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Mesmerizing Molyvos, Lesvos Island, Greece

Four flights and nearly thirty hours of travel brings me back to Molyvos, on the Greek island of Lesvos.

 

The shepherd, my closest friend on Lesvos, meets me at the airport.  The following day I recover from extreme jet-lag and surprise my former managers who greet me with hugs and kisses enthusiastically, as is the Greek way.  That’s so nice.  Love is good.  Much better than the alternative.

 

Charm is everywhere in Molyvos

Charm is everywhere in Molyvos

 

Walking into Molivos’ harbor is surreal.  The Captain’s Table, both restaurant and ground zero for the Starfish Organization‘s volunteer efforts, is empty, with only Melinda, the founder of the organization, working diligently on a laptop.  Just two months ago this location was a busy hive of stressed volunteers.  Now, most volunteers have gone to mainland Greece where refugees are stuck in legal and illegal camps.

 

Of course, any day, at any time, refugee boats could start arriving again at the harbor.  The remaining volunteers and locals are ready should that happen.  Change is the only constant here.  For now, though, the tourist sees no evidence that one of the largest migrations in history just passed through this lovely island.

 

Nearly all the refugees that arrived on Lesvos after March 25th, 2016 are still being detained in Moria — a closed, overcrowded, prison-like detention camp.  Only a small number of volunteers are allowed access to the refugees who are guarded by police, and in theory, cared for by the broke Greek Army.  It’s an ongoing tragedy with no end in sight.  Volunteer legal teams and individual lawyers work round-the-clock to challenge this detention.

 

Skala Skamineas

The neighboring village of Skala Skamineas

 

I’m staying with a local in a 500-year old stone house perched high up on the hill that is Molyvos.  The castle looms just above.  Without a scooter, I feel like Rapunzel trapped in the tower unless action overcomes laziness and I set my feet in motion to make the 15-minute descent down ankle-breaker cobblestone passages to the main street below.

 

Warm winds breeze through stone alleyways.  Merchants walk the labyrinth of steep streets shouting out their products for sale; selling potatoes, tomatoes and fresh bread to those who are too frail or too tired to descend and ascend the village streets.  Tourists have arrived, although few, and pass their days, along with many locals, in waterside cafes, watching the day fade away and the ruby sun slip behind the ocean.

 

Molyvos, Greece

Lots of stairs in Molyvos, Greece

 

With my friend, I’ve traveled by motorbike over the dirt road to neighboring Skala Skamineas.  Red poppies and purple wildflowers edge the road.  The beaches, previously littered with debris and boat wreckage, have largely and heroically been cleaned by locals and volunteers and are now pristine.  Lunch lasts for hours with savory bites of olives, feta, fresh salad and seafood, potatoes, herbed rice in grape leaves and flavors of lemon, oregano, yogurt, and sea salt in between sips of ouzo which turns, with water, from clear to milky white and delivers a black licorice punch.

 

Gigantic dandelions

Gigantic dandelions

 

The wisteria vines, which were in full bloom in March, have turned into a lush green canopy shading merchants.  Once a week, a two-hour-long Greek Orthodox church service broadcasts over the village via speakers.  The droning singing of the “papas” and congregation, broken only by a spoken sermon, is oddly hypnotizing when one does not understand the words.  Towels hang on clotheslines and dry thoroughly in two hours provided the occasional rainstorm does not blow through.  Kittens are born in barns.  Figs, as ripe and plump as a fat woman’s bottom, provide roadside snacks.

 

New kittens in barns.

Kitten found in a barn.

 

Sheep, tinkling bells around their necks, have bleating conversations and block mountain roads. Cats sleep in ancient exposed Roman coffins in view from the street above.  Stone cannonballs lay in a pile, untouched, as they have for hundreds of years.

 

At dawn and dusk, shepherds travel by motorbike, delivering fresh, creamy sheep’s milk to the feta cheese factory.  Across the street, two friendly horses appreciate slow strokes down their long, sun-warmed faces.

 

Dandelions as big as grapefruits demand five full breaths to send the seeds aloft with a wish.  Besides bleeding-heart wishes for an end to war and the suffering of refugees and locals, I am hard-pressed to come up with a personal wish.

 

When visiting Molyvos, wishes have already been granted.

 

Photos of Molyvos:

 

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