Overnight on Lipsi(or Lipsos) Island- for quick visit
We made a quick Pitstop at a small bay just outside of Skala, to have a swim and a snorkel is lovely clean blue water, seeing that we will be docked for a day or two. We have decided to to make a very quick look-see turn at the village also called Lipsi on the small island of Lipsi(Lipsos). What a lovely little place! We counted over 24 churches of various sizes just in the town with a few of them scattered along the island’s coastline as well. Large parts of the island used to belong to the Monastery of St. John the Baptist on Patmos and this is the reason why there are so many small churches all over the island. We did not go ashore and moved on to Kouloura bay nearby where we stayed for the night. Arriving there just before lunch, made for plenty of time to swim and snorkel – and I have to say, that was the best selection of sea life I have seen so far in the Mediterranean! The amount of pictures in the clear water that I have taken should be convincing enough! I was totally frozen after an almost 2 hour snorkel and was ready for a nice Malay chicken curry dish the South African way on board!
LAKKI The main port of Leros:
We docked at a fairly new marina in the town Lakki and used that as our base to see the rest of the island. The dock master was extremely helpful in helping us to find motorbikes the next day. The town (Lakki) did not impress me at all – very different to any other Greek island town – with not much happening in the town or with hardly anything to see! That would have been the first Greek island town we entered without seeing a beautiful white domed orthodox church somewhere! We did find the town’s church one afternoon late and was lucky enough to see a bride and groom with all the guests dressed up at the entrance! In fact – half the town (that was not part of the guest list) was watching on from the side line! The one thing that I would not forget about Lakki is the amazing cake shop in the middle of town! It would have been one of the biggest variety of cakes, Greek sweets and baklava and fabulous individual small deserts I have seen so far! Just gorgeous!
Lakki :The history of this town always included a large naval component.
The island of Leros was ruled by Italy for about 31 years. The Italian influence is very obvious in the architectural style that has been used all over the island. the The Dodecanese islands were actively Italianised, by making the Italian language compulsory, giving incentives to locals to adopt Italian nationality, and clamping down on Greek institutions. In the 1930s a new “model town”, Portolago, was built by the Italian authorities. The Greeks later renamed it Lakki. Lakki made an ideal naval base for the Italians, being the largest deep water harbour in the Mediterranean Sea. With Italy first on the German side during the Second World War and later on the British side, the island copped a lot of bombing first from by the British Royal Air Force and later by the Germans after British invasion. The island was the second most bombed during World War Two (after Crete).
Leros together with the other Dodecanese Islands, were eventually united with Greece in 1948.
Leros was again in the news in 1989 for all the wrong reasons – a scandal involving embezzlement of funds and the maltreatment of about 3,000 mental patients at an institution in Lakki! We tried to go into the hospital grounds but was almost thrown out! Anyway – we left Lakki and moved on the east coast!
What a wonderful surprise the rest of the island of Leros was! We first went pass the mansion that use to belong to Mussolini (we later the evening went passed it close up with the dingy on our sundowner cruise! It is very impressive, but has never been restored or kept in shape, sadly! The bombings during the Second World War left some huge buildings too damaged to even attempt restoring it.)
With our 200 cc scooter we started an easy relaxed island tour on the east side of Leros. We have split up with Mel and Phil going each our own ways! Just as well as we would have been pretty unpopular with our stop and start tour! Johann concentrated on the road, I navigated from the back with a very basic map and would yell out to stop the moment we get to something interesting or a nice view! The island’s name came from the word “leros” which means smooth or flat but don’t let that fool you! There were a few very hilly moments as most of the towns are built on a hill. It is a good thing we had a good size scooter to take them on – especially the hill up to the castle at Pateli !
LEROS ISLAND : PATELI, AGIA MARINA and GOURNA BAY
Pateli must be the most picturesque area in Leros, with tavernas fringing the shores down below and on top of the hill is the lovely fortification and 6 beautifully restored windmills edged against the blue sky…and in between lies a village that could as well have been little Italy! The only (out of place) features that did not fit the Italian style, were the odd Greek flag and the massive Orthodox Church of Panagia Kyra!
It really was like finding a little Italy around every corner!! The architecture, town layout, history etc. had Italy written all over it! It was under Italian control for a long time enough time to leave its stamp impressed on it. It is a refreshing feel with a touch of Greek to it! We went up to the Byzantine Castle of Panagia on top of the hill and met the wonderful very interesting curator of the museum which gave us some interesting background information of the island, the Italian influences and the Orthodox Church (which we knew little about). The view from the top was just fabulous! We there and then decided that we need to bring Scolamanzi around to Pateli the next day! It is just gorgeous!
We had our first Sea urchin meal at Gourna Fish Taverna and the best fresh fish on the BBQ that we had in all of Greece! It was only a small beach-side tavern in the bay of Gourna almost on the beach … there were hardly any houses close by!? We almost gave up on finding a place to have lunch when be accidentally find the wonderful it! Restaurant Gourna with its unique Greek and local specialties has a huge variety of typical Greek cuisine like moussaka, stuffed tomatoes, grilled meat and salads but has a exceptional variety of local fresh fish like mackerel, sea bass, red mullets, lobster, sea urchins, muscles and shrimps. Next time I will certainly try their famous specialty – the Astakomakaronada (Lobster spaghetti).!.Gourna Fish Taverna happens to get top ratings from Trip Adviser too by the way!
The road all along the coast and through the little villages was quite special with some heart stopping steep hairpin bends! Who ever said it was a flat island? 🙁
It was a magic day that ended in a sunset cruise (complete with wine, beer, ice, biscuits, Camembert cheese and salami!) on Skollie (the dinghy) around the massive bay of Lakki – with still a huge military influence to it. Slowly motoring past the mansion of Mussolini and some huge buildings that could have been the old Italian Naval Headquarters, showed extensive bombing damage to it – no wonder it was never repaired!
XIROKAMPUS BAY :
We overnight the next day in a by called Xirokampus / Xirokambos Bay on the south of Leros Island and very close to Kalymnos Island, our next destination. Xirokampus is essentially a fishing village and very quiet (only a few yachts in this big bay) which makes it a very relaxed place to anchor. The water is as clear and pristine as you will get it! Johann and Phil wanted to make a few modifications to the passarel arrangement and the calm waters and no breeze ended up the perfect conditions for him to go up to the top of the mast! I saw an opportunity for some magic pictures and sent the camera up with him and arrange the guests on deck for a picture shoot!! The pictures are beautiful!! Thank you for the models making it possible!
We had dinner ashore at Restaurant Kima or Restaurant to Kima? Not sure which way it is spelled! A very authentic Greek Family taverna with a very limited menu – mainly seafood but the good news was that they had cold beer and drinkable wine! The second bottle of red was half full but was worth decanting into our water bottle and take it along! Phil is an excellent decanter! Not a drop went astray! It is always fun to be around Mel and Phil and that night was no exception!
Leros: A great island that is refreshingly different from all other typical Greek islands! For once the Greeks should be happy that Italy gave them the infrastructure and wonderful character to this island! All in all a wonderful stop-over!