Week 179: Touring Lesvos

We tour Lesvos by car, lots of stunning scenery, small villages and a bunch of old rocks!

Week 179: Touring Lesvos
Back to the thermal springs!

The start of the week was very windy, which meant staying inside and out of the biting cold. You start to feel a bit trapped after a few days of bad weather, but at the same time, we really didn't want to leave the boat either, just in case something happened.

When it's cold and windy, it's puzzle time.

When the wind is strong for a while, all sorts of things can happen! The boat behind us, which was moored alongside, snapped a mooring line and was blown sideways away from the dock into the boat next door. We called the marina office and the marineros came by quickly and helped to resecure it. It's been a while since we had an "adrenaline" situation like that, I think Karina and I are both addicted to it, it's always more fun when it's not your boat and it's a great feeling helping to get everything tidied away again.

It's also a good reminder to use the tools around you! Another well-meaning boater jumped in and was trying to help, but they took the new line passed from the bow of the boat and were attempting to pull the boat in by hand against the wind. They were so focused on the task that they didn't seem to realise that they a) couldn't hold it and b) I couldn't wrap the rope to a cleat (which would hold it) because they were fighting what I was trying to do. A little bit of 'forceful conversation' and they dropped the line so I could cleat it off, then we could pull the boat in together bit by bit and let the dock do the job of holding the boat against the wind. A timely reminder of the dangers of tunnel vision in an emergency. All in all, it probably wasn't THAT dramatic, but it felt satisfying anyway.

I got to use the burner to brown the quiche. Karina was terrified!

Tuesday, the winds finally eased a little, and we hired a car for the week. We had a great time exploring a lot more of this beautiful island, and it was a good chance to be in a car and off the boat for a while.

Our first destination was Mythimna and the castle of Molyvos. This is a fairly large tourist town on the northwestern tip of the island. During summer, it's endless beach bars, cafes overlooking the water, sunset views and wisteria-covered streets. Of course now in winter, it's all closed up, there's no leaves on the wisteria and the storms are crashing the waves into the beach.

We enjoyed it, though. You can really experience the buildings and the town itself and the vast majority of closed shops sell tourist crap we wouldn't buy anyway. You enjoy the castle to yourself, and the streets are empty. People often complain about this time of year: "Oh, the islands are all closed," which is true. But there's always a taverna still open (after all, the locals like to eat too), and usually, it's the best ones that locals enjoy, which can stay open all year round. This is exactly the case at Mythimna, where we had a delightful lunch alongside the harbour.

The big northerlies pushed up swell which had damaged this section of road (to be fair, no one is surprised, it's right on the waterline with no reinforcing).

Wednesday, we drove to the southwest corner of the island and the small town of Sygri. This takes you up through the old volcanoes that are a big feature of Lesvos, and the road winds around through the hills. Despite not being far as the crow flies, it's a slow and spectacular drive. There's a major new road being built at the moment that bypasses a lot of villages and will take about 30 - 40 minutes off the journey. It's almost finished, but for us, it was a lovely section of a new road, then a roadblock and diversion through a tiny village over the hill, back to a new section of road.

The Monastery of Limonos All those little buildings everywhere are chapels.

This area of Lesvos is famous for its petrified forest, which is made of ancient Sequoia trees. They were covered in ashfall and petrified. The new road is interesting because they've discovered a lot of fossils as they've carved out the hills, and they are building lots of walks to explore the new finds along the new road (although, as Karina pointed out, they don't seem to be putting in anywhere for cars to actually stop!).

We headed to the main petrified forest site, but it was closed for winter. Not much to see. While petrified forests are interesting in concept, they are mostly just tree-shaped rocks. In winter, they cover everything with plastic to protect it from the elements.

It was okay, though, as Sigri has a museum open all year. It's quite well done, although, again, it's a lot of old rocks. The most amusing part was that it was staffed by three incredibly bored people. The receptionist/curator was desperate to tell us about the exhibits. She stalked us around the rooms and relayed the information we'd just read on the signs in great detail.

For a museum with three bored staff, there were quite a few electronic displays that weren't functioning for various unknown reasons. "It was working yesterday." I think the funniest experience for me was staring at three completely blank LCD monitors and receiving a detailed description of what I could have seen if they were working. "Here, in this corner, you would see a graph of seismic activity from Thessaloniki. Over here is the station on Lesvos. It's one of our most popular displays. It's great you get to see it all to yourself!" Okay, she didn't say the last sentence, but the rest is true. I did receive a detailed breakdown of an empty monitor.

Karina was stalked by the cleaner. When we arrived, she was walking aimlessly around the museum, cloth in hand, polishing displays she'd polished a hundred times already. It was VERY clean. As Karina walked around the displays, the cleaner came about a metre behind her and wiped every display after she looked at or touched anything. Whenever Karina turned to look at her, she stared off into the distance as if she was trying to disappear and wasn't actually there.

The last member of staff was an Australian Greek woman who operated the cafe and hated Sygri. How much does she hate Sygri? Well, she'd lived there for 43 years, so she had a lot to say about how much she hated it. She was born in Australia to Greek immigrants who then returned to Greece and their home village of Sygri when she was a child. It was fun chatting with her, and while we had coffee in the small cafe, the rest of the staff, including the cleaner, clustered around. Occasionally, the cleaner wiped an unused table or decided strangely to move a huge ceramic pot right by our table as if this couldn't have possibly waited until we left and they had nothing to do again.

I think they were all glad to have someone visit, and they really encouraged us to stay ("You already saw the roots outside? That was very quick. You must not have seen them. Are you sure you saw them properly? You should visit them again."). But there are only so many old rocks we could take, and we escaped before becoming fossilised ourselves.

This large truck carrying a RIB blocked the entrance to the marina on our return. They eventually gave up trying to get it out onto the road - I suspect they waited until later in the evening as it was gone the next morning. I have no idea how they drove it through the streets of Lesvos to the ferry.

Thursday we headed to the dentist here for a checkup and teeth clean. We're still not quite sure if it was good or not. Karina found them very rough with her, and I was okay. While our teeth are cleaner, it was very fast and not very thorough. We're considering going to the dentist we've used in Athens again just to be sure.

In the afternoon, it was a short drive north to a town called Thermi. It's one of the sites of the three active hot springs on the island and features heavily on all the tourist information boards. We also researched it online and found some brief information about it, so we decided that we'd try to visit them.

Ummm. I don't think this building is operating anymore.

It was a pleasant drive, but no sign of the baths. Eventually, we figured it out. They closed several years ago (it's unclear if the water is still running or not). The main feature of Thermi is an old hotel, which would have acted as a resort centre for the baths back in the 1960s but has long since been abandoned. We found some reference to plans to renovate it in 2012, but obviously, that never happened!

Friday was time to return the car, but we headed with Debbi, one of the other sailors here at the marina, to the hot springs we visited previously with Jasper. We had a very enjoyable hour soaking in the hot water on a cold day outside, then inside to sit by an open fire while we had lunch.

There's been a little bit of planning for next week (we're heading off on Thursday to the UK to do some housesitting), but otherwise, a fairly relaxed time. Saturday we took advantage of the weather and did a deep clean of Matilda. Today's forecast is for storms (I'm getting weather alerts for severe rain coming from 11 AM on my phone), so we expect it will be another day on the boat!

We won a booking.com award for the performance of 'The Nest', our apartment in Athens.

And that's it. A nice interlude from hanging around on the boat. There are a few boat jobs left to do this week (our replacement watermaker membranes should arrive, so I might replace those, for example), and then on Thursday, we leave early for the UK and a house sit near Reading.

Until next time,

Tim & Karina