Impressions of the Eastern Aegean, Greece
How much diversity can one expect in a small area? And yet, the islands of the Eastern Aegean, explored in this report, are very different from one another. What unites them above all is that they are located within a few kilometres from the Ionian Turkish coast and that they all threw off Turkish occupation and integrated into the independent Greek State after the first Balkan war of 1912. But there are at least as many differences one could enumerate as there are resemblances among them.
Find out for yourself. Take a seat at a kafeneion in one of the many extraordinarily beautiful corners of Ikaria, choose whether you want to have a glass of sweet wine from Samos or an ouzo on ice from Lesvos, along with some desert cookie based on mastic from Chios. And take your time to make up your mind, because the waiter of the kafeneion in Ikaria is not very much in a hurry. He never is, not to take your order and not afterwards to serve whatever you have ordered. He'll take it easy, to the point that you are no longer certain whether he has forgotten about you or whether he is simply so slow. Now, thát is different in Samos, for instance: its services well prepared for tourism and visitors, who come to the island for its sunny beaches, but also for the remarkable archaeological sites, reflecting the grand history of the island in archaic and early classical times. What a change, then again, in Chios, where history is much less imbued with Antiquity than with the tragedies the island has gone through in the century before joining independent Greece. How not to think of the 1822 massacre of Chios, entire villages wiped out and abandoned by the few who managed to escape? And yet, Chios is resilient and stubborn, in spite of tragedy it glorifies life that goes on in its unique painted village of Pyrgi, all buildings joyfully decorated in black and white patterns. Uniqueness also rules in Lesvos, not in the least by means of its petrified forest, commonly recognised as being among the most impressing sites of its kind in the entire world.
The fascination one feels in this part of the Aegean is precisely rooted in the fact that these islands are so different in character from one another and in what they have to offer.
Before visiting the place of your choice:
Since the 2010s Mytilini is no longer known outside Greece just as the largest producer of ouzo, Greece's typical anise drink, but also as the scene of human tragedy which nobody held for possible until it happened and everybody has frequently been confronted with on his tv screen, in disbelief. Lesvos has become associated with the human drama of failed policies, of solidarity which is stronger in words than in action, and of human suffering which should under no condition be tolerated in societies that claim civility and high standards of human values: thousands and thousands of refugees and migrants, men, women and children alike, being squeezed into small inflatable boats and hardly seaworthy ships by unscrupulous traffickers, making the short but dangerous crossing from the Turkish coast to Lesvos, if not drowned, arriving in Mytilini either by their own power, either scooped up from the waves by a Hellenic coast guard patrol, and finally joining the masses of people waiting and waiting and waiting to be 'processed' by overwhelmed asylum and refugee support services. This site is not the proper forum for a deeper analysis, but it can also not cover Lesvos and ignore the worn out phantom ships at the quay, the used life vests and torn inflatable vessels, and the heaps of outboard engines which silently witness of the tragedy, not of 'the refugees' and 'the migrants', but of people, individuals of flesh and blood.