the time I no longer know what to do with my feelings. When I watch out over the sea, I feel love for this superb surface, that each day offers different views and produces such good food. When a fishing boat passes over the horizon, life seems to be good. But when I see a piece of refugee garbage I realize that the clear splashing water is also a silent killing machine. The fish are no longer the only ones swimming in the sea.

When the sea, as it has recently, is fuming with rage and engulfed in layers of foam, I admire the metamorphosis; then my thoughts take an ugly turn when I remember that people are forced to cross this raging mass to find a safe home.
When the sun takes up her palette and paints the clouds pink and the white mountains ruby red, I can suddenly feel a fear rising for the coming darkness, the perfect cover for illegal sea crossings.
When the friendly smiles of the first anemones appear, your thoughts wander towards the approaching spring, the time that the island will be covered with flowers; but a slice of fear comes up too: am I supposed to enjoy this season, while so many people fight for their lives?

While I snuggle under my comfortable warm blankets, I think of the mud and the tents blown away by a storm in camp Moria and I reach for a book to forget.
When I watch over the pure blue sea and see a bright coloured dinghy passing by and the street fills with all kind of cars, I bow over my computer to continue my life.
When I joyfully sing while preparing nice scented dishes, I know that when the guests arrive, the atmosphere will inevitably change because of heavy conversations about the islanders who are afraid of what is coming.

At the moment, it is not a pretty world for the feelings. This beautiful island offers so much solace but also causes my heart to bounce from ying to yang, from black to white, from positive to negative. The pendulum swings back and forth between happiness and sorrow, between quietness and rage, between life and death.
Sometimes I feel quilty because I laugh, because I sleep, because I eat, because I live. But that does not make the refugees happy. So I put a smile back to my face, I sleep sweet dreams, eat tasty dishes and continue my life, that now that it's connected with the refugees, has taken another turn.

I release my feelings making havoc. Gratitude moistens my eyes in seeing so many strangers who choose to come and help people, and tears will flow when seeing another dinghy arriving full of anxious eyes and screams.

After all the waves have risen out of the blue water, and the beaches are left lonely places calling for the summer; the trees branches get softly lulled in the whispering wind, and the mountains silently observe. Life continues, I know; but time and time again this question rises: are you allowed to be happy in times of so much sorrow and misery?

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016


Thursday, 14 January 2016

January 10 – I want my island back

(the aqueduct of Moria)

Last week on Facebook somebody cried that he wanted back his beach. Beaches that in the summer are shadowed by trees and are popular with Greek families and now are scattered with shipwrecks: no longer a perfect playground for children. And now it was suggested that volunteers could also clean up the beaches.

I know more people who want something back: houses, family, lives. I myself would have back the island as it was some years ago, in the pre-European period: when restaurants were still full of happy Greeks who sang about life and danced around the tables, a period that was not in the shadow of history that now races at high speed over the world. We will have to accept that there is no way back, unless a working time machine can be constructed.

Lesvos is a very old island and if I had to choose in which time I could visit the island, I would have to take some time to choose, because there were so many fascinating periods.

According to recent archaeological finds close to Lisvori, 2.6 million years ago people here were already trying to get their lives together. The island was still part of the opposite mainland and lots of monsters still creeped around: mastodons, mammoths and giant turtles. I would not like to meet those for real.

During the siege of Troy (1184 BC) Lesvos would have been a good place to watch all those heroes pass by. Next came a time of different Hellenic dominations, centuries in which the island became a rich naval power, and conquered a big part of the opposite coast. I would have loved to see the busy sea traffic between Lesvos and the then so-called Coast of the Mytilinians. Maybe Eftalou was then a lively village with a fish market.

Then came the Persians, who had an empire as big as the whole Middle East area that is now in conflict. But even that empire was not eternal and was overthrown by the Arabs and the Greeks. Some of the states of Lesvos became divided and declared war on each other, for example Molyvos and Mytilini. Perhaps this would not have been a nice period to visit, although the book about Daphne and Chloƫ portraits it as a romantic period.

The Romans put an end to them fighting Greeks and promoted the island as a paradise for holiday makers, although they also sent exiled people here. Strange fellows, those Romans, but I would have loved to see them whirling around over my beloved island. I picture them lying with their fat bellies, around tables full of Lesvorian food, tasting flamingo tongues, followed by some Roman delicacy. After which they would venture out on an excursion to Agiasos in order to eat wild boar. But they did find time to build aqueducts, like the one in Moria that survived the centuries.

Again that big empire crashed and the glorious Byzantium arose, but its brocade bestowed leaders did not care about Lesvos and so many power-mad men tried to conquer the island, like the Genoese Gattilusi family, who held the island for one century. That also does not seem a nice time to see the island, because all the coastal villages were very much afraid of the famous pirates who raided the coasts and kept alive the slave trade. It was in these times that the castles of Molyvos and Mytilini were rebuilt as fortresses.

The Ottomans ended both Byzantium and the power of the Gattilusi. But even though the island was occupied for centuries, Lesvos again prospered. In her last Ottoman century Mytilini became a lively merchantile city, definitely worth a visit. It is said that the most beautiful women of the Levant gallivanted through its streets in the midst of a crowd of international merchants. Lots of countries had an embassy on Lesvos and its goods were sent as far as the Black Sea. It was the last Golden Century for Lesvos, because by the time the island could again call itself Greek (1912), luck and money had again left the island and its population could hardly survive. After World War II many people fled to faraway countries like Australia, Argentina and South Africa.

Only when Greece finally came into the hands of Europa, the people began to forget their nightmares of hunger and the shops filled up again. The big empire of Europe was not as cruel as its predecessors, but the new imposed tax system is reminiscent of the Ottoman Pashas who for centuries ripped-off the Greek people.

Now it looks like the Persians have returned. Thousands of refugees from southeastern countries invade the island. This army, the victims of international power games, however is welcomed as humanely as possible. But it is the forewarning of a new direction in history, not only for Lesvos, but especially for fading Europa that neglected Greece and now is on the brink of falling apart.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2016