On the road again

A few millions of euro for the beautification of the street around the castle in Mytilini. It will get a lane for pedestrians and a strawberry-red-lane for cyclists. The municipality of Lesvos is proud on this decision and sees it as a visiting card of the island. I think it a strange choice: not far from the castle is the most miserable refugee camp of Europe. Camp Moria is more in the international news than the medieval castle, so you’d better pave Moria’s muddy streets as a visiting card.

Many roads on the island need renewing. Especially after this winter with extreme rain fall. Lesvos got only 300.000 euro’s from the country to repair its damaged streets. It seems that for other roads there are other and better filled pots of money. Like for the asphalt road between Skala Polichnitos and Nifida. No idea what is wrong with that road. It is a bit a narrow road, but when you meet five cars in oncoming traffic it is much. Okay, in high season the double amount. Nifida is packed with summer residences, part of them languish in paradise-like gardens full of fruit trees. It has one of the few sandy beaches on the island and is popular among the locals. Would a new layer of asphalt make this summer-house-village more lively?

Asphalt is older than the road to Rome: the Mesopotamians, Egyptians and also the old Greeks used it to make waterproof baths, reservoirs and even ships. Babylon had the first asphalted road, but only with the invention of asphalt concrete, at the end of the 19thcentury, the real asphalting of the roads started. People loved it, or hated it.

Take the road from Eftalou to Skala Sykaminia. This bumpy, sandy street, along cliffs, steep hills and roaming cattle, crossed by rivers and sheep stables, is the most popular hiking route of the island. I thought that the idyllic Skala Sykaminia had not to complain about its number of visitors: in the summer it may look like an over-touristic Santorini. But rumors again started about asphalting this road. I understand the car renters, who forbid their customers to take dirt roads and get back damaged cars because people seem not to understand what is a dirt road. The street between Eftalou and Skala Sykaminia is notorious for this sin. Will you throw a thick layer of asphalt over it, the island will miss another one of its attractions. Just like the road from the reservoir of Molyvos to Petra used to be a very popular hike route, but since asphalting it, no pedestrian is ever seen there anymore.

Lesvos is anyhow always troubled by its roads. The new road between Kalloni and Sigri is a real nightmare. Every few years a new part is delivered. I imagine that on a big table there are still thousands of puzzle pieces, that have to find its place to connect with the parts already in use. When you drive from Filia to Kalloni, just before Dafia, there is a piece of ‘new’ road with no beginning nor an end. Looking over the rolling hills you will wonder where did they plan the continuation of this road. Part of the delay is due to the petrified trees that keep on coming up while digging. The Natural History Museum of Sigri, that because of lack of money keep the Petrified Forest Park closed, keep a close look on the building of the new road. Not on the building of the new harbour in Sigri. That has to welcome the first ferries coming June. Even that they worked miraculously quick during 18 months, will they keep their deadline? When they would have put all that energy in building the road, then we now would need only ten minutes to drive from Kalloni to Sigri.

I keep on believing that the municipality of Lesvos does not have priorities. Why there is nobody who can find a pot of money to restore Vrisa, the village that got swept away by an earthquake in the summer of 2017. Who is going to help Plomari, where recently half a district of the little town got destroyed by landslides and where the bad weather threw rocks all over the road of Plomari to Melina. That bad that there is no safe passage guarantied. Now all inhabitants of Melinda and Megalochori need a long detour to reach Plomari and tourists cannot enjoy anymore one of Lesvos’ most beautiful roads.

No matter if you arrive by boat or by airplane on the island, you will first see Mytilini, the proud capital of Lesvos with, in the future, this beautiful street rounding the castle. The moment Mytilini is out of sight, you might see some misery. Not everybody gets the best parts of the cake, also on Lesvos.