Trunk call to the Miocene age

Blast from the past propels village into the future

By Michel Muller

THE forest under the road has been hidden for 20 million years. Volcanic lava and ash engulfed and smothered it in massive waves of mud and pyroclastic matter that moved faster than the speed of sound.

It knocked out the air around the trees and leaves of a sub-tropical woodland and, with regular flows of torrential rain water, turned them into colourful stone, stone that tells a story of climate, fires and insects; stone that still identifies the trees and 46 plant species.

Many of these relics are preserved and admired in the Lesvos Petrified Forest, a national monument and protected area around Antissa, Sigri and Eressos, villages on Greece’s third largest island, itself a geopark.

Now more of these prehistoric relics – including fossils of the forest floor — are being revealed during excavations for a road to Sigri, a hamlet that has its eye on developing a bigger harbour in the Aegean Sea.

Geologist Elias Valiakos heads the department of research and study at the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest in Sigri. He says the E40-million roadworks budget is the first to provide for the preservation of fossils in a capital project.

“More than 200 big trunks and 2000 smaller pieces have been coded (numbered) since last year.

“We try to save and protect each and every one,” he says at the museum.

The deluge is overwhelming.

“It’s messy. There’s a huge amount of material here. We use each and every space we have.”

There are experts at the roadside who recognise these solid old remnants of the Miocene age before the conservators isolate and stabilise the items. That means they cover them in a netted gauze and overlay it with white plaster of Paris, until it is time to move them.

They work in extreme weather – the cold, wind, rain and temperatures of up to 40 deg C — but today “this is luxury for them”, says Valiakos.

The conservators are busy brushing and joining in relative shelter outdoors at the museum and in the temporary exhibition hall that’s become a storage/workroom.

The seven assistants are led by the chief conservator, Dimitrious Koutlis.

He supervises their job from when they first “very gently” remove the plaster of Paris until they start the job of cleaning and repairing the fossils of various sizes.

“They’re expert professional senior conservators,” says Valiakos.

“They didn’t have any experience before the establishment of the museum (in 1994).

“The methodology was developed by us, through experimentation and collaboration.”

Some of the new material is displayed on plinths outside the museum and also inside, in custom-made pine boxes that are also used “for storage and transportation”.

Other trunks are still embedded in the roadside rock, stark in their white cloaks with red numbers noted on them.

All of them will add to the magnificent display of petrified trees, or parts of them, that lie or stand in the petrified forest parks, in situ, exactly where they towered 20-million years ago.

Trails have been laid out to their positions, and they attract visitors throughout the year.

You can see also shards and logs, splinters and huge trunks glimmering in and out of the Aegean Sea – once a solid land mass before the earth’s crusts collided and shifted dramatically.

The brilliantly coloured trees or stumps recline or stand on the land or in the water that laps the Nissiopi islet, a short boat ride form Sigri.

Emilia Gatsiou works for the managing authority of the structural funds for the North Aegean and manages the money for the EU public projects. The development of Nissiopi, where rugged paths and other infrastructure are being installed, is another capital project, a joint effort of the European Union and the Greek government.

She juggles the E2.4-million Nissiopi development budget to accommodate unexpected finds.

“Every day there are new discoveries here,” says Valiakos. “There is a high level of unexpected things” on Nissiopi island.

He points to a new path that has had to be rerouted to veer away from a big tree trunk.

“These workers are preparing trails of 4.5km,” says Gatsiou.

“They’re quite natural and demarcated by island stone. For the steps to the seashore, the workmen use wood, not cement.”

At the spectacular Fossil Beach, there is a log so big you can dive into it.

On the beach’s shore, the sea has eroded the soil to expose sparkling fossils, inviting in their lustre.

Some are small enough to pick up and put into your pocket.

“Oh no,” says Valiakos. “They’ve all been mapped and recorded with a GPS to account for removals and losses, and there will be vigilant guides with the walkers when the island opens next summer for visitors.”

Sigri has benefited from this remarkable geotourism.

“There are more beds available now for visitors – 300 — and the population of the village has grown.”

Viliakos says it is the only village on this western side of Lesvos that is not shrinking in size.

There are many spin-offs to having a coherent tourism product, including the opportunity for the island’s women’s co-operatives to sell their homemade indigenous wares from the museum’s cafeteria.

“Yes, the whole enterprise is a good example of Blue Economy best practice,” says Gatsiou.

