MOLIVOS... A UNIQUE Destination!
(Molivos, Mithymna) then and now
The traditional settlement
Despite the times the sight of Molyvos still provokes an explosion of sensations. As you take the last turn on the national road from Mytilini to Molyvos, you are overwhelmed by the astounding beauty of this northern edge of the island.
Characterized as a preserved settlement since 1965, Molyvos still remains a “painting of a city”, as some 18th century travelers called it. An excellent sample of folk wisdom and architecture, this is a land made of wood, stone and colors. Having accomplished a natural balance resulting from the effort to combine the villagers daily needs, its beauty takes your breath away.
Amphitheatrically built on its proud rock, crowned with the grey mass of its byzantine fortress, it embraces the Aegean Sea that separates it from Troy and the Asia Minor coasts. Benefiting from its ancient location Molyvos plays with the light. As the day moves to a closure and the light changes everything seems different.
Enclosed courtyards with jasmines and bougainvilleas, mazy streets made of stone and round squares protected by age-long plane trees unavoidably give the visitor a taste of the area’s history. Every single historical period is uniquely imprinted on the settlement’s structure and the small plain around it. Here you spend your days among constant reminders of all historical periods: Antiquity, the Roman times, Byzantium and Gatteluzzi, the post byzantine era and the Ottoman period, the Middle Ages, the Asia Minor and refuge years, the time of the massive internal and external immigration. A living monument of all major historical eras every part of Molyvos is a nostalgic, captivating journey.
In Molyvos time holds still. It is a time of fairytale. It humanizes and transforms you. Molyvos always invites you to live the day and be reborn in its light.
People – Economy
The locals’ activities have been formed through various cultural influences brought about by the area’s relationship with the sea and transportation, the plain and the mountains. Sailors and travelers have spent their lives here from the ancient times to the present day. Farmers, cattlemen and fishermen, merchants and craftsmen all have their place in the local economy. Bringing together the generosity and wisdom of the East and the tolerance of the West, they are the living soul of Molyvos. Simple, sociable, kind, benign, tolerant and hospitable the people of Molyvos continue to bear in their soul and mind the history of both their ancestors and their homeland.
Although nobody has abandoned the old occupations and trades, touristic activities have conquered more and more people since the 1960s. You can still meet the fishermen and get to know their techniques. You can still watch the wood-carver, the builder of stone made houses, the carpenter and the shipwright mending their boats in the harbor.
Spend some time in the mountains watching the harvest of the olives; get to know the shepherds and their flocks; take part in the oil production processes, the making of the yoghurt and the famous types of cheese that the area produces.
Craftsmen of the wood and the stone, weavers, ceramists, wood-cravers, hagiographers and jewelry makers will show you around a world of creativity giving you a taste of the locals’ abilities. Merchants, restaurant owners and coffeehouse keepers will be your personal guide into the world of the local products and traditional dishes.
Hardworking, warm and hospitable the people of Molyvos invite you to learn how to really enjoy life in a small scale economy beyond the vast competitive, full of anxiety world.
Molyvos in history
The name of the settlement is pre-Hellenic. Dating back to the third millennium B.C., its name has been imprinted on coins at times as Mathimna or Mythimni manifesting the great power and fame of the city as early as the 7th century B.C.
Built in groups of small settlements, it bears the name of the mythical settler of Lesvos Makaros and along with Mytilene, Pyrra, Arisvi, Eresos and Antissa it constituted one of the six cities of ancient Lesvos. Standing opposite Troas this was the second passage from the north to the Adramyti Gulf.
At the end of the 8th and early 7th century after the occupation of ancient Arisvaia it holds one third of the land of Lesvos and the most fertile central and northern part of the island. Its dominion is called “Mithymnaeon Chora”.
With colonies at the opposite coast, such as Assos, it is interlinked with Thrace, Ellispontos and Troas. It has a powerful commercial fleet and grows into an important political power with its own coin since 480 B.C.
