On the Edge

22 May

After our boisterous passage on Friday we spent the following day doing absolutely nothing. Complete ‘R & R’. It was just what we needed.

Sunset in Sigri

Sunset in Sigri

Fully refreshed and raring to go on Sunday, we headed 30 miles down the south-west coast of Lesvos to Plomari. The wind freshened up to 25 knots just before we reached the harbour so mooring up was a little tricky. But, no fear! Help was at hand in the form of a Port Police officer waiting for us on the quay. Not only did she show us where to moor, making sure that we were well clear of unmarked (& uncharted rocks), but she also took our lines for us & helped us tie up. Once we had dealt with the formalities in her office, she chatted about the best options for dining in the town and even phoned her travel agent friend to help us with queries about ferry tickets. I think we’ll be nominating Eleni for Most Polite & Proficient Port Police Person of the Year!

Plomari is the ouzo capital of Greece so we couldn’t leave without a quick trip to one of the most famous distilleries.
The Barbayannis distillery is a family firm that has been making ouzo since 1860, when the original Mr. Barbayannis came to Lesvos from Odessa in Russia, bringing with him the secrets of distilling this magical aniseed-flavoured aperitif. We were given a tour of the production hall and museum by his great-great-great-great grandson. It was really interesting and we chatted with him about the similarities with whisky production in Scotland. We left clutching a large bottle of one of their finest products – pure distillation, not blended. We’ve now managed to acquire several different brands of ouzo so we’ll have to earmark a day for an ouzo tasting… just not a day when there’s a lot else on the agenda!

We’re now on the east side of Lesvos in the main town of Mytilene. We’re on the very edge of Greece now, with Turkey clearly visible across the water a few miles to the east.

We had originally intended (I read somewhere recently that yachtsmen don’t have plans, they simply have intentions…I like that!) to sail straight from Lesvos to Ayvalik on the Turkish coast and leave the boat in a marina there while we went on an overland trip to Istanbul for a few days. However, when we compared the marina costs between here and Ayvalik, we realised that Mytilene Marina would be less than half the outlay.

Mytilene Marina is one of a plethora of projects in Greece that was built with EU funding. Like many others ‘marina’ projects, it was unfinished and for several years lay deteriorating with no facilities and filled with local small craft and rotting yachts. It was saved about 18 months ago though by a joint Turkish/Greek private venture and it is now coming to life, with facilities are being established.

The staff here are incredibly helpful and, in a bid to attract more custom, they are offering a ‘2-for-1’ deal until the end of 2013. So, while we take a ferry and bus to sample the delights of Istanbul, Two Choices will stay here for 10 days, but we only pay for 5 nights. 🙂 A good deal, we think!

Mytilene Harbour

Mytilene Harbour

Mytilene is growing on me. We had a lovely day yesterday after our chores were done relaxing with an ouzo & meze in the old town. It has grand houses and parks, it has winding alleys and a bazaar with all sorts of weird little shops that might have been there for centuries.
Ouzo again!

Ouzo again!

Mytilene is a pretty big town though. Most of the population of the island live here and it bustles with people and traffic. It is rather scruffy, with litter and graffiti all around the port area. And in addition to all the cars and people, there seems to be a huge contingent of stray dogs and a sizeable camp of Roma people living around the dilapidated bus station.

A tiny little scrap of a child approached us as we went for a stroll yesterday. She was no more than 4 years old, with a dirt-streaked face and shorn head. With no adult supervision at all, she launched into her sales pitch in Greek, begging for money for food. Although I usually do not respond at all to begging by Roma (in Lefkas they are often quite aggressive and intimidating), my heart melted to see such a very young child so practised at begging. She was pre-school age, for goodness sake, not that she’s ever likely to see inside a school! I spoke softly to her, but was clearly declining her ‘invitation’ to give money. She responded by stroking my arm. The chink in my armour was obviously visible to her. As I looked down, her little hand had crept the short distance from my arm to my handbag. In the event, I wasn’t robbed and no harm came to me. It was just so sad to think that this is normal life for this little girl. It is easy condemn and judge the behaviour of people living differently to us but what choices and opportunities does she really have ahead, living on the edge?


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