Field Trip to Mantamados


Mural outside ceramics store in Mantamados

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 with Thomas at Donkey Storage (where clothes for refugees are stored and distributed). Laura won my heart and made me insanely jealous when she got to round up sheep with a Greek shepherd on the back of his motorcycle.

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.


Soulful Natasha at her favorite beach, which no one else goes to because 30 years ago it was where the local sewage was piped into the Mediterranean. Apparently, Greeks do not forget such things.

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.


Taxia at her restaurant. Like most Greeks I have met, Taxia gives you free things like an amazing chocolate cake and snacks called “pyrimidoles.”

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.


Joanna sneaking a cigarette while I am sneaking a photo of her. Joanna is a Greek workaholic.

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. The_ee7420_5445160DSCN0052

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.IMG_1217And 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.



  1. Glad your time on Greece is not all work and despair!
    It’s terrible what the refugees are experiencing in Turkey because of the EU’s shameful and criminal “deal”. They are blaming and punishing the victims for crimes committed by others. Similarities with European and American blinders in the 1930’s are being drawn in the American press.
    Let’s hope the Pope brings more than prayers and blessings. If there is somewhere he should visit and pontificate, it’s the UN and EU hq.

    1. The US government remains strangely quiet and we have stopped hearing from the heads of state who signed the deal as well. They can’t even be bothered to defend their own plan.

  2. Beautiful bowls and a beautiful soul. I’ve been following all the latest updates about the EU-Turkey “deal” and thinking of you every, every day. It’s all so heartbreaking but I have hope. Take care of yourself.

  3. I admire your ability to experience and analyze social systems, structures and ways of interacting with others wherever you travel. Your descriptions of each place and relationships are simply innimitable as is the joy you must experience in the process.

  4. Such gorgeous photos and thoughts, Kim. You are making that part of the world “real’ for me. Nice to hear you are influencing the Pope, too! Thanks for taking the time to enable some armchair traveling and activism. I just love the bowls and your intentions for them,too

  5. I love this post, Kim. I love all the connections and coincidences and ceramics! I’m happy you are having a day like today.

  6. Connecting and becoming a local are very important parts of the puzzle and you, as usual, are moving with ease and grace. The world is a witness to what’s going on, and the Pope will bring a spotlight. μπορεί ο αέρας να είναι στην πλάτη σας και το δρόμο ξεσηκωθούν για να σας γνωρίσουμε

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