In terms of religion the locals worship the “Lesvian Triad” (Zeus, Hera and Dionysus), Orpheus, Apollo Smintheas, Artemis Thermia, Poseidon, Athena and Panas in great sanctuaries.
This is where Arion of Molyvos (Mithymna) known as “Kitharodos” gives birth to the Choral song and the dithyramb. During the 4th century B.C the historian Ermeias and the astronomer Matriketas live here. Sometime later Myrsilos, the historian, stands out with his work “Lesviaka” and Theolytos of
Mithymna writes his bacchanal epic and the chronicles of the Lesvians. Finally, this is where Herakleitos of
Mithymna wrote “Laertus” and the “Macedonian history”.
During the Peloponnese War (431 – 404 B.C) Mithymna is the only city which stands beside the democratic Athens – the only one out of all the other cities of Lesvos.
In 406 B.C. it is conquered by the Spartans. In 386 it signs the Antalkideios Peace Treaty and in 377 it joins the second Athenian Alliance. In 333 B.C. it is occupied by the Persians. During the second year of the Great Alexander campaigns it is liberated by the Macedonians who take it under their protection.
The Hellenistic and Roman era
After the death of the Great Alexander, Mithymna is taken over by the Ptolemies. In 167 B.C. it extends to the dominion of Antissa and practically rules half of Lesvos. The “Mithymnaeon Chora” expands now occupying 631 square kilometers. During the Roman occupation
Mithymna still enjoys a regime of relative autonomy. At the beginning of the 2nd century A.D. it converts to Christianism.
During the Byzantine years, as it is situated outside the centers of the Byzantine Empire, it becomes the target of several brigands’ invasions from the Slavs, Saracens, Russians, Venetians and the Genoese. Its economy reduces and becomes mainly rural. In 1355 when Lesvos is dowered to Francisco the first, a Genoese sovereign, husband of Maria Palaiologou,
Mithymna peacefully goes to the Gatelouzos authority and adopts its second name: Molyvos. During the Gatelouzos reign
Mithymna or Molyvos retrieves its power and evolves into a significant commercial naval and military centre of the island.
The Ottoman Occupation
Molyvos is the last castle occupied by the Turks in 1462 after strong resistance. The first centuries of the Ottoman Occupation include confiscations of people’s fortunes, hard taxation imposing and cruelty on behalf of the conquerors. This eventually leads to the shift of the chair of the Metropolis of
Mithymna to the neighboring Kalloni where it still remains to this day. A great part of the population also chooses to go over to the opposite coast in search of a better life.
After the Kucuk-Kainartzi treaty (1774) and the Hatti Sherif (1839) and Hatti Humayun (1856) decrees, the economy gradually goes back to the hands of the locals who are now in charge of the shipping and transit commerce with the minor Asia coasts and the Balkan countries and even Russia.
Olive oil, soap, wine, fish and salted fish, business activities in Minor Asia, all accumulate a great deal of wealth and power in the hands of the people of Molyvos imprinted on the settlement’s mansions, schools and educational institutes. Male and female schools are established, “The Muse Fraternity” with its library, the local Club, the athletic Club “Arion” etc.
The Minor Asia catastrophe radically changes the place of Lesvos on the map and unavoidably Molyvos situation as well. From transit commercial centers they become borderline peripheries of the Greek state. Despite the increase of the population brought about by the settlement of the Greek refugees, the local economy literally shrinks reaching its most dramatic point during the German Occupation years and the Civil war that followed.
As a result of the economic decay a great immigration wave to Athens, Australia, America, Germany and Canada hits the area. At the beginning of the 1960s the population has come down to 1700 from 4000 people and keeps reducing. Towards the end of the 1950s, however, the foundations of the touristic development are being established leading to a further economic flourish finally creating its contemporary social, economic and population stability.
