The first celebrates the liberation of Lemnos from Turkish occupation on October 8th, 1912. Each year the whole island has a holiday on this day and after the parents have watched the parade proudly from the sidelines, and listened to the speeches, the families decamp to a local taverna for lunch.
The platform is not removed because shortly after, on the 28th of October, bells ring out again and there’s another march along the seafront, this time in memory of the day in 1940 when the then Prime Minister said Ochi (No) to the Italian generals, and Greece entered the second world war.
There are not many tourists here to observe these memorials. In fact I have come to think that there are three kinds of Australian-Greek returnees, those who come in July-August, those who come June and September, and those who come early and are still here in October and see more of the local activities.
The Greek-Australians that come from mid July to August are Greeks but tourist-Greeks. They are looking for sunshine, warm beaches and friendly tavernas. They don’t mind the crush on the beaches; that you can hardly reach the waters for people playing beach tennis and lying on lounges with coffee and cigarettes to hand. They don’t mind the hoards in the streets; that you can’t find parking places, or that driving on the roads means taking your life in your hands. In fact they love all the heat and drama.
Those who come in June or September are the Greeks who travel. They may often go abroad and though they return to Greece they choose to see the country when it is less packed. They want to walk, to go to museums, to take photographs of interesting sights. They get some very interesting photos, but they still have not captured the whole, the Greece of the real locals and Greece in winter.
Then there are those, like ourselves, who are returnees who see the country from spring to autumn. These are more nearly repatriated Greeks, as they have put down roots in Greece. Some may even stay longer than six months, but remain ‘inbetweeners’, who would hate never to return as much as they would hate to go a whole year without seeing their families on the other side of the world.
We belong to this last group, we are long-stay resident, but we still have not been here for a winter. We are always being asked by the locals if we will ever stay for the whole year, and we say yes. And we mean it we would very much like to see a whole year through on our island. This year, however, we will again be leaving at the end of autumn, sad to leave but looking forward to seeing again the family in Australia.
Meanwhile I want to describe to you why autumn is such a unique time to be in Lemnos, not just because of the special celebrations but because of the beauty of this season on our Aegean island.
An Empty Beach
The heat has gone
And autumn’s here;
And beaches clear.
One line of ‘brellas
Along the shore,
And lonesome lounges -
Tourists no more.
Two heads bob
Out in the sea -
Too cold to swim
For those like me.
The sun is pale
And mists hang low,
The sea is grey
And surf’s like snow.
The year’s not spent
But summer’s gone,
The few that swim
Will leave ‘ere long.
And lounges and ‘brellas
Will be packed away
‘Till summer next
When tourists stay.
October is beautiful in Lemnos. The weather is perfect. Perfect for gardening, walking and watching sunsets. Though this year it still has not really rained, after four months of dry! We’ve only had one day of steady rain, a week ago, plus one or two cloudy days. We’ve had sea mists though, which brought the humidity up, but mostly it’s been dry and warm. And cool enough at night to just need a light done.
Mount Athos on the Horizon
Much of the year you cannot see Mount Athos, but when the winds come from the west as they often do in October it shows up on the horizon.
Out and about the roads are quiet, with much less need for aggressive waving of arms! There is plenty of room to park your car in the town, and when you wander down the Agora the shopkeepers are relaxed; sitting outside in the autumn sunshine with their cups of coffee, calling out to passers-by they recognise.
Then there are the beaches; empty of lounges, with wide stretches of sand to be seen. There will probably be one or two going for a swim, not minding the slightly cooler seas (after all, even if it is cooler for the Med. it is much warmer than the Atlantic). And out in the bay in the morning there are youth in canoes, and in the evening the fishermen will go out, drifting towards the horizon and the sunset.
Trees drop yellow and green
Beside the road,
Sweet scent of old figs hangs low,
The bald hills soften and shift,
Or disappear completely as sea mists
Roll over the island, and only
The sun sets over a sharp line
Where a glittering path ends;
But on either side the mystery deepens