“We’re looking forward to getting the glass-bottomed boat for the Nissiopi marine reserve trip too.”

The museum is also responsible for the travelling exhibition Aegean: Story of an Archipelago.

It recently closed in Athens and is now open for viewing in Crete.


The Traveller by Afrodykie

Y is for … Yappity yap
YOU’VE been in Eressos for nearly 16 weeks. It’s time for an appraisal.
Okaaaaay. Scratches head. Forehead wrinkles.
Four months is a third of a year in a remote Greek village that’s about 4km from its seaside equivalent, Skala Eressos, and 90km from the island’s capital and main port Mytiline — a hop skip and jump across the Mytiline Straight from Turkey.
The villages are in the 290.947sq/km municipal unit of Eressos-Antissa (pop 5 530: 2001 census). It’s the largest on the island.
Most people in this area live in and around Eressos/Skala (pop 1 097; in 1991: 1 247).
Next are Antissa (900), Mesotopos (853), Vatousa (529), Chidira (488) and Sigri (400).
There are other, smaller villages in the unit, among them Chidira and Pterounda.
You haven’t started exploring, but it is your mission and intention to do so, soon.
For there are many interesting elements here in the backwaters: a rich history dating back to antiquity, the petrified forest formed millions of years ago, and the traditions and culture celebrated in a spectrum of festivals. They go back a bit too!
Then there’s the architecture, archaeology, birds, butterflies, plants and the secluded beaches (dot dot dot)
There’s also winemaking – organic wine, mind you – and women’s co-operatives that make delicious food, so you are told.
Each village has its unique history and character, and of course, its plateia, or village square.
That’s where everything and nothing happens.
You’re so taken by the ethos of the plateia that you’re thinking of writing a soap opera, Plateia, with the tagline Drama 24/7.
For it is in the plateia that scores are settled, lovers are met and scandal is stirred by mean and vacuous gossip mongers, screw-eyed in their cant; it’s where passions spill into small coffee cups; where the cobblestones and plane trees hear and see it all.
It’s also good for business. Want something? Need something? Ask in the plateia.
Yes, you may have to wait a day or two, maybe even a week or a month and more but whatever it is always turns up, sooner or later.
Entertainment roots itself there too – festivals, festivities, music concerts, puppets shows, you name it.
The plateia is the essence of village life, the salt and pepper of small town living, and the village square of Eressos is a haven of happening.
Yes, it does look the same every single day; the same people sit in the same tavernas or cafes, the same lips move up and down in the faces of the blabbermouths, and the same vendors drive into the square shout through the loudspeakers on the roofs of their vans.
You even get to know the dogs.
But it is new every day too. Time moves, takes you forward.
Time teaches.
And boy, have you learnt some lessons in Eressos.
It’s been a fabulous learning curve. There’s joy in your heart, confidence. There’s peace.
You’re falling in love with this village, its characters, and its complex personality.
It’s honed you, beautifully.
You could not make up what happens here, what you see. It inspires you.
A font of stories seeps from its stones. The landscape sings to you. Sweet tunes, the colours on the mountains pink sublime dusky pink changes all the time.
The olive trees stand out green-green now against the brown scrubby shrubby hills.
Their time is coming.
Autumn nudges winter’s harvest ripening.
Goodbye? Oh no jolly-o.
You’re in the starting blocks!

