Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Kane hamam

We've already lived a couple of years here on the island, not far from the hot springs of Eftalou, but we've never become big fans of them. In the summer it's too busy, in the winter it's not always clean, because nobody takes care of the bath. Sometimes the bath is full of soap because people like to do their laundry there, sometimes you will find a group of youths partying and sometimes you'll find a heap of clothes from refugees, who, refreshed by the hot spring, find new energy to continue their flight.

So unfortunately there first has to come an opportunity to visit such a hot bath. A month ago Jan had a nasty fall and bruised a rib. Hot spring baths do not cure bruised ribs, but when the rib had nearly stopped hurting, back ache arrived, because of the different posture in order to avoid injuring the rib.

The muscles got stiff because of all the extra effort and for this a hot spring bath does miracles. So it was decided to take a cure of hot spring baths in Lisvori, because since last winter a friend of ours is managing the place.

Yes, from time to time you do read about miracle cures and people praising the hot springs as if it were one of the last undiscovered secrets in the world. We regularly tell people who struggle for example with rheumatism to take a bath in the hot springs. Even though we never ourselves experimented with the magic powers of such a bath.

So now we say: tavma! It is a miracle, because indeed it helps!

A down to earth person from Holland would reason that if all that I write is the truth, why is nobody clever enough to exploit these baths. It is a question that we discuss a lot with our friends.

A small incrowd on the island, especially a lot of the youth, are regular users of the baths, because they do believe in the healing properties of a bath and because taking such a bath is so wonderful. A lot of elder Lesvorians totally refuse to go into the mineral water, even if they are doubled up with rheumatism or gout. People on this island will not believe in the curing power of the hot springs.

On the Greek mainland there are many different health resorts that are exploited. Hotels with their own baths, big public spas, pools full of mineral water, mud baths. In the town of Edipsos healing water even runs through the streets, they have that many springs and health resorts. On the island of Iskaria mineral baths have been known since 500 BC and nowadays you can get hydro therapy there.

Lesvos is the Greek island with the largest number of hot springs. But if somebody were to sell you a holiday with a healing program like say in the hot spring of Eftalou, you would feel swindled. There are hot springs, but the main building and the small dome with its 'do-not-bump-your-head' -entrance is not exactly what you think of as a health resort. Lesvos is far from the extended German health resorts where in earlier centuries many famous and rich people gathered, not only to cure, but also to be seen.

The hot springs of Lesvos are like the island itself: very simple. The baths of Polychnitos, Thermi, Yera, Eftalou and Lisvori all still have that antique atmosphere, like you were getting into the bath with the Romans. No beautiful shining tiles, but century old stone basins that have an unidentified colour because of the minerals in the water. Holes in the roof make sure that there is a fairy tale play of light beams and steam and the privacy of most baths make sure that you really can relax.

'Kane hamam' is what the Greeks say when they are taking a hot spring bath. But hamam is the Turkish word for Turkish bath, which means a steam bath. The Turks love making hamam. Could that be a reason why most Greeks neglect the hamam, because the Turks love to do it?

In Kalithea on Rhodes you will find maybe the most beautiful baths in Greece. In creamy Italian style, with mosaic floors, arches which rest on elegant pillars, palm trees radiating an exotique atmosphere, beautiful paths leading to the main building with pillars and hedges of pink bougainvillea. The baths of Kalithea were already famous when in 1928 an Italian architect created this beautiful building. But, the baths of Kalithea are nowadays only to look at. They are no longer in use. So also on Rhodes you have people who underestimate the power of the hot springs.

Not that I really mind that the hot springs on Lesvos are still that simple. Somewhere in the North of Greece there are baths that you have to reserve for at least three weeks in advance. You have small mineral lakes that you have to share with at least another hundred people. There is an idyllic pool under a waterfall, a place you have to share with at least 50 other people.

Here on the island there is at least one smart person who drilled for his own spring and the water that comes out, he will use on a commercial basis. The family Hotel Alceos is building suites each with their own hot mineral bath. So simple is life. And that quickly you can organize a health resort.

The only thing is, what will the Greeks think of this? They believe that hot spring baths are not good for children. So maybe it is time for the medical world to decide whether or not hot springs are healthy. We already know that the leaves of the olive tree do not cure cancer. But an island full of hot springs that are good for people with rheumatism, arthritis, sciatica, gynecological and dermatological ailments, neuralgia, skin diseases, kidney and gall stones, prevention of heart attacks, sugar diabetes, neurasthenia, illnesses of the womb, sciatica of the hip joint, intestinal diseases, bronchial diseases, gynecological complaints and more of those illnesses that benefit from mineral water, you would think that those springs should make Lesvos the Lourdes of the Aegean!

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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