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Molyvos


Molyvos, or Mithymna as it was called during the middle ages, is truly an amazing town. When you pass through Petra and follow the coastal road you really are unprepared for the dramatic first view you get when you come around that last bend. Luckily there is a place to pull off where you can take it all in, rather then sneak glances and endanger your family and everyone else on the road. The town is situated on a small mountain topped by a dramatic medieval castle, built by the Byzantines and renovated by the Gattelusis, who were from Genoa and were ceded the island when Francesco Gattelusi married the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor John Paliologos. The original castle which this one replaced, was conquered by none other then Achilles during the Trojan war. There are still ancient ruins scattered around the town including impressive polygonal walls and a few giant holes where archaeologists have begun their slow work.

The town itself is built of stone houses and shops which surround the castle and follow the coast to one of the most beautiful harbors in Greece. As one enters the village there is certainly a lot of tourist activity, at least more then anywhere else on the island, yet nowhere near Cycladic proportions. But rather then terrifying teens on motorbikes, these are a more sophisticated breed, some of them actually carrying books of Greek Mythology and Histories of the island. I think one of the things I like about Molyvos is that the tourists are interesting. You can sit down with one and have a decent conversation at breakfast. You can get drunk with one and actually learn something because unlike places like Mykonos, Ios and Santorini which people hear about by word of mouth or from their local travel agent, to know about Molyvos, you have to at least know how to read. Many of these tourists not only know how to read but they devour literature on the island and return year after year, some of them eventually buying a house and settling here.

There is a stone beach and a small park down by what used to be the village Olive Oil factory but what is now the Olive Press Hotel, one of the most interesting hotels on the island. Living in America or any modern industrialized country it might be hard to conceive of turning a factory into a hotel. But the Olive Press is a simple, large stone building, broken up into different rooms with a beautiful courtyard garden and a very nice restaurant right on the water. The beach is small stones but once you get out a few feet this gives way to soft sand and there are few beaches that have the view you get when you turn around and face the land. It is a view of the town and castle so beautiful that you will risk the possible destruction of your camera in order to get a photo. (I didn't risk it). There are a few cafe-bars and restaurants in this part of the village and also an inexpensive Hotel called the Trianna where we stayed one night. Unfortunately a garbage truck hit my rental car while I was asleep in my inexpensive room and any money I saved was quickly spent on repairing it. Because of this experience I should warn you that it is not a great idea to park on the small streets of Molyvos. There is a parking lot outside the village that is within easy walking distance from most of the hotels and another lot in the harbor.

The most unfortunate aspect of this part of the village is the fact that during the summer and particularly on weekends there is so much motorbike traffic that it sounds like you are living next to the Indianapolis motor-speedway. All the traffic seems to come from the small bar between the Molyvos I and the Olive-Press hotel and it seems simply amazing to me that the town officials would allow the owners of the bar to infringe upon the right of the tourists for a good night's sleep. I spoke to several of the local residents and the managers of the hotels and asked how was it possible that a town so reliant upon tourism would allow motorcycles to race in an area of the town where the guests of the village are trying to get some rest. "It is a complicated situation" was what one owner told me "and there is nothing that can be done".

But the general consensus is that it is the fault of the local government and until someone from the village steps forward to challenge the local leadership which seems to be beholden to certain interests and tied to the ways of the past, these hotels will continue to suffer from the noise and tourists will stay in other areas of the village which are quieter. But that should not stop you from coming here in the daytime to swim because this beach has won the prestigious Blue Flag award from the EEC for cleanliness and the sea here is cool and refreshing and also shallow and safe for children.

Molyvos at Night

For those who crave a little nightlife with their relaxing holiday, Molyvos will not disappoint. There are many bars in town and a few discos and some large clubs on the outskirts of town and enough young people to make it interesting. A popular place for foreigners and local ex-pats is Christine's, right down in the harbor where the Irish owners claim to know the names of every customer who has spent an evening in their bar. In fact it is said that some of their clientele come to Molyvos for the primary purpose of drinking with their friends here at night, the days being an inconvenient period of time between sunrise and sunset that must be somehow gotten through. Those who are into serenity won't be bothered by the nightlife since the louder clubs seem to be set away from the hotels (with the exception of those by the town beach). Those people who enjoy an evening of ouzo or wine and deeply profound philosophical conversation about life, love, God and other important matters, should have plenty of company. Or if you love Greek music played by a talented musician just follow Vangelis around to whichever restaurant he happens to be playing at that night and by the end of your visit you should be able to sing-along with most of the songs.

 

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