Thursday, 5 January 2012

Molyvos in the dark

(colouring sky in Eftalou)

The beginning of a new year is not only marked by people’s new year’s resolutions and the fact that it is a new year on the calendar. In Nature’s way here in Europe it also means that the dark days are over: the sun starts climbing and the days are getting longer.

Greece however will politically still remain in its dark days. Take Molyvos for example; in the month of December this medieval village was very dark, because the municipality could not afford a single bulb for festivity lights, in contrast to the neighbouring village of Petra that belongs oddly enough to the same municipality. It is one year since Lesvos became one huge municipality. The streets were dark and only thanks to some cheerful lights from some residents would one knew that it was a month of festivities. Even the big nativity crèche that was placed for years on the parking lot on the lower road to the harbour has now been absent for two years. Will it cost too much money to get it out of its hiding place?

Yes, Molyvos is economizing. For example the castle lighting is turned off at midnight. Which is not too bad, because not many people roam the streets after that time: the village seems to be empty. But it’s a real shame that on New Years Eve at midnight the castle remained in the dark. Nor was there money for even a small New Years Eve celebration on the square in the village. The only lights in the darkness were some sparkling rockets welcoming 2012 in Turkey.

Of course there are plenty of rumours and one of them is that since Lesvos became one municipality - all the money stays in Mytilini. The capital of the island was indeed sparkling with Christmas lights in December. And even if the money finds a way out of town, it probably gets stuck on the new highway from Mytilini to Kalloni. For almost two years people have been wondering how this new road will look: while big parts seem to be ready, hundreds of signs keep on telling you to go alternately to the right or the left, as if you were taking your driving test. And by the time the signs become redundant, I bet they’ll start all over again building a new road because this one will be worn out.

And not only is the money divided differently over the former 13 municipalities of the island; the telephone company and various municipal offices have all retreated to the capital. All sub offices are closed: go to Mytilini when you need something! Which is not easy for those not living close to the big city. Travel time from the north or south of the island can easily be one to two hours (unless of course you are driving a Ferrari and want to show how fast you can go). So people living far away will lose half a day going to Mytilini and that is not even the worst part. Most of the officials here have no idea how to be civil to their customers nor how to stamp papers, to give licences or provide a social payment or anything else required from the municipality. The most popular sentence is: “Come back tomorrow!” (as if you live around the corner) and then you have to ask your other neighbour to drive you to the city. If you are not blessed with living in Mytilini, you had better give yourself plenty of time if you need any licences, or to make a payment or arrange internet and you must also have made sure to have taken a rapid course in ‘how not to attack an official’.

So it seems that the rest of the island has been shunted back to the middle ages and, as far as I know, it was only the people of Plomari who last year made some serious protests against this stupid reorganization of melting so many municipalities into one. You might know that in ancient times Lesvos was divided into different city-states and that Mytilini and Mythimna (Molyvos) were the worst of enemies. Well, we are getting back to that time.

But, enough of those dark times, because the sun keeps on shining and thanks to the sun we have the light. The ancient Greeks thought that light emanated from the people, that our eyes were giving the light. Only at about a thousand AD the Arabian scientist Al-Haytham thought the light came into our eyes through outside sources. His books were not well read in Europe and it took until the end of the seventeenth century before the German astrologer and mathematician Johannes Kepler could describe how the eyes actually worked.

And you do need eyes in Greece. The country of the gods is known for its beautiful light. When the French painter Marc Chagall was invited to illustrate the Lesviot novel Daphne and Chloe written by Longus, he travelled to Greece where he discovered a completely new range of colours thanks to the Greek light. And that light is not only here in the summer. In the winter days without a ray of sunshine are rare. Nearly each day the sun lets her light shine on the landscape. Because the sun is so low in winter it creates even more colours in the air and when there are clouds travelling through the sky it really is party time. Just imagine a near black sky where stout white clouds pass along, their edges coloured bright orange, or even purple. The sea is like a magic ball, changing its colours from blue to all kinds of grey and when the coloured clouds mirror themselves you find rainbow colours all over the water. Spectacular sunsets, like we have in the winter in the north so often, cannot be recalled to Mytilini, nor can they be put out to economise.

A very happy 2012

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

@ Smitaki 2012

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