Monday, 27 February 2006

Birds and dolphins

Spring slowly takes the island over. A few heavy rain showers changed the Harbour Street, which is now often closed for all traffic, into an impassable muddy pool. The same wetness ensures that nature grows at incredible speed. The island is green and becomes only more green.

An Afghan refugee maybe got the spring in his head when he decided to swim from Turkey to Lesvos. But the warmth of the sun is something different from the still cold water of the sea. The man survived, although with pneumonia and flu symptoms. You would think that is obvious. But the authorities here thought different. Because the man came from a 'contaminated' country, he was put in quarantine to see if he had avian flu. Until now no cases of this deadly flu has been found on the island. The results are awaited.

Birds and dolphins we found enough of last week, on the beautiful woodcarvings of the artist Giorgos Sykomitellis. He is from Kaloni but has lived for two years in the mountain village of Asomatos next to Agiasos. It is not difficult to understand why Giorgos is very happy there, surrounded by all the woods and the many woods you can find in this area.

One of his masterpieces is an artfully worked out altarpiece for the Agia Ana Church in the square next to the harbour in Skala Kaloni. To make a contribution to the church he made this piece of art for a little money and created an open altarpiece with a wood relief of Saint Giorgos and the dragon. The roof of the nearly 2 metres high piece is from wooden sticks crawling over each other like dolphins jumping around each other. A faithful lady however saw the devil in this creation and the piece had to be removed. Now it is standing like a devoot relic in the workshop of Giorgos in Asomatos.

Unlike the wooden furniture makers in Agiasos, Giorgos only works with wood from the island. Olive wood, chestnut, pine or whatever he fancies. He uses the knots of the wood for his designs and makes them the eyes of birds, dragons, dolphins or naughty pointed nipples of women. He makes boxes what read like a comic, he makes severe looking heads which have a beard like a papas but also have something from a boddhisatva (a buddhist saint). He makes enormous reliefs in wood from birds, dolphins and fishes that seem to swim on the wall. A visit to his workshop is surely worth a small detour when you go to Agiasos.

We did not make a small but a big detour visiting him. Through the mountains to Milies and to Plomari where the light blue sea made it nearly summer. From Melinda we drove to Paleochori where a baker still bakes his bread in a wood oven. The tasty bread and the authentic old shop annex bakery is for sure worth a detour. Then we continued to Megalochori where they served us the perfect paidakias (lamb chops) and a great ladotiri (goat cheese conserved in oil). Before we ended up in Asomatos the high mountains surprised us with this time real crocus (Crocus biflorus) and Turkish snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii), which took your breath with their bright white tingling flower heads.

We drove through an area around Megalochori which was completely destroyed by a big fire that started on the 15th of August in 1994 and made several mountaintops bald and black. 11.5 years later there still were blackened tree trunks standing upright amidst the new growing small trees and other greenery. This overwhelming nature with rough mountaintops and peaceful meadows made you realize that nature will always survive. As does the human being, knowing the bloody history of the island. They say the avian flu is coming, but life goes on. For sure.

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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