Friday, 29 November 2013

Myrina Town: past and present

Myrina Town: past and present

The little I knew about the house before arriving was that it lay on the outskirts of the island’s principal town of Myrina, close to one of the town’s main swimming beaches. In the past this location had given all of Takis’ extended Greek family wonderful summer holidays. Takis’ mother and her siblings had known the town as Castro, named after the Venetian castle at its center. Still today it is sometimes called that by its old inhabitants.

When we first arrived it was late evening but the next day – a bright crisp January morning – I looked out of our hotel window and saw the old castle glowing in the early morning light and all around it the red-tiled roofs of Myrina. I’m not sure when or why there was a name change, but now the town is known as Myrina after the wife of an ancient prince who arrived on the island in the Bronze Age from the Royal Minoan Court in Crete. King Thoa and Queen Myrina, as they are now known, came with their daughter Hypsipyle and a number of courtiers, and with their coming a town was built on the western side of the island.

It was only when we went to the house, and carefully ascended the stairs to the top floor that I saw that the house we were thinking of buying overlooked the town, the old Venetian fort and the blue waters of the Aegean beyond. Looking out and seeing how the house was positioned, on the outskirts of the town, I began to wonder about the history of this site. After all, the island had a very long history. And I immediately wanted to know more.

The house is now situated on the outskirts of Myrina but we knew that in previous generations it lay in a separate village. I’d been told that when Takis’ cousins arrived with their families they’d walk through fields to get to the sea. On that first drive to the house Takis had been surprised to see that nowadays there are new homes climbing the hills surrounding the town. Lemnos may not have many tourists, and Myrina may still be a quaint Greek town, but like everywhere in the world things are changing here also.


Holding Hills:

Myrina’s embracing arms encircle
Traditional homes in the valley below,
Or cup houses with red tiles.
Like locals we live in Myrina.

Minuscule Passages:

Cars and prams and scooters go rattling
O’er cobbled lanes ‘tween imperious stone houses
Along patched and white edged roads.
Like locals we walk through Myrina.

Jumble of Stores:

Shop-keepers flaunt their post-cards and trinkets
Down in the Agora ‘neath leaning striped awnings,
With towels and shoes and toys.
Like locals we shop in Myrina.

Local Inhabitants:

Lemian men walk with rolling gait,
Their women in black shop for their daily needs
Young girls stroll in sparkling tights
Like locals we watch the folk of Myrina.


English and German and Dutch and Greeks
Sun-redden or browned on the sand they lie
Smoking and sipping a frappe.
Like locals we tolerate tourists in Myrina.

Historic Island:

Near an old castle in Myrina we live
In one of those tall imperious stone houses
Built by a trader from Egypt.
Like locals we’ve a past in Myrina

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