We are currently living and loving in the charming town of Lakki. It is one of many picturesque villages and the primary port of the small island here in Leros. It’s a mythical island in the Dodecanese Island group of Greece, situated around 20 miles off the coast of Turkey. The island is mythical because, according to ancient legend, Leros was the favourite hunting ground of the goddess Artemis – the daughter of Zeus and Apollo’s twin sister, and she was one of the twelve Olympian deities (fittingly, seeing as the winter Olympics are currently underway).
But beyond myth and legend, this delightful volcanic island has a hugely interesting more recent history.
The architecture is primarily neoclassical in style, with flashes of Italian Rationalist architecture and the hills lined with sail-less windmills; she’s a natural film star type of town – beautiful with no need for lipstick. In the 1930s Lakki was a newly modeled town flaunting a major naval base and Mussolini himself had a mansion here. The colours of the island are of course white, with strokes of buttery yellow, muted russet-ish shades of red, and the ever-present shade that is iconically Grecian blue.
After the second world war broke out and the Italians entered the war with the Germans in 1940, the island was literally bombarded with heavy aerial raids that rained down on the island – so much so that Leros is second only to Crete in the amount of attack that it had to withstand during the war. The natural bays and excellent anchorages provided strategic positioning for warships. However, the Italians had a ‘half time, change sides’ switch of heart when they couldn’t continue the war with Germany, and so after the Italian armistice, the nation joined the allied camp. The result of which was British reinforcements arriving on the island and continued bombing by the German opposition forces. After a series of amphibious and aerial attacks, the island of Leros was captured and ultimately occupied by the Germans until the end of the war.
After the Germans said ‘Auf Wiedersehen, post-war Leros came under British administration, ultimately being reunited with Greece and becoming part of what is now the Dodecanese group, in 1948. One of the results of combat is that the local crystal-clear waters are the eternal resting place of several submerged shipwrecks, aircraft and tankers resulting from the second world war.
Nowadays Leros is home to around 8,000 people that dwell in its area of around 54 square kilometres. The beaches are safe and beautiful, the bays deep and bountiful, and explorable underwater caves beckon. There is a medieval Byzantine castle on the hill; standing sentry on a site that was once an ancient acropolis. It is a fortress, a bastion, a witness to aeons of time and many wars that have since passed by. She is the “Castle of Our Lady – St Mary” – and she is the one constant that has stood on Leros since time immemorial. She, and the bounty of ancient olive trees that lushly adorn the fertile valleys of the island that for now is our home, and the anchorage for our girl, Waiata. We are lucky to be in Lakki, in lovable Leros.
Lucky to be in Lakki.