Monday, 17 July 2006


Can you believe that there are tourists on Lesvos who get bored? There are people who phone their travel agent saying: "Madam, I am so bored, I want to go home. When is the next flight home?" It was a German family who were the worst. Man, wife and child arrived at the airport, got the transfer to their hotel in Skala Eressos and after 5 minutes in their room, they immediately wanted to go home! They left the island that same evening...

Well, Lesvos is an island that doesn't have something for all tastes. We don't have miles of golden yellow sandy beaches where you can sip colourful cocktails the whole day long and lounnge in fancy restaurants. Lesvos has many small family beaches, beaches where peace rules and where no fashionable music blasts out of mega-speakers.

Neither does Lesvos have famous antiquities, like the Acropole in Athens, the Palace of Knossos on Crete or the white village of Lindos with its temple on Rhodes. Lesvos has Molyvos and the petrified forest. And besides that it has natural beauty and many real Greek villages. It is no wonder that Lesvos was popular in Roman times, thanks to its forests and idyllic fields.

Lesvos is also not highly rated for mythology. Achilles is said to have buried his friend and old fighter Palamedos here on the island after he died on the field of Troy. They also say that Achilles once stood at the gates of Molyvos. Then the daughter of the king fell in love with him. She opened the gates and her reward was that she was killed because of treachery.

Another myth of the island is that of Orpheus. After he was killed by jealous nymphs, because he could not get over the death of his wife, the head of Orpheus washed ashore at Old Andissa, together with his famous lyre. His music is still to be heard on Lesvos.

Lesvos is close to Troy. Maybe when they were fighting that city you could, standing in Molyvos, wave to the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaos who got taken by Paris to his home. That is why for many years Troy was besieged by many angry Greek warriors. If you used your imagination you would think that it was very busy here at sea at that time. If the wind was from the southeast you could smell the pigs they roasted on their fires. And believe me, many more than one warrior came to Lesvos to buy food and take women.

Around 750 B.C. Homer described part of the battle of Troy in the Iliad. Not in words accessible to everyone. Recently the Italian writer Alessandro Barrico rewrote the Iliad in his own words so that the Iliad has become a real page turner. Especially reading it on the beach. Nothing better than reading stories about this battle where mythical heroes, gods and half gods quarreled and fought, while looking at the same sea where once they sailed their ships and looking at the mountains on whose slopes they camped.

'The Songs for the Kings' by Barry Unsworth is about some Greek kings with their army that tried to reach the battle of Troy, but were prevented by the gods of the wind. This book is even more humorous. I suppose Barrico could not go that far, without hurting Homer's writing.

International editors worldwide devised a project where writers are invited to tell their version of a myth. The English writer Karen Armstrong started the series in her own way with 'A Short History of Myth'. She is called the runaway nun, because she once spent time in a nunnery but is now known for her books about religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She is specially known as a person trying to build bridges between those religions.

If you prefer a less serious book in this series, there is the 'Penelopiad' by Margaret Atwood. This well known Canadian writer wrote the story of the wife of Odysseus. Penelope waited at home for her husband, while being besieged by all kinds of men who wanted to marry her. Nobody believed Odysseus would ever return home after the years he fought in the battle of Troy after which the Gods prevented him from going home with all kinds of adventures.

And who remembers why it was that Atlas had to carry the world? This pretty story with her interpretations about Atlas was written by the English writer Jeanette Winterson called 'Weight'.

Getting bored on this island? Besides visiting Molyvos, Skala Sykaminia, Agiasos, Plomari, going to the petrified forest, riding on a donkey, driving a safari, enjoying the hot springs, meandering through the mountains, eating sardines or whatever, you can spend your days reading and muse on history. Israel started a war because some soldiers were kidnapped. Just like the abduction of Helen, which caused the ten years battle of Troy. So you see, nothing is new in the world. Yes, there is. People get bored on this island, which really is incredible...

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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