The Wild West
In the far west of Lesvos there is yet another completely different landscape.
Not as mountainous as the north or south - west of the hill town of Antissa the highest point is a mere 512m -
the volcanic landscape is almost treeless, in contrast to the forests elsewhere.
The road to Sigri follows the highest ground until its final steep descent to the sea.
If you are driving the constantly changing views make it difficult to concentrate on the winding road;
this is one occasion when it is worth considering one of the regular guided coach excursions from Molivos and Petra,
which visit the Petrified Forest, Sigri, and Skala Eressou, and may also, on the way,
call at the Monastery of Leimonos near Kalloni.
The Petrified Forest
It is almost compulsory to visit the petrified forest at least once
The park lies in a great natural amphitheatre, dropping away to a river valley and the sea a few kilometres away.
Nearby, slightly incongruously, the ridge is dominated by the turbines of Lesvos's largest wind farm.
Here are the fossilised remains of the surviving trees of a dense forest, petrified as the result of
a massive volcanic explosion up to (depending on which account you believe) twenty million years ago.
If you are a palaeontologist you will be happy to spend all day here,
and will probably want to go on to the beautifully designed and laid out
Natural History Museum in Sigri, which is devoted to the story of the forest.
Everyone else will probably be content to follow the well marked trail round the specimens
at the head of the valley, and then admire the view with a drink from the café.
Sigri, 'where the road ends', (the title of an guide in English, available locally,
by regular visitor Roy Lawrance), is the westernmost village in Lesvos.
Situated in a bay sheltered by the offshore island of Nisiopi,
which forms a natural anchorage, it grew up as an Ottoman garrison town
after the original Greek inhabitants fled the invaders in 1452.
The large church of Agios Triada started life as a mosque, built late in
the Ottoman period in 1870 and converted after the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
The fortress on the headland is also Ottoman. Though it appears much older, it was built in 1757,
presumably the last in a series of forts replacing the Venetian castle razed in 1452.
Eresos' main claim to fame is as the birthplace of the ancient poetess Sappho, and Skala Eresou,
the site of the original town before the inhabitants retreated inland for shelter from sea-borne marauders
in medieval times, is now a place of pilgrimage for lesbian women worldwide,
to the great scandal and profit of the local population.
In fact Sappho's sexuality is in doubt: the original 'slander' was started by Athenians scandalised
by her organising a school for girls - unlike most of the Greek states of the time, Lesvos educated girls
as well as boys - and her involvement in politics: not, according to most ancient (and not so ancient) Greeks,
how decent women should behave.
Then a mere six hundred years later the story was immortalised by the Roman poet Ovid.
However she was married. And legend on the Ionian island of Lefkada has her
throwing herself off a high sea-cliff there, committing suicide for love of a man.
For most modern visitors, Skala's chief attractions
is the mile and a quarter of long sandy beach,
and the laid-back beach front tavernas
in the village itself.
Away from the beach are the remains of the
Byzantine basilica of Agios Andreas,
with a recently uncovered mosaic floor,
and the surviving twin watch-towers
of the Genoese castle on the nearby hill.
See 'On Foot - Circular Walks on Lesvos' for a walk taking in the beach, the village, and its hinterland.