The Traveller by Afrodykie

X is for … XXXX
THERE’S nothing like a kiss to get the juices flowing.
Ah, that second when lips lock and tongues tour.
How you long for it.
That meeting of mouths … the breath of another melting into yours, what bliss it is.
Your hearts beat as one, tralala. They pound into each other, your breasts squash flat against her chest.
It’s the start of surrender, this kiss, it shows mutual attraction, it’s the kick-off to a climax.
It confirms a fascination.
Of course, it is also the beginning of the end, for all relationships, love affairs, liaisons, they all end in grief – if there is some emotion in the mix.
It’s either a break-up or death. Either way, it’s going to end.
This means a kiss usually heralds heartache — usually but not always.
That thought though is not on your mind, not when you latch onto her lips, as if they were the juiciest plum on the planet.
Nibble nosh suck tease.
Your tongue thinks it’s on a Contiki Expedition it explores so much, so quickly.
Oh, the smell of her, that pulse throbbing in her neck.
Her sighs, the sounds you love, your ears are full of them. You hear nothing else.
Is there a world out there?
Your mouth is on her neck. She throws back her head, murmuring.
You glance at her face. Thank God, her eyes are closed.
You get serious and fumble with the buttons on her blouse.
Buttons breast, buttons breast.
She leans forward and takes your head in her hands.
Kiss me again, she says. Kiss me.
Oh, how you dive into the quiet words a river on her lips.
A breath of butterflies it floats between you.
Your bodies slam together, the dance of desire
The murmurs, her murmurs, turn into quickstep panting.
Your bodies swim in sweat.
You’ve ripped off each other’s clothes, your nakedness has met.
And yet your lips linger, lust. They work together, music in concert with hers.
This moment, this joyous jive, it is forever. There’s no day outside no night no anything.
At last, the nipple, your hands on a mission to the mound.
Hers, oh where are hers?
They’re in a circle round your neck, your back your everything.
They touch you.
Her hair splayed behind her, her face so tender, it’s so close to yours so touchable so reachable.
Stroke tickle hug.
She can’t let you go. She won’t, she smiles eyes big beads brown you drown in them.
And still you kiss, and kiss again.
It’s moist and warm and intimate.
It’s moist and warm and very intimate.
But you’re not ready. No, not yet.

The Traveller by Afrodykie

W is for … WTF
SWEET words sour in the glare of truth. They shrivel and shrink blink and say goodbye.
You’ve learnt some things on your life’s journey, and boundaries are one of them.
You take responsibility for your well-being, and excise the rot, the putrid fetid stink that rattles nearly ruins your temperate world. You wring its pock-marked neck and dump it.
You don’t look back.
For three months you are the efficient and diligent architect of a personal hell, you construct your misery with fortitude.
Yes, you build this house of pain carefully, brick by brick. It’s an edifice a monument to lost emotion.
Sooner or later she will trust me. Sooner or later we’ll fuck. Sooner or later she won’t say nasty things to me. Sooner or later she’ll sink into my arms. Sooner or later, please, sooner or later she’ll be sweet.
You step deeper and deeper into the mire, needy, scared, longing gnaws you.
She throws out morsels, measly scraps to a pandering dog.
You gobble them, hungry for her, you’re starving for affection.
Your heart gapes, gasping. See me, please. Love me.
You crumple at the feet of chaos, pathetic you lie prostrate, simpering at the altar of cruel manipulation (it was crass, unflinching). Worse, you speak in a trembling baby voice, and beg!
Don’t go. Wait. I’ll cook. Etc.
Oh, the torment. Oh, the victim, forever pleading, forever waiting, wondering, wanting.
She accuses you of vile behaviour, and trumpets it in town.
Sies! You screw up your face like a concertina. You’re ready to burst into a litany of squeaky sorrow.
My God, is this you.
You parry the shouting, the insults, the lies, the threats.
You grab the straws of dear docile moments.
And then whoosh, she explodes. Again. And again.
You draw the coat of denial tightly around you.
Person upon person tells you, beware. Get out of there.
Friends shake their heads. They look at you with puzzlement pity in their eyes.
Your guts it sprawls rancid in a bloody pool of sick.
You nearly drown, flailing desperate to please, to be loved, to belong.
She’s not worth it, a friend says. She doesn’t deserve you, says another.
Do you know what she says about you?
Hope smiles one evening when you talk intimately, sincerely.
We’re fascinated by each other, we say. Warmth dances in our eyes.
And then wack, she gives you the silent treatment.
It is the coup de grace.
Overnight, your heart steels.
It purges the pull to be with her, this brittle shell, this duplicitous and dangerous wretch.
No more!
Your scattered bits meld. You see you feel the shape of you.
At last, you are the captain of the ship, the SS Who I Am.
You hoist the sails of succour. You quickly dislodge the anchor the mainstay of woe.
You must, you must sail the sea of tranquillity, the bow speeding to the sunrise.
You must, you must leave the dark of cultish platitudes, their fire fanned by broken wings.
Who cares if her hurting hides a gentle thoughtful beauty?
There’s no room for soul pirates not on this boat!

The Traveller by Afrodykie

V is for … Va-Va-Voom

IT was going to be for Vanilla, but everybody knows what vanilla sex is …

It’s the standard rumpy pumpy — no nips, slap-spanking or salacious sucking — and certainly no dressing up to give a dressing down.

Vanilla is missionary all the way (yawn) and a quick shower afterwards.


There’ll never be a silk scarf in sight, never mind a fishnet stocking.

Nor suspenders in any shape or form! My word, no!

