Located on the North of Lesvos, Petra (as with every other village on the island) has it's own style and a charming individuality.
the Town of Stone
The area of Petra has been inhabited since ancient times, as can be seen from the tombs revealed on the Keramidaria site. According to legend, Achilles anchored here in the immense bay on his way to the Trojan War. Put in simple terms, this is a village by the sea, built on a flat plain around a tall rock.... and so much more.
Although smaller than Molyvos, just 4km further North along the coastal road which connects them, Petra is similar in may ways with small streets of cobbled stone and hidden treasures. Shopping is good with many small galleries and gift shops as well as a local Ouzo distillery and bars and restaurants. For the young at heart there are also a few nightclubs.
There is also a workshop which makes jewelry and small objects from olive wood as well as the 17th Century house of the Vareltzidaina family which is currently being renovated.
The house has engraved wooden balconies and the interior (closed to us at the moment but due to re-open in 2002) holds impressive murals and carvings.
THE KOUROUMICHALI'S OUZO DISTILLERY
Just 20m from the home of the Vareltzidaina family, you will find a rather unobvious building which houses the Kouroumichali's ouzo Distillery. This small distillery has been owned and run by the family since 1884. The founder, Basil Kouroumichalis, in his early days of his life, traveled to Istanbul where he learned the secrets of Ouzo and Cognac making, working with famous teachers of this art. He returned to Petra, in 1884, where he founded the Kouroumichali's Distilleries.
The exterior of the Kouroumichali's Distillery and the equipment inside
These traditions of Ouzo making have been carried to our days, initially by his son, Pantelis who died in 1989, and since then, by his granddaughter, Ourania Kouroumichalis who runs the business now with great success. You are more than welcome to visit this tiny example of distilling the most famous aperitif in Greece and of course you can buy some to take home.
THE CHURCH OF THE SWEET KISSES
'Petra' when translated means simply 'stone' and perhaps one of the reasons that this particular village is blessed with the name is because of the huge spire of rock which lifts from it's centre and reaches skyward.
Atop this volcanic rupture is the church of the sweet kisses so called because a fisherman whilst fishing lost his sacred icon of the Virgin Mary which he carried with him at all times. While fishing out from the bay he saw a glint of 'sweet green light' shining from the top of the rock and was drawn to follow the light. When he eventually reached the top, he found his beloved icon and hence was moved to build the Church of the Sweet Kisses, one of the most famous churches on the island today.
The church was built in 1747 and restored in 1840. There are 114 stone steps up to the entrance of the church of the sweet kisses. Although not particularly aesthetically pleasing to the eye from the bottom of the rock, upon arriving at the top you are immediately treated to spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding village, countryside and of course the Aegean Ocean.
The enormity of the stone pinnacle rising from the centre of the village
On first impressions the church appears to be a small monastery. Reaching the first upper terrace, you find yourself entering a courtyard of walled stone with the original church structure in the centre. The outer walkways offer a taste of the architecture used in the building and small barred windows show long forgotten fortification of this ideal lookout point.
Within the church lies the silver icon of the Virgin Mary which is laden with individual prayer requests from the families and friends of those with ill health and physical afflictions. These small representations of parts of the body are manufactured from pressed metal and are purchased from icon shops throughout the island. The affected limb or part of the body is then placed on an icon considered to be of great importance and prayers are said for the afflicted in the hope that they will heal.
August 15th is the festival of the Panagia (Virgin Mary) and a great holiday for the village of Petra. The cobbled streets are lined with stalls, Greek flags and great atmosphere.
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