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Petra and Anaxos, Lesvos

Petra

Petra, LesvosA few kilometers from Molyvos is the village of Petra and something is going on here. While the local government in Molyvos has decided that their village is fine and are content to sit back and count their money, the government in Petra has taken steps to improve the quality of life in their village and make the area even more attractive for tourism. Rather than let the motorbikes disturb the peace of the town they have closed off the center of the village to traffic and diverted through-traffic to the outskirts of the village. This and other steps appear to be paying off because Petra is attracting more and more visitors every year. While the front of the village appears to be a tourist town of the highest degree (or lowest depending upon how you look at it), the backstreets of the village give the visitor the feeling of the more remote traditional villages of the island and since most of the tourists tend to cling together like sheep along the shore, those people who are courageous enough to wander through the back streets can find themselves in a uniquely Greek setting, maybe finding what they have come to Lesvos in search of.

Petra Glykfylousa Panagia MonasteryStretched along a long umbrella filled beach lined with cafes and restaurants, the interior of the town of Petra surrounds a rock mountain topped with the church of the Glykfylousa Panagia (Our Lady of the Sweet Kiss). You reach the top of the rock by climbing the 114 steps carved into the stone(I only counted 104). From the church the view of Petra and the surrounding sea and countryside is spectacular extending all the way to the coast of Asia Minor. A beautiful legend concerning the building of the church on this high rock has come down to us: In days of old a storm bought a religious captain to the shores of the area. One morning the captain noticed that the Icon of the Blessed Virgin, which he always had with him, was missing. He looked for it everywhere but to no avail. That evening he saw a strange light shining seemingly suspended between sky and earth. He climbed up the rock and found his icon placed before a lighted lamp. He took it back to his boat but again it disappeared and again he found it on top of the rock. He decided to build a small church there since that was obviously the wish of the Blessed Virgin. The first church was built in 1609 and the present one in 1747. There is a great celebration there on August 15th. Below the rock is the tiny Church of Agios Nikolaos. Inside, the small church is decorated with 16th century wall paintings that are colorful and inspirational and worth a trip to the village.

Petra, LesvosThe village itself has hotels, shops, restaurants and bars all very close to the beach and a small main street, too narrow for cars even if they were allowed, that has a variety of traditional shops and tourist shops mixed together. It is funny because it appears that the local old men of the cafeneons behave as if they are oblivious to the swarms of tourists around them as they drink their ouzo and eat their mezedes. There are plenty of good places to eat. Be sure to try the Restaurant run by the Women's Agricultural Co-op of Petra for at least one meal. Their offices are upstairs in the large building on the main square so drop in and find out exactly what it is they do. In between Petra and Anaxos is the excellent Avlaki Taverna. For other restaurants nearby see my restaurant page . There is also a center run by a very interesting woman named Hanna where they offer classes in various spiritual and cultural topics. Petra is also one of the hangouts of famed author Carol P. Christ who leads seminars for women every summer. Be sure to visit Gabby at the Lemon Bar, the most laid-back bartender in all of Lesvos.  You can find the office of Rebecca Michaelides who owns NIRVANA TRAVEL , on the main street on the coast, where you can change money, book excursions or borrow a book from her library. She can book trips to the nearby Rabbit Island which is a nature refuge. They have built an observation center where you can sit and watch the many different birds and animals. There are a number of cafe-bars and restaurants on the waterfront close to the town beach. The Reef has a reputation for good music and cold beer and is one of the places you can watch your team in action if the game is important enough to be televised. Some of the restaurants advertise 'Greek Night' which may seem ominous in a town in Greece, but it usually means that they have live Greek bouzoukia music and maybe a belly dancer, not that it is the only night they have Greek food. And since they all seem to have chosen a different night for Greek night you can test them all.