Molyvos and Tourism
Social tourism and Michalakis Goutos
It was during the 1950s and 1960s that Molyvos became an experimental centre for the implementation of a new model for development planning. This model was to place emphasis on qualitative characteristics such as maintaining and saving its architectural, environmental and cultural identity combined with mild tourist growth and quality services. The idea of “social tourism” was based on the vision of Mytilene’s own late sociologist Michalakis Goutos, was adopted by the two historic mayors of the town, Andreas Kyriakou and Kostas Doukas, and was heavily supported by the local society. For three decades, until the domination of mass tourism during the mid 1980s, Molyvos was an example of quality tourist development which was based on respect of built and natural environment, history, culture, human emotion and generous hospitality.
This period saw the establishment of new cultural institutions: The municipal library became public with an appointed librarian and a proper operational structure. The School of Fine Arts set up a regional branch and the “Stegi Eftalioti” in the Komninakis Krallis mansion. In addition, schools for local trades, handcrafted arts and Minor Asia embroidery showed considerable activity. Later, during the 1980s, more institutions were created such as the municipal gallery of Mythimna, a small archaeological museum, a youth centre with its own traditional dances group plus a school for stonemasonry with the co-operation of the National Job Centre (OAED).
From the 1960s onwards, certain grounds in the castle of Molyvos were appropriately used to host the Vienna symphonic orchestra, the Rallou Manou Dance Theatre, the traditional dance troupe of Dora Stratou, the orchestra of Mikis Theodorakis and countless other concerts and plays. Molyvos became the favourite place of painters, intellectuals and cinephiles. This artistic life was also demonstrated in infamous revelries that used to take place in the suspended coffee shops (kafeneia) of Molyvos’ traditional market and Molyvos harbour.
Personalities of international caliber in the fields of literature, art, culture and journalism chose Molyvos as their holiday destination and some bought their summer retreats here: Yiagos Pesmatzoglou, Eleni Vlachou, Maria Rezan, Spiros Vasileiou, Pat Tomlinson, Sabilay Midi, Ingmar Bergmann, Ingrid Bergman, Pierre Dadinos, Rozalia Chladek, Titos Patrikios, Gerasimos Notaras, Kokoska, Nestor Matsas, Lili Zografou, Peter Brook and many others. Many films and TV series were filmed locally and it was during this time that people like the writer Ilias Venezis, the poet Titos Patrikios and songwriter Lefteris Papadopoulos acquired their houses in Molyvos.
Hospitality and promotion
“Delfinia” was the first hotel that was built in the early 1960s by the “Company of Social Development”. Architects such as Sfaelos, Milonas, Doxiadis, Pikionis, Gianoulellis served as architecture and artistic consultants during the construction of the hotel. Michalakis Goutos and his wife Argini Goutos placed all their business connections, personal affiliations and political powers in Greece and abroad in the service of developing Molyvos. An abundance of international publications in the American, European and Canadian press promoted Molyvos as a place of unique beauty and human grandeur. A place where the visitor enjoyed the generosity and the kindness of its people and the locals rented rooms in their own houses providing homelike hospitality.
In the following years, from the mid 1980s until today, Molyvos focused its main economic activity in the tourism industry, becoming a well known European and global destination. Today there are many luxurious hotels, pensions, studios and small apartments, restaurants and cafes, bars and clubs that host and serve thousands of visitors every year.
In an ever changing tourism market, the creation of “Molyvos Tourism Association” traces back Molyvos’ development to the years of Michalakis Goutos’ “social tourism” and aims in an alternative tourist model based on sustainable growth and the exploit of its environmental and cultural advantages that remain untouched. Despite the mass character of tourism today, Molyvos is still a place of human warmth and hospitality. The criteria, the means and the founding structure of its tourist development are still the same. Molyvos is a place that stood the test of time and a unique destination, a place of “good tourist upbringing”.
Where to stay…
Choose from a luxury hotel to a private villa and from low budget rooms to mansions, traditional houses, studios, apartments and why not… a beautiful camping site! A room with a view, a room by the beach, a peaceful room, a room under the stars…
For further information contact a travel agency in our BUSINESS Guide (left)