This week I’ve been lounging around a pool in Lesbos. Stop laughing. I spent the best part of 4 years telling everyone I was holidaying on ‘a Greek island, I forget which one’ and quickly changing the subject. Last time we came I managed to get away with it until a friend blew me up in front of work colleagues and shouted ‘it’s LESBOS! And she’s getting picked up in a taxi by Sappho Travel hahahahaha!’
I mentioned this to a German girl I met here after she tried to persuade me to buy a ‘I heart Lesvos’ baseball cap for only 4 Euros. She asked if I was ashamed of my sexuality. I said no but I’m ashamed of being such a big fucking walking cliché and having my friends rip the piss out of me forever. If you can get past the social stigma though I highly recommend a trip to Lesvos, more specifically the tiny, western part of the island called Skala Eressos which is pretty much the closest you’ll get to a lesbian utopia these days.
My friend Alex remarked, ‘isn’t it dead funny that it’s called Lesbos and it’s full of lesbians. Did they all just go because they liked the name?’
If you didn’t already know, Lesbos is the birthplace of Greek poet Sappho. She spent most of her adult life in Mytilene where she ran an academy for unmarried girls, hung around with a big gang of women and wrote stuff like:
Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight,
You, my rose, with your Lydian lyre.
There hovers forever around you delight:
A beauty desired.
So for many years, dykes from all over the world have visited Lesbos to pay homage to the original Sapphic sister. And to get pissed in the companies of hundreds of other lezzies.
Really though, I hate going to a place more than once on holiday. There are so many countries I want to see that it seems like a waste of time. Skala is different though and people see it as a home from home; a lovely little corner of the world where being gay is not just accepted but is the norm. The whole village is tiny and you can literally walk from one end to the other in less than 15 mins but it still boasts 5 lesbian bars (that’s lesbian owned; pretty much all the bars and restaurants are frequented by gay women) and nowhere else will you see old Greek men, huge gangs of children, teenagers on mopeds and gay women side by side and getting by harmoniously. There’s no homophobia and noone bats an eyelid at the sight of two women holding hands or kissing.
If you’re still not convinced, here are my top ten reasons to visit Eressos:
1. The sea. Gorgeous beaches, crystal clear water.
2. The scenery. If you like walking there’s plenty of hills to climb around Skala, if you can bear the heat.
3. The Greek cats. Every women we met seemed to carry around dogs with them (think Paris Hilton in Birkenstocks). Turns out there’s an animal sanctuary run by some of the local women who re-home all the strays and organise fundraising events to help them. There are hundreds of cute stray cats on the island who hang round the restaurants on the beach looking to share your food. This one didn’t move from that planter box all holiday.
5. The sunsets. Doesn’t get more beautiful than this.
6. The rock. Skala Women’s Rock Group meet every morning at 10am in Zorba the Buddha bar to swim to the rock and back. I’ve yet to pluck up the courage to swim out there myself (even though they are the loveliest, friendliest bunch of women and take a canoe with them lest you panic and can’t make it all the way) but it’s fun to go and watch and have breakfast with them all the same. You can even jump off the top if you’re a bit nuts and have a death wish. At the end of the week they have an awards ceremony and present everyone who swam with them with a certificate.
7. Gyros. £2.50 for chicken in pitta with tzatziki that are just amazing.
8. The people. It sounds schmaltzy but Skala really is the friendliest village in the world and the only place I would consider holidaying to on my own. If you go to one of the bars in the evening (particularly Sappho’s Garden) you’ll have made friends with pretty much everyone in there by the end of the night. That’s the reason women go back year after year. There’s a real sense of community and belonging.
9. The food. The fishermen bring in fresh hauls every day and there is a long row of gorgeous restaurants along the beach where you can sit for hours and watch the sun go down. I managed to put on half a stone in a week. Mainly from eating pan au chocolate from my favourite bakery every morning and drinking lots of Mythos.
10. The Tuesday lesbian cabaret night at Sappho’s Garden. Has to be seen to be believed. If you like your entertainment of Phoenix Nights/3-2-1/1980s variety then this is the place for you. An open mic cabaret night where anything goes and no matter how bad you are lots of appreciative women will cheer raucously and you’ll feel like a star. In the past I’ve seen amazing singers, plenty of Joan Armatrading covers, a woman in platform trainers, stonewashed denim and a mullet performing a lap dance, drag acts, a lady from Yorkshire doing the Laughing Policeman (which really didn’t translate well with the non-English guests) and a German yodeling lesbian called Hilda Gunt, who was genuinely AMAZING. Best. Night. Out. Ever.