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Postcard from Mytilini, Lesbos on TravelSnapz

Carnivale street decoration in Mytilini

A street decoration for Carnivale.

Mytilini's main feature is the old fort on the headland. This castle/fort complex is one of the biggest in Greece. When we visited in March, 2002 the gate keeper had trouble finding the box that stored the entry tickets, but by the time summer arrives, there will be more interest.

The fortress is massive. Huge stone walls surround a considerable area of land that faces out towards the Turkish coast and protects both the old harbour to the North and the newer one to the South around which the main shopping area of Mytilini now clusters.

We spent half a day just picking our way over the ancient rocks of the fort. There are no brochures in English so we had to imagine what some of the structures were. Obvious is the huge water cisterns in the lower part of the promontory as it slopes down towards the old Northern harbour; and there is an assortment of other structures in various states of disrepair. The new spring flowers now cover where once armies assembled and prepared for battle.

The fort/castle was originally established by the Venetians (perhaps on an ancient Roman site), then the Genoese, relinquished to the Turks, and now the Greeks have ownership. There is little evidence that the site benefits much from the Archaeological Receipts Fund, but it is worth a visit none-the-less.

Inside the Mytilini fort

A structure inside the walls of the Mytilini fort.

From the fort, we took a walk inland up into the hills that surround Mytilini. Up through narrow streets, we eventually found the ancient Hellenistic amphitheatre in the pine forest above the town. There is not much to see of what was once one of the largest theatres in Greece. The guy on the gate (free entry) - a Greek that had brought his Australian wife home to meet Mum and Dad and now can't get her to leave Lesbos - pointed out the stones that had been excavated and stacked neatly to one side of the semi-circular basin in the hill. Maybe one day the site will be reconstructed and actors and entertainers will again tread the boards.

We did not visit the local museum, and we are told that there is a great museum/art gallery at Varia, four kilometres to the South of the town. We took a couple of walks around the main harbour and through the back-streets of the town which are dominated by the large dome of St Therapon. There are plenty of bars that face into the harbour, but for the 50 somethings we have become, there is only so much car and motorbike noise you can take and still enjoy the view!

If you follow Ermou Street from the main harbour to the old harbour at the Northern end of the town, you will find a traditional taverna, where we enjoyed the local fare. It has some great black and white photos on the walls inside, a virtual history lesson.

You can do plenty of day drives from Mytilini. One day we travelled South, down through Varia and around the Gulf of Yera. And on another day we travelled over to Plomari, Agiassos, and the Gulf of Kalloni. My memories of these trips are sleepy villages, the occasional crumbling old factory, and olive groves.

It was time to move on and head North.

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