Paul Henry, PetraWhile in Petra be sure to stop in the First Kiss Gallery of Paul Henry, a talented artist from Canada who has been living on Lesvos for about ten years. People who are familiar with Skala Eressos know Paul from the years he spent there. His sculpture of Sappho is a familiar landmark outside the office of Sappho Travel. My wife loves his paintings but I was more impressed with his sculpture work because of their intense realism as well as the humor in many of them. Recently he was comissioned to do a near life-sized sculpture of the Nike of Samothrace (Samothraki) which took him all winter. Even more impressive is his life-sized statue of Alexander. You can find the gallery on the main shopping street of Petra, right by the City Hall, a few shops up the street from the Kouroumixali Ouzo Factory which is also worth stopping in to see and to buy a bottle of ouzo. The tourist shops sell ouzo from all over the island but in my opinion you should drink the local brand and support the community, especially since one ouzo will probably taste like all the rest if you are not a connoisseur. Actually if you are going to buy art you should buy it from an original artist like Paul Henry rather than something from a tourist shop that you can probably find on any island.

Remember that August 15th is the festival of the Panagia (Virgin mary) and a great holiday for the village of Petra. The cobbled streets are lined with stalls, Greek flags and great atmosphere. Above Petra is the small village of Petri, known for its view, cool breezes and the excellent traditional tavernas. Nearby is the village of Pelope, ancestral home of Michael Dukakis, the first Greek who was ever almost elected the President of the United States. They have a panagiri (religious festival) for the Saint Day of Profitti Elias (Prophet Elija) in mid July. Since the churches that are named for Profitti Elias are usually on top of the highest mountain you should be prepared to do some walking if not climbing.

Anaxos

Anaxos, LesvosFive minutes from Petra is the small village of Anaxos, with a nice stretch of beach with lots of tavernas and a view of Molyvos. Anaxos is a resort town with several outdoor swimming pools for public use. Well, not exactly public use but if you buy a drink you and your kids can hang out there all day. The pools are salt water however, as are many of the pools on the island so if you are looking for the wonderful clorinated water you are familiar with then you should probably ask before you dive in. At one time Anaxos was a popular destination for package tourists and it still pretty much has that feel, but there are lots of individuals and even some people who like it so much that they come back every year though I generally skip a year or so between visits. The beach can be crowded, like the beach at Petra, but if you like people that should not be a problem. Unless of course you don't like the kind of people who would want to go somewhere like Anaxos in which case you will be surrounded by them. If you don't like people and want to go to somewhere a little more remote you can rent cars, bikes and motorbikes in Anaxos and there are some coves and beaches along the coast where most tourists don't go.

Hotels in Petra and Anaxos

Hotel Clara, Petra, LesvosThe Paradise Studios are located just 70 metres from the Beach at Petra and offer easy access to all shops, restaurants and bars. There are 29 individual apartments with fully equipped kitchen, WC & shower and large private verandas. The 3-star family-run Panorama Hotel features a pool and restaurant. Rooms have a furnished patio overlooking the village and the Aegean Sea. Air conditioning and a satellite TV are included in all accommodation at the Hotel Panorama. The spacious rooms are equipped with a fridge and safety box. The Michaelia Hotel occupies a beachfront location in the picturesque Petra Village. Offering a panoramic view of the Aegean Sea, it features an outdoor pool, a restaurant and free public Wi-Fi. The guest rooms are air-conditioned and have a private balcony or a terace. Each room includes a refrigerator, telephone, and has en suite bathroom. A little bit outside of Petra on a hill in area of Avlaki, the Clara Hotel(photo) is only 200 metres from the sandy beach. The hotel has a seawater swimming pool and a restaurant with views of the sea. All the air-conditioned rooms have a furnished balcony with a views of the sea. For self-catering your best bet is the Bird's Bay Seaside Homes, which as the name suggests, are right on the sea, and have full kitchens and are like having your own house on a Greek island. If you want to stay in nearby Anaxos you can find rooms for thirty euros at the family run Annessis Studios and the family-run Paradise Studios offers self-catering accommodation 300 metres away from the beach for under twenty! But if you want to be a few steps from the beach and have a pool then be prepared to shell out at least 30 euros for a double at Virginia Studios. (In other words hotels in Anaxos are really cheap. So is Petra actually) You can find more hotels at Booking.com's Petra Page and their Anaxos Page

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