For anyone interested in the arts, the Theophilos Museum, the Eleftheriadis-Teriade Museum and Library (also in Varia), and the George Iakovidis Digital Art Museum are “must see”.
Theophilos Museum: Located in the Mytilene suburb of Varia on the way to the airport, the museum was built by the renowned Parisian art critic Stratis Eleftheriades (aka Teriade) in 1964. The museum comprises 5 halls and houses over 150 works by the local folk painter Theophilos Chatzimichail (after a recent renovation in 2013 many works are still being restored and are slowly being returned on display). Theophilos lived in poverty painting the walls of local kafeneia and other buildings (a folk version of graffiti) only to find fame and recognition as a great folk artist after his death. Some of his works can still be seen in old buildings around the island and in the area called Karini near Agiassos you can see the hollowed out tree where he actually lived and painted.
The Eleftheriadis-Teriade Library and Museum of Modern Art: Next door to the Theofilos museum in Varia is the Teriade museum. In its ten galleries it houses the 29 issues of Verve (published by Teriade) with lithographs, engravings, woodblock prints and watercolours by the likes of Miró, Chagall, Picasso, Matisse, Le Corbusier, Léger, Roualt, Le Corbusier, Giacometti and Villon. There are also 40 paintings by the folk painter Theophilos that Teriade presented to the Louvre which made the folk artist known world-wide. The renowned art critic and publisher Stratis Eleftheriadis (Teriade), who originally came from Mytilene, commissioned this library/museum to house his publications. The combination library/museum is located in an olive grove along with his home. The Teriade Museum and Library is also an art school and a research center with robust educational programs running throughout the year.
Georgios Iakovidis Digital Art Museum: Located in Chydira is Greece’s only digital art museum. Built on the initiative of the N. G. Papadimitriou Educational and Cultural Foundation, the museum marries technology and the art and presents the life and work of the renowned Greek painter through various digital means. The exhibits span the artist’s life from his early years studying under Nikiforos Lytras to the works he created in his mature years in Munich, to the portraits of his grandchildren painted at the end of his life. Iakovidis’ works are brought to life using a variety of digital means (touch screens, bilingual text panels with duratrance images, holoscreens, etc) and various tricks, like the magnifying lens pointing out details on a painting, the illustration of significant elements through interesting graphics and their comparison to other works of Iakovidis himself, his teacher Nikiforos Lytras and major German painters.
The Archeological Museum of Mytilene: The archaeological museum is actually housed in two separate buildings near the central harbour of Mytilene. The old building is a three-story mansion that has an extensive collection of antiquities from ancient Greek times up to Roman times including typical prehistoric ceramics and clay figurines from the Early Hellenistic settlement of Thermi, Geometric and Archaic era pottery, Aeolian columns that were part of the Aeolian temples at Klopedi, votive alters, a headless female statue from the Roman period, the marble throne of Potamonas, a reconstructed fountain from the Ottoman Turk era and other artifacts. The new building houses on a permanent basis an exhibition entitled “Lesvos: from the Hellenistic to Roman Age”. The collection of exhibits includes