Lemnos, from Northern Aegean to Van Gogh’s fields
January 1, 1970
Lemnos, from Northern Aegean to Van Gogh’s fields
The Dutch painter, famous for the warmth of the colors in his works would have been astonished by the scenery of Lemnos, an island that radiates a sandy golden light. The heat, the sun of the Greek summer, the rocks and the myths, they all probably contribute to this light.
Remembering a forgotten place
Lemnos ( also found as Limnos) is located in norther Aegean, not very far away from the coasts of Greece and not very far away from the coasts of Turkey. As many places in this part of the word, Lemnos has a long past between myth and reality. It has been used as a key port during First World War and also as a metallurgy workshop for god Hephestus, not to mention that it hosted the first city of Europe.
However, today Lemnos is a remote place, very scarcely populated due to the migration of its population over the past decades. The rapid abandonment can be sad and surely melancholic to witness, but it also had a single benefit. The island is kept frozen in time.
A morning in Mirina
Before I visit Lemnos I knew hardly anything about the place since it is totally not touristic (the positive way) and low profile. As you have already understand, I was surprised.
I spent a few weeks there in early September this year not as a tourist but in a short of traineeship… well, more or less digging holes in the seaside in desperate search of particular stones…I know, I know. No sense for reasonable people but fascinating for a bizarre group of people named archaeologists.
Except from working hard for no sense-fascinating stuff I was lucky enough to go around a lot, eat well and drink good tsipouro and wine.
With less than 18.000 inhabitants, the communities of Lemnos are all arranged in small villages with the exception of Mirina, the central port and single town. It is called after the first mythic queen of the island, whose grandson was to join the Greeks in one of the greatest wars of antiquity, the Trojan War.
Spending a morning in Mirina I strolled through the main pedestrian street that hosts a strange combination of souvenir shops, small artisanal workshops and whatever-you-possibly-need-from-grandma-clothes-to-flamingo-puppets old fashioned stores. Some moments of rest in the little square, just as you go by the pedestrian street, definitely worth it. Greek coffee, sweets, a cool breeze (necessary even in September) and the random gossips overheard from the old people around are priceless.
The Archaeological Museum in Mirina also is also worth visiting. Despite old fashioned, or let’s say the romantic style, it is small and manages to put across the character of the cultures that flourished in Lemnos through the centuries.
Sceneries from the past
I am not really sure for the amount of villages in Lemnos as what can be defined as such in the map can be just a small gathering of houses. Even so, they a hide very special images as most of the houses date back at the beginning of the 19th century or even earlier. Many are abandoned but still well standing. All of a sudden the scenery of rural Greece at a forgotten part of time is surrounding you. Not too distant and still violently forgotten. It is the time before the two World Wars that erased whatever was before them and radically reshaped the world.
Some villages: Roussopouli and Lihna
After Mirina, a relatively big and lively village is Roussopouli (Red City). Pretty streets, restaurant and bars and with a good exploration you might discover treasures such as pottery workshop during open work in progress. Roussopouli works as a base for a small group of tourists camping in the nearby beaches and taking advantage of the plenty free space in the sea of Lemnos for wild water sports.
Lihna is another remarkable stop. Beautiful, picturesque and with the most unique restaurant in the island. A mix of artistic inspiration, tradition, great vibe and delicious culinary improvisations and with a name bearing a good sense of humor…difficult though to translate. Έννοια Πο ‘χς / Enia Po ‘chs could be maybe translated as Matter That you (ha)’ve …?
And as it usually happens, the more you discover the more you find. Going around the very little village of Skandali you will find a place for good tsipouro that could a well have been a canteen somewhere in Jamaica, in Atsiki very friendly hosts and in Nea Koutali fresh sea food and thousand shades of the sea…
a great urban center
Today in Lemnos there is hardly a place that can be called a city but it was not always like that. In the east coast of the island was established the first city in European ground. The Bronze age settlement of Poliochni stands on the hill just above the sea. Its structure arranged in houses, streets and public buildings is clearly visible.
The first habitation in the area starts around 4.500 B.C and around 3.200 B.C it is developed in a great urban center, preceding even its notorious neighbor, Troy. More details about its story are better to be discover on site, since this story is in reality narrated by the golden rocks that compose the pathways as well as by the sea breeze that would penetrate the alleys and would keep the city cool during the summer.
Lemnos has many more remarkable archaeological sites from several different periods of the human habitation in the island, highlighting its continuation. These include the city of Hephaestia, the sanctuary of Cabeiri and a few more.
The Ally Cemetery
a war that does not belong to the myth
Thousands of years after Mirina’s grandson joined the great Trojan war, Lemnos was meant to play an important role during another war. During the Dardanelles Campaign the port of Moudros was used as a base for the Allied Powers. What is left today is the Ally Cemetery where are buried soldier mainly from Australia and New Zealand. The ages written on the gravestones bear also a testimony for the irrationality of the war.
The Bay of Moudros
In the bay of Moudros is where I lived during my stay in Lemnos. These days no war troops are to be seen but only some small fishing boats. In our last night in the island though we came across something a little bit bigger. Big fishing boats going all over the Aegean aiming for the special delicacies. Despite of Greek authority, almost the entire crew was people from Egypt having a name for great fishermen as it seems.
After a short bargain we managed to get for free some huge sea conches fished from big depths.