Not long after leaving Eftalou hot springs, Thanassis the taxi drive appears in the distance. Still the only car on the road which makes it very easy for me to spot him but more importantly for him to spot me.
It is only a 10-15 minute ride to Petra and Thanassis drops me along the front behind a cluster of taverna’s. I let him know that I’ll give him a call later for the return journey.
After scouting out the eating opportunities in the taverna’s I turn in towards the village. I find myself on a vine covered cobbled street where there is a small supermarket, a small ouzo distillery/shop (you will smell the sweet aniseed aroma before you see it!) , a butchers and a couple of tourist shops. I like that it has a sense of catering for local residents as well as tourists.
I take one of the side streets that lead further into the village and one of the first things that I stumble across is the Vareltzidaina Mansion – and it’s open! From the outside you can see the how the upper floor overhangs the house and with small balconies supported by curved brackets. In Egypt these shuttered windows are called mashrabaya (according to my Egyptian husband) but are usually decorated with the intriquately carved arabesque screens. This would give the women of the house a view out into the world but the world, no view in. These windows are much plainer but the jewel in the crown of this old merchants house is on the inside!
The mansion was built in the late 18th century and is one of the last surviving traditional mansions (Archontiko) built during the Ottomon period on the island of Lesvos. This mansion house was built in the centre of an enclosed agricultural estate and consists of two floors in a lath and plaster construction. The ground floor with its stone walls maintains the fortified character centres around a central hall which I will say isn’t very impressive. However, when you climb the stairs to the first floor you can see why this house is an absolute architectural gem. The rooms are set off a central passageway which has an absolutely exquisitely carved wooden ceiling which is then encircled by beautifully ornate friezes.
Each of the side rooms offer entertaining spaces with their own unique elements of decor such as copper trays or coffee pots set into recesses in the walls. The ceilings and friezes are exceptional. I can imagine myself being entertained in a beautiful house like this. Unfortunately in my imagination that will stay. What a fantastic little museum and all this for just 3€!
After leaving the Vareltzidaina Mansion I continue down the same street but I don’t have to go very far before I reach the famous Church Panagia Glykofilousa also known as the Lady of the Rock and Virgin Mary of the Sweet Kiss. As much as I’m tempted to climb up for a closer look – on this occasion I take a pass.
Petra is another one of those little villages that you can just get lost in and get so much pleasure from it. If wandering pretty little streets aimlessly was a competitive sport, it would be one that I’d excel in. So this is what I do.
It is now late afternoon and I’m hungry. I didn’t even have breakfast before walking to Eftalou this morning so it is definitely time for some sustainance. I think that the beach front taverna’s are exactly the place to eat. It is pre-sunset so I’ve timed it just perfectly. Many of the beach front taverna’s are closed but Taverna Kyma is open so I take a seat on their outside deck that overhangs the beach. An elderly lady comes to take my order. The menu is limited (as I’ve found in a many places on Lesvos) but the welcome is warm and friendly and the view is perfect. An elderly gentleman shuffles across the road from the taverna to my table with dinner which is a Greek salad and a club sandwich (not forgetting a glass of wine). “You German? he asks. “I’m British” I reply. “Ahh!” he says as he nods his head and smiles. We have a little chat about nothing in particular before he wishes me “Kali orexi” and shuffles back over to the taverna.
As the sun begins to drop and the sky becomes tinged with pink and yellow, small fishing boats sail across the channel in front of me. One boat is quite close as I can see a lone fisherman casting his net and then hauling it back in again. Just as I decide to make a move to pay and call my taxi, the elderly gentleman from the taverna comes out with a plate of loukoumades drenched in honey. “These are for you” he says. “Our neighbours have just dropped by with these for us and we would like you to have some”. It is the little moments like this that makes my heart swell with joy. This is Greece. This is the Greeks.