Well not quite! This is Leros Island in the Dodecanese group of Greece Islands and it is winter! January and the temperatures are around 11-15 daytime dropping to the lowest so far of 7 at night, so not really too bad. A lot of rain though and very windy. We watch from our house the 7 wind turbines as they turn and think of all the electricity they are producing for this tiny island. 54 km/sq, 15 km long and only 1.5 km across at the narrowest point with only 8000 permanent residents. It is about a third of the size of Vieques, where we house sat for 5 months in 2017. We seem to be attracted to islands! This is our 4th island housesit!
The terrain is very hilly, though if you Google Leros you will be told that it is a relatively flat island perfect for cycling and walking! Hmmm, we get a different view, but, the highest point is only 320m. I am thinking that because it is so small, makes it very steep to get up to those high points.
The island is steeped in history, from the ruins of the temple of the Goddess Artemis, which dates back to 3rd-4th c BC to WWII bunkers and war remnants everywhere we go. We are very lucky to have a car so have taken full advantage to orientate ourselves with the island and are now getting out on foot to explore even more. I am so taken with the little chapels everywhere, they are immaculately kept and are all open and inviting. There is an opportunity to light a candle which brings a lovely feeling of peace. Quite often we are finding that at each site of these lovely chapels, there are also some WWII bunkers or tunnels. Even just along some of the roads we see evidence of the second most bombed Greek island after Crete.
So hiking around the many peaks of Leros is really interesting. Something to see on every corner. And the scenery is stunning. Though it is winter and we have had a few hearty storms and overcast days, we have also had a few days of stunning blue sky and Leros just comes alive! It is very green in places, but we find this is from the weed Oxalis which is everywhere, and very barren in others. Some of the hills look like they are from the moon or the desert, so rocky and very harsh. Perfect for the 1000’s of goats, each with a bell!, I love hearing the goats everywhere, to me its the sound of Greece. From most of the peaks you can see every corner of the island, 360° views, therefore, seeing all coasts at the same time.
The stunning Castle of Panagia in the East, seems to overlook the whole island. At night she is lit up and almost looks to be floating above Platanos. I believe it is not clear when the castle was first built but there are indications that she existed in 1087. You can walk the 365 steps through the winding streets and onto the hill to get to her. On the way you pass the lovely Prophet Elias Church. The vista is breath taking! The castle was used by the Italians as barracks and a lookout post during WWII. We have been up a couple of times, the view from the top is quite incredible, but unfortunately with it being winter, it is closed to go inside.
Right opposite the castle are the traditional windmills. They are so picturesque and you will find them on a lot of google searches of Leros and also souvenirs. Many around the island have been restored and some are now guest houses, but were used primarily to grind grain. It is hard to find information on some of these things, its as if it is just here…. No explanation or reason….it just is.
The Church Agios Isidoros is another Leros icon. She is pretty special! She has her own island and you have to get your timing right to get out to her. The path is very slippery and the waves crash over it most of the time. Again, so picturesque! And especially stunning when the sun comes out. We can see her from our “home” in Gourna Bay.
There are a few museums on the island which we would love to see but again they are closed as it is winter. This is a common theme on the Greek Islands. This goes with the many restaurants as well, a lot will only be open in summer.
Leronians are so friendly! We are so lucky that most people speak a good amount of English, we did think we were in for a tough time with Greek as the local language, but not so. Everyone here has a Hello or “Kalimera” and big smiles, nothing is too much trouble. We are slowly getting used to the “Mediterranean” thing when eating out, being fed more and more food, extra food besides what you have ordered if you have ordered any, that you don’t have to pay for! Its incredible, we can go to the café at the bottom of the drive and buy a beer and get a platter of food, then get a couple of wines and get another platter of food, then finish with an oyzo and get more food, without paying for one bite. We go in for a sundowner and come out fully stuffed thinking “well that was dinner” We feel a little embarrassed but on talking to others, it is just the way of things in Greece. The people are just so hospitable. And you always get a cake or biscuit with a coffee, it is so lovely.
Such a lovely place! Great people, great food, we kinda like this little island in the sun!
Λέρος, ευχαριστούμε που μας έχεις
Leros, thank you for having us