Eight years ago, when I sent first reports back to family and friends about life here on the Greek island of Lesvos, I never thought they would end up in a weekly column, let alone a book. But now it is there: this week the book will be ready.
In my years here I have learned a lot - about the food, the celebrations, the people and daily life, the rhythm of the seasons (especially summer and winter) and history. The most wondrous part of life here is Nature which keeps surprising me with what she brings, not only the oceans of plants but its marvellous vistas. Take a walk on any evening along the seashore towards the setting sun and the colours of the sea will never bore you. On windless days along the gulf of Kalloni the views are always breathtaking. A dramatic moon coming up, snow on Mt Lepetymnos or just the sun scattering her light across the olive trees, and I never stop saying: wow, so beautiful.
Of course I discovered there were negatives: a bad bureaucratic system, people pushing in shopping queues, careless drivers, the throw-away garbage culture and cruelty to animals. Greece is not the Netherlands, but I didn’t come here to try to teach Greeks how to behave. All I could do was try and live a good life myself and not get too upset. In the years I’ve been here I have seen a lot of changes. These days more people fight for a better life for animals and for a cleaner environment; they are more likely to share the road with other users; pushing and shoving is decidedly old fashioned and where once piles of waste grew abundantly in the landscape, there are now far fewer illegal dumps to be seen. I even hear that the Molyvos town garbage dump is going to be closed down and replaced by a central waste plant on the island. However I will believe that when I see it.
This year car owners are happier because there is a new ministry of transport (KTEO here) inspection point. It used to take a whole day to get your car checked, and the staff were pretty rude, but now there’s a brand new building where you can watch the process from behind a big glass screen while pretty young girls make sure you car is ready in ten to twenty minutes.
Today I read on the local website MyMolyvos.com that I now live in ‘Natura Area’ No. GR4110012, called Northern’ Lesvos, which includes Mt Lepetymnos, Petra, Molyvos, Stipsi, Ypsolometopo and Mandamados, a region which is a protection zone for plants and animals (especially birds). Natura 2000 is a network of protected areas across the European Union.
So there are some new things going on the island where not much seems to happen - but even though we do more and more catching up with modern times. The traffic on the main road from Kalloni to Mytilini gets more and dense, the lesser roads remain as quiet as ever. In some of the villages far away from the tourist itinerary time seems to have stopped altogether. Although you might suddenly see a huge new building (mostly for storing animal feed), more mighty windmills or a freshly bituminized stretch of road.
But don’t be put off: Lesvos is still the enchanting island that people knew many years ago and I hope I have done it justice in my columns. And for those who don’t know Lesvos, please take a look at the book and see for yourself how much variety there is here from the petrified trees, the curling monopatia (ancient foot paths), quiet beaches, sleepy villages, charming cozy towns that have few tourists and the capital of Mytilini itself where there is still much to discover.
Scatterlight Donkeys & Foxballs Ice Cream will be published Wednesday February 9 so you have time to get a copy before Valentines Day. The saint’s connection with Lesvos, is one of the stories in the book. So make somebody happy with not only my writing but the beautiful photographs of Jan van Lent and the sensational graphic design by Jeroen Koster: a special book for a special person!
title: Scatterlight Donkeys & Foxballs Ice Cream
orginal Dutch title: Strooilichtezels & Vossenballenijs
editor: Smitaki (Julie Smit)
publication date: c February 11 2011
dimensions: 260 by 210 mm
ISBN (Dutch): 978-90-816501-1-3
ISBN (English): 978-90-816501-2-0
order from: www.smitaki.nl
(with thanks to Tony Barrell)
@ Smitaki 2011