Thursday, 12 April 2012

Discover unknown Lesvos

In April and May there is an explosion of flowers on the island. Right now bright yellow broom bushes and pink and white clouds of blossoms give colourful accents to the mainly green landscape. Red anemones and poppies, white marguerites and many kinds of yellow flowers colour the fields under the olive trees. Small jewels of orchids hide between tall grasses and along the foot paths and crest hyacinths and lupins provide the blue accents.

The best way to enjoy this natural beauty is to go walking. Big hiking organizations don’t offer hikes on Lesvos but believe me — this North Aegean island is a secret Valhalla for walkers. Englishman Mike Maunder has known this for years. He published the first hikers guide for Lesvos in 2000: Mithimna walks, with walks around Molyvos (Mythimna). The edition of 200 was stencilled and sold out in one morning. Since that year new editions with new walks and titles have been published. Last year On Foot in North Lesvo,s describing 25 walks around Molyvos and Petra, was published in co-operation with the Dutch Sigrid van der Zee,.

In the mean time the English couple Brian and Eileen Anderson have also been pretty active with publishing their Sunflower guides, describing not only walks but also car tours: Lesvos, car tours and walks was published first in 2004. The Andersons not only write about walks and tours on Lesvos, but have also published books about other Greek islands like Rhodes, Kefalonia, Zakinthos, Corfu, some Spanish islands and even books about food in North Cyprus, orchids on Lesvos and how to publish travel books.

Knowing how much time Mike Maunder spends to keep his walks up-to-date I am wondering how the Andersons manage with so many books. Their latest book is an e-book (Kindle edition): Lesvos: a Visitors Guide.

I do not have a Kindle, so I haven’t seen the book. But yesterday I was presented with the newest book by Mike Maunder and Sigrid: On Foot. Circular Walks on Lesvos.

Mike and Sigrid have been preparing this book for years by finding walks all over the island and believe me, that was not always easy, because although there are many roads on the island, lots of them just finish abruptly at a farm or in a meadow, or are so in decline that they are unsafe to walk. As they say in their foreword: “This is a lively landscape in progress”. Roads seem to come and go, dependent on what the farmers – the main users of the country of Lesvos – do with their land, like fencing or neglecting it. Often Sigrid and Mike took up the challenge to find a way from point A to B, which cost them days of walking, not always with success. But finely they managed: in the book 27 circular walks are described, going to the furthest corners of the island, passing through beautiful landscapes, along breath taking views and witnesses of the rich past of Lesvos.

I myself have only recently discovered Avlonas, where the Gulf of Yera starts, in the region where walk number 15 passes. I have seen with my own eyes magnificent views over the capricious coast, that has many capes, beaches and an azure blue sea which keeps on inviting for a swim. Because of these wonderful views it does not feel like being on Lesvos, which elsewhere has rather straight coastlines. The walk goes along idyllic places and (Greek) holiday houses where you immediately want to go and live.

But you can also choose to retrace the footsteps of pilgrims, a walk going along very old stone foot paths connecting the different monasteries built around the Limonos monastery nearby Kalloni. There are walks that take you along the hot water springs of Lisvori and Polichnitos (walks 11 and 12), through the age-old forests above the airport (2) and the pine-scented woods nearby Vatoussa (22) and Achladeri (10). The last one brings you along the famous Pessos waterfall. Walks starting in Lafionas (24) and close to Mandamados (27) will bring you to other waterfalls. The walk around Eresos goes along the monastery at the reservoir, while the walk starting in Melinda will take you to the little church of the Hidden Maria (Panayia Krifti) at the foot of a steep mountain, which can only be reached by boat or by a steep foot path.

It is not only nature that you will discover, taking these walks. Picturesque and traditional villages like Vatoussa, Vrisa, Lafionas and Liota are the starting point for the walks 22, 13, 24 and 20, while number 7 passes through the mountain villages of Agiasos and Asomatos.

Even the city has not escaped a walk: number 5 goes straight through the old part of Mytilini, a tour that helps you discover the treasures of the capital of Lesvos — like old mosques, churches and the castle.

So if you want to get to know Lesvos, you’d better take your hiking shoes with you, because this walking book guides you all over the island and shows you the most beautiful sides of the island. Even sitting lazily in a comfortable armchair, reading the book makes you want to start immediately. For more information, see: Lesvoswalks.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

@ Smitaki 2012

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