Monday, 7 August 2006


Lesvos is an island full of water. Thanks to the snowy mountaintops and slopes where you find plenty of woodland, especially in the winter lots of water is flowing down the rivers. Even when it does not rain during the summer months, the island has plenty of wells and natural springs and you can always find a small stream of water gurgling through the mountains.

The Romans liked building because during their history they left lots of buildings all over the world. When they conquered Lesvos around 88 BC, they started building here as well. They made huge aqueducts so that cities like Mytilini and Molyvos (formerly Mythimna) could have running water. The water came from the springs on Olympos and Lepetimnos. It is even said that in this way they even got hot water from the hot springs. Imagine, Molyvos might have had city heating at that time!

Remains of this glorious time rich with waterworks can be found everywhere on the island! First of all there is the huge aqueduct near Moria. It has its 12 pillars firmly on the ground and amazing arches, consisting of huge stones which were placed there in the second century AD, curling themselves in between. The aqueduct was 170 meters long, it originally had 17 arches, of which 7 are still left and the structure was 23 metres high. The waterway was maybe 22 kilometres long.

A second aqueduct, which was part of the same waterway, is hidden close to Lambou Mili. This neglected Roman structure is now in a breathtaking landscape and can only to be visited on foot or by jeep. Only a few walking guides give directions how to get there. But when you find it, the view from this amazing aqueduct, that barely can hold its stones above the tree tops, will pay back all your trouble to reach it.

Molyvos also got water from these sources. Only one pillar which once bore the waterway remains: a lonely tower on one of the hills at the back of the city, the so called loutra.

That this system became dilapidated and disappeared, is a shame. Now you have to get in your car to go to the spring. Which is badly needed these days. Since the high season started a few days ago, masses of Greek tourists have come to the island. The hotels and apartments are full and all holiday homes are bursting with large Greek families. The beaches are crowded, and all these people have to shower. The temperature does not want to go below 30°C, so all air conditioners work overtime. Telephones have to be recharged, water boilers work all day, electric cookers are used the whole day through and who knows how many children still hang around the television. The electricity company is having hard times. So we were not surprised when last Friday night the island became pitch dark. Well, there remained some light from the moon and the twinkling stars.

Saturday morning again there was no electricity and this time no water was coming out of the taps. The pumps distributing the water got crazy from the electricity cuts. So now forlarge parts of the day we are without water. Not funny, because it is at the times that people come back from the beach, want a shower and want to cook.

But how can you clean your just caught fish or wash your salad? You have to wait for hours before some drips of water are available. And when your salty skin starts feeling scratchy, there is no other way than to wash with water from a bottle.

We are in the luxurious position that our fields get water from a well. Yesterday after I waited for hours to get a shower I finally ran into the fields in a bathing suit under the water sprinklers. Great fun because it was like being a child again, jumping in the jets of water and getting a cooling shower this way.

In the Valley of Ligonas, behind Petra, around 1940 the 18th century mills which used to work all year around were closed. In the past you took your corn by donkey or horse to the mills in order to get flour. Now the mills are ruins in a beautiful landscape and can only be admired by walkers. Everywhere on the island you will find ruins of old watermills. There is plenty of water on the island. It is only that the modern system cannot assure that the water is reaching you. Or is it the increase in the number of tourists that causes these watercuts...

I am wondering if in the times of the Romans they had the same problems, because in that time Lesvos was also a pretty popular holiday destinations. Or that the mills in Petra stopped working in the 20th century because too many tourists visited Petra...

Fact is that thanks to the high season I now water my plants daily around 1 o'clock at night. Then I still have to wash the dishes, after which I have to wash some clothes and fill up spare bottles with water. When it is finally time to wash the sardines, I sigh. Maybe this time the cats can have a great meal. I'd rather like to go to bed.

Copyright © Smitaki 2006

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