Aren’t they for whores? And dear, you and me, nibbling ear lobes is as far as we go, that’s deviation.

Pass the butter, please.

What? Your name’s Marjee? Ha ha. Short for margarine, coz you spread so easily?

Darling, no … that’s crude. Just now you’ll be hauling out the high heels, perhaps a mask or two.

Maybe you’ll tie me to the bed post and fetch the feather duster.

God forbid you tickle me with that.

I know you. You’ll tease me tease.

Yes, dear, that’s called erotic sexual denial.


I’ll make you want it, want me, madly.


Top? Bottom. Sub. Dom? What’s that?

No, no, no lovie, it’s got nothing to do with my legs in the air and your backside pumping like a crazy piston.

It’s all about dominant-submissive, and it may be sexual or non-sexual.

I see. You in control, you tell me what to do.

Yes. Pass the marmalade, now. Tora!


The point is: one of the pair submits, that’s a dom-sub relationship, and if there’s pain or humiliation then it starts melting into sado-masochism.

But there are no strings attached, sweetie, not like in bondage and discipline but let’s face it, BDSM, the whole bang shoot, it demands that one partner surrenders. It takes trust, and an imagination.


Nervously curls forefinger around cigarette and looks at partner quizzically.

Draws deeply, and blows smoke rings.

You mean like butch and femme?

No, love, really, that’s so 70s.

We’re stuck in a bit of a time-warp here, perpetuating these heterosexist roles. Don’t you think?

Just now you’ll want to get married!

Well, it’s worked so far … this hetero what did you say?

Maybe for you, but I’m getting bored, in bed too. Bed death. Ha ha. There’s nothing worse than this type of restraint … the proclivity to dwell on the familiar. I mean, when last was intimacy thrilling?

It tell you what, we get a movie or something, and some toys, and fantasise a bit. And you let go of that manly stuff, and just be sexual? Let’s titillate each other. Let’s go where we haven’t been.

Runs toes up partner’s leg underneath the breakfast table.

Drops shoulder of her blouse to reveal elegant clavicle and a throbbing pulse in her neck.

I want to give the orders.

Cocks head and blows kiss.

Naaah, love, c’mon … You’re being silly now. It’s just one of your silly ideas.

Smiles, and opens legs to steady herself. Partner leaves seat.

You going to do the dishes, love?

No baby, I’m going to do you. Now!


The Traveller by Afrodykie

U is for … Unusual

EVERYTHING you are not used to is unusual.

It may be usual for someone else though, so technically, nothing is unusual.

It’s only your experience that makes something usual or unusual; your seeing, and being.

But this isn’t a philosophy lesson.

And you don’t want to think too much on a Wednesday morning in Eressos, Greece.

You prefer to imagine the summer’s silver growth on the olive trees, sleek leaves on thin branches, they bend and bob whip the sky. They bow to kiss – and miss — the stony earth.

The olives cling to them, they hold on to get fatter.

The figs too, they are swelling, bubbles of green fruit burgeoning; and your pear tree, the pears are robust in their ripening. They’re starting to blush so keen are they for a ravenous devouring; their curves voluptuous.

Oh that pear tree. That’s where you should’ve met her lips with yours.

The air bristled with potential and your heart raced.

But you had lead in your shoes, and courage sank into your soles.

She looked the other way, and drew her dogs about her.

Oh, how the crows cawed, raucous in their mocking, the doves dipped dangerous from the blue.

They laughed — what a fool are you hoo hoo.

The gravel’s stones crunched and footsteps kicked up dust, cloudy grit spiralled.

It stuck to your thick ankles, to your socks smothering your sweaty feet.

She sighed.

The sheep looked at you sideways.

They carried on chewing.

What did they know about desire, the future’s pyre burning bright, scalding.

What could they say about Attraction, that unruly tyke, the teasing scamp who makes a rogue of lust?

The rascal taunts you terrible. The night, the day – ardour coats your skin, your everything.

You’ve learnt a lot in these three months, a lot about yourself.

It’s not been easy, this learning, alone on a Greek island.

These lessons, a brutal and unyielding teacher, they’ve forced you.

They’ve called you to respond, no blanket of excuses could shield their chilling rout.

They’ve left you bare in the startling glare of clarity.

A focus so intense it lights a path. It dazzles you draws you.

It holds you close.

Your heart skips, joyous.

Pure essence illuminates your nakedness as you dance to the song of a dream.