(Plan for a Beach Hotel at Faneromeni)
When friends were joking about a Hilton on Faneromeni beach I thought they were kidding. But they were not far off from the truth: there are plans for a hotel to be built in the area between that house that rises like a pink creamy pudding at the Faneromeni beach and the little cave church, (Zoodochos Pigi). Not a Hilton, and no ‘introvert’ hotel, but an ‘extrovert’ hotel. ‘Facing onto both the sea and the beach, open to both the guests and the locals. When you enter this hotel, you step into the history of the island and will discover its culture.’
This is just consumerist blether! What is unique about a hotel having two restaurants, two bars, rooms in a cave next to a church, rooms with private pools? Is any of this sustainable and ecological? These are the modern words that you need to use, whenever you want a green light for a project. Sustainable because they will use local stones? Cultural because some rooms will sit next to a church? Open to the locals? —because they may also use the beach in front of the hotel, even though Greek law states that the beach cannot be owned by anybody. Were it not so sad that this building is certain to disturb the quietness on one of the most beautiful beaches on Lesvos, I would have had a big laugh.
It is not the first Beach Hotel that is intended to attract tourists. Skala Eresos also risks losing part of its beach to a hotel. Maybe those investors used the same sales talk— full of the words ‘sustainability’ and ‘ecological’.
The newest happening in Faneromeni is the monstrous bridge that suddenly had to be built over a little stream, probably for all the big shots that will be visiting the location in order to see if such a dream hotel does have a chance. And imagine: without a bridge no trucks can transport the building materials. That could kill the building of a hotel, as happened in Vatera, to the hotel at the Drota end of the beach. The municipality refused to give permission to build a road and a bridge to reach the hotel and so the building had to be stopped. Now a huge concrete skeleton watches lonely and sad over the beautiful beach. It did finally find a purpose: an open air graffiti museum (illegal).
Building a hotel is not without risk. Near Molyvos the Arion Hotel has languished since the seventies. After only one summer full with happy guests, the bank thought it necessary to close it down, not granting its owners time to pay their debts a little later. High on the rocks near Skala Sykaminias is another imposing building that once must have been full of life. The most famous hotel rotting away on the island is the Sarlitza, the monumental Turkish bath hotel in Thermi. No one will ever save this beautiful building.
It can be different: in Eftalou two hotels at the beach probably were also built by promising to provide for gorgeous holidays. After some good years those hotels began to fall into ruin, but some clever people have seen a new future in restoring the hotels. The first hotel to be given a facelift did not become an ‘extrovert’ hotel with unique experiences, but simply became an ordinary ‘all inclusive’ hotel, terrorising the quiet surroundings with Greek and Disco evenings, including a weekly assault of fireworks into the air. The pessimist that I am does not expect anything better from the second hotel that is to be rebuilt and will open its new doors next summer.
Maybe we might be better off with an ‘ecological’ and ‘sustainable’ hotel like on Faneromeni beach. But that one too may after some years fall into the hands of big money makers. It’s the dreamers who build and loose, giving plenty of opportunities to the money wolves.
Okay, I may more often see the black sides of life before the bright sides, and I would have loved to keep the beach of Faneromeni untouched. But Sigri and its surroundings are secretly being changed by big projects: fields are bought for olive production, a brand new olive press has been built. Villa Faros, surrounded by hills full of olive and other fruit trees, having an in and outdoor pool, five bedrooms and other great spaces, might be the most luxurious rental villa on Lesvos. It seems like mighty forces are lifting up Sigri. So maybe I should not complain and leave this great region to the people who take risks to make something nice out of it.