Route 4: An olive branch connecting the two sides of the Aegean
Five-day cruise to Sigri, Eresos, Kalloni, Mytilene, Ayvalık and Alibey/Cunda Adası
And the prow of its foams
And the gulls of its dreams
On its highest mast the sailor waves
And the horizons of its voyage
And the echo of its nostalgia
On her wettest rock the betrothed awaits
And the nonchalance of its summer winds
And the jib of its hope
On its lightest undulation an island cradles
Odysseas Elytis, Of the Aegean Ι, trans. J. Carson, 1940
In this trip we have the chance to explore the third largest island of Greece, Lesbos. Starting from Sigri we are wandering between ottoman castles, romantic lighthouses and we are visiting the unique in the broader area museum dedicated to the petrified forest of Lesbos. We are meeting Sappho, a woman who became a symbol of independence and feminism in the past decades and continues to inspire millions of women worldwide. Local cuisine and gastronomy have a prominent place during our visit to Kalloni, where we taste the delicious sardines which are the best of Greece. In the capital of Lesbos, Mytilene we are visiting the museums and galleries of the island and we are discovering its multicultural past. Heading for Turkey and the coast of Asia Minor we are getting lost in the narrow streets of Ayvalik, one of the most picturesque towns of Turkey and we are sailing among the twenty two islands of the its nearby archipelago.
Lesbos – Sigri (GR)
Last night a sword-light in the sky
Flashed a swift terror on the dark.
In that sharp light the fields did lie
Naked and stone-like; each tree stood
Like a tranced woman, bound and stark.
Far off the wood
With darkness ridged the riven dark.
John Freeman, Stone Trees, 1916
It is said that the name Sigri derives from the Greek word and the word , meaning “safe”, based on the fact that the village has a secure harbour. We are having exactly this feeling of safety while we are approaching Sigri’s little port, which is protected by the long island of Megalonisi or Nisiopi with its old lighthouse. This 12 meters high lighthouse was built in the year 1860 and was operating with oil until the year 1989 when the old lantern was replaced with an electric one.
Except for the island of Nisiopi, the Gulf of Sigri is also protected by an 18th century Ottoman castle. Over the castle’s entrance, someone can still discern the monogram of the Ottoman Sultan Osman III and the year of its establishment, 1757. It was built by the admiral of the Ottoman fleet Süleyman Pasha for the protection of the west coast of Lesbos by the audacious pirates who were ravaging the whole surrounding area. A part of it collapsed in the great earthquake that shook western Lesbos in 1889. During WWI it was used as a supply base by the Entente allies.
Sigri is a fishing village with a good port and a number of restaurants, specializing naturally in fish, but also in the local delicacies such as a type of spinach, called horta, which is boiled and served with lemon and salt. The odd-looking church of Hagia Triada is, in fact, a converted mosque, with a huge water cistern taking up the ground floor; this supplied, among other things, the half-ruined hamam (Turkish bath) just south.
The most important site of Sigri is the well-made Natural History Museum of the Lesbos Petrified Forest. Established in 1994, it forms a center for the study, management, and preservation of the and for the public education about the site. It is a founding member of the and is a member of 's . The petrified forest of Lesbos has been designated as a protected natural monument. It was formed by the fossilized remains of , which can be found in many localities on the western part of Lesbos Island. The museum covers pan-Aegean geology with samples and maps, as well as the expected quota of petrified logs and plant fossils from when the surrounding hills were far more vegetated. The museum has installed an earthquake simulator that simulates earthquakes that happened in the past. The earthquake simulator provides a realistic experience of earthquakes to the museum’s visitors, in order to understand the phenomenon and to have a proper training on how to encounter seismic risk.
Lesbos – Skala Eresou (GR)
Child of Zeus, wile-weaver, I now implore you,