Mitilini Kapital of Lesbos Greek Aegean island
Coast / inland
||South-East of Lesvos
||Pebble stone beach
||Castle, port, tavernas, Agora
Local bus service
Like other great cities Mytilini is built upon seven hills and is full of history. Mytilini is in fact one of the most culturally enlightened cities in Greece perhaps due to its proximity to the coast of Asia Minor where the ancient Greeks flourished until 1922 when they were forcefully evicted by the Turks. Many of these Greeks had property in Mytilini and many Mytilinians had businesses in Asia Minor. For this reason the museums are full of interesting remnants of the last three thousand years of history and the town itself contains monuments, houses, churches, schools and other buildings from the various historical periods. But it is the Mytilini of today that holds the most interest for many because it is a small and manageable city full of great restaurants, cafes, nightlife and friendly, intelligent people.
When you arrive by boat at 7 in the morning it is quiet. The city spreads from the large harbor up into the hills behind it and is crowned by an enormous castle whose foundations were laid during the time of Justinian on the ruins of an even more ancient fortification. This castle is surrounded by a pine forest that reaches down to the shore and the public beach. In the summertime the castle is used for performances of traveling groups of musicians, theater, opera and music and art festivals. In fact it is one of the best places to hear a concert in Greece. The castle is well worth a trip and a walk around the promontory will give you a whole new perspective of the city because it is like being out in the wilderness with horses and donkeys grazing on the hills that lead up to the fort. If you continue to the back side of the city you will come to the old bordellos and the old harbor.
The waterfront comes alive with traffic by 8 and stays that way until just after 1 pm when the stores close and everyone goes home for lunch and siesta. By early evening the city is alive again with activity. This is not your typical quiet Greek island village but it is certainly a very entertaining place. The main street is lined with cafes that seem to be full year round. For the rest of the island Mytilini is the big city. Smaller villages send their children here for high-school. People come from all over the island to do their shopping since there are super-markets in the true sense of the word, with aisle after aisle of products, imported and domestic. There are cultural activities, concerts of all styles of music, basketball tournaments, an indoor swimming pool and of course the city is the center of island Government, not only for Lesvos but for Lemnos too.
The marketplace is one of the most active in Greece with shops of every variety and closed to automobile traffic while the stores are open. There is ample evidence of the plentiful fish in Lesvos waters and prices are low. When you arrive by ferry in the early morning you usually spend an hour or so wandering around, checking out the fish and buying sardeles pastes or pastourma (dried spiced beef-like pastrami) to bring as gifts to your friends at home. It is hard to imagine a more interesting way to spend a morning and the shops contain a variety of items that you won't find anywhere else and to me are more entertaining than a museum. If you require strong coffee to get you going to the small traditional looking cafe right across the street from the yogurt shop (that has the best yogurt in the world). It is called the Musico Cafeneon and it is on the corner of Komninaki street. if you are just getting off the boat it is a great place to gather your thoughts and drink an espresso or two. The owner is a woman named Martina and she or one of her staff can answer any questions you have upon arrival. If you are staying in the city, day or night it is a great place to hang out.
There is a line of fish tavernas on the far side of the harbor.
The city itself is a maze of small streets that defies drivers to find their way out once they have ventured in too deeply. Behind the town is the ancient harbor which used to be connected to the new harbor by a canal. The city sits upon the site of the ancient city and traces of a shipyard, remains of the ancient agora and fragmentary sections of the Roman aqueduct are located at Apano Skala near the old harbor.
There is also an ancient theater above Apano Skala.
In the middle of the harbor connected by a narrow causeway lined with fishing boats is a small cafe-ouzerie which is one of the finest places to sit, have an ouzo and a mezedes and watch the ships leave for Athens at sunset. In the afternoon it is full of old fishermen, making lures as they drink their coffee or ouzo. It's a fine vantage point to watch the lights of the city come on as darkness approaches. Scattered throughout the city are cafeneons that serve ouzo and excellent mezedes. Which are the best? The most crowded ones of course so wander around til you hear loud voices and music and if you see a large number of tables and old men smoking and talking you are on the right track. If they are singing then you have stumbled upon someplace special.
In Greece the end of the second world war meant the beginning of a civil war which was even bloodier, as the army, which had fled from the advancing Germans and gone to Egypt with the government in exile, returned to go to war with the communists, who from the mountains, had organized, attacked, and then filled the vacuum created by the retreating Germans and controlled almost all of Greece.
A communist Greece was not part of the post war vision the great powers had in mind so in what could be called the beginning of the Cold War, the Americans supplied the money and the weapons in a bloody fight that pitted brother against brother and tore villages and families apart. Men who had been heroes for their exploits against the Germans, were now called murderers and scoundrels, hunted down, imprisoned, tortured, exiled or killed. When it was over Greece was 'free' from communism until it was legalized after the fall of the military Junta in 1974. Now in a country in which over 80% of the people vote for either PASOK(socialist) or New Democracy(conservative), the island of Lesvos is known for the popularity of the communist party.
There are many churches of interest and also renowned neo-classical mansions scattered throughout the city, particularly in the old aristocratic neighborhoods. Mytilini has been a prominent intellectual center in the Aegean from ancient times to the present. As evidence are the nearbyTheophilos and Teriade Museums which contain collections that any gallery in the world would be honored to have in their possession. One of the most interesting neighborhoods is the area between the waterfront and the castle with a mixture of old Turkish houses and mansions
Mitilini has a long coast line with pebble stone beaches. Some public showers but no public toilets. No lifeguards present
Open air cinema
Concerts in Molivos castle just look her for the program
Open air club, beach bar and several tavernas
Several internet cafés
Local activities, trips
Diving, swimming, tennis, walking, cycling, fishing, horse riding, wind-surfing, water skiing and mountain-biking.
Mountain bikes can be hired locally.
You can snorkel around the rocks off Mitilini
Mitilini beach, pebble stone and small sandy beach.
Boat trips along the coast with swimming and barbeque are wonderfully relaxing.
Hiking - several routes and guides will take you to breathtaking areas
Safari jeep trips - look at Safari link for more options
Boat trips - several options to near beaches or areas
Car rental - look at car rental link for more options
Restaurants - look at restaurants link for more options
Donkey trekking - day and night trips
There are reasonably good bus services across the island, especially between Mitilini and other villages. In May to September there is a regulart local bus service, however in the winter there is a less frequent service. There is a taxi rank just near the parc in the town and fares are reasonable. There is a large port in Mytilini with daily sailings to Athens (about 9 hours) and Chios, and also frequent sailings to Limnos and Rhodes.
Domestic flights to Athens take about 45 minutes (Aegean and Olympic Airways). Direct charter flights from the UK (Gatwick and Manchester) are from May to Mid October on Thursdays. Otherwise you have to fly via Athens (Easy jet, Olympic and British Airways). There are also direct flights from Holland, Norway and Germany in the summer. ). In season the changeover day for rentals is Thursday.
Shops are open from 10.00 hours to 13.30 and from 18.00 to 24.00 hours or later depends on the season. Every day shops are closed between 13.30 and 18.00, restaurants and cafees will stay open all day.
Tavernas and cafees wil stay open until 01.00 or later depaends on the season
Important phone numbers