Today, I took the long and winding road to Mantamados, a hill town on the northeast part of Lesvos. I found out about it the Greek way — from locals — because everything and everyone on Lesvos is somehow connected.
It all started when I picked up Laura, an American volunteer, who wasn’t hitchhiking.
Laura is a writer so when we were discussing anxieties about writing over coffee one day, she suggested I talk to Natasha. Natasha is a Greek resident who works in the Starfish Warehouse.
On Monday night, I had dinner with Natasha at Tropicana, which is owned by Taxia. At dinner, Taxia told me I should go to Mantamados to visit the Taxiachris Monastery because it is full of magical spirits. Taxia was named for Taxiachris, which is the Greek name for the Archangel Michael and Lesvos’ patron saint.
Then yesterday my new friend Joanna, who produces the Lesbian Festival on Lesvos every year and is a heterosexual real estate agent, suggested I should go to Mantamados because it has nice ceramics.
I hadn’t planned on going to Mantamados today. I was supposed to meet with the Mayor’s staff. When I called to confirm this morning, I learned my meeting was cancelled so the staff could help the mayor prepare for Pope’s impetuous decision to come to Lesvos next week. I consoled myself with the thought that I am now personally if somewhat remotely connected to the impending death of the EU-Turkey deal.
And that’s how I ended up in Mantamados today.
I started at the monastery outside of town, which is a pilgrimage place for many Greeks because a miracle happened there. Saracen pirates invaded the monastery and killed all the monks except one, who was saved when the spirit of Taxiachris appeared and held out his “glaive” to stop the slaughter. Here are pictures of a glaive and the monastery’s courtyard.
To honor Taxiachris, the surviving monk made a beautiful sculpture with the blood of his slain brothers, part of which remains at the site
In the sanctuary, I lit a candle for Auntie Dawn, just as I did on the last island I visited, Miyajima in Japan:
And then I went to the ceramics stores. First, I met Stellios Stamatis who makes a traditional variety of pottery right in back of his shop. He does not speak English so I said the only Greek sentence I know — “Den milao ellenika,” which means “I don’t speak Greek.” But pottery has a universal language and Stellios showed me his favorite pieces.And then I went to Anna’s store. Anna’s pottery is more modern and playful. The masks are her favorite.
Here are the handmade, hand painted bowls I bought from Anna and Stellios for $40:
I don’t plan to haul them home. I plan to use them to become Greek — I will give them away to the first six people who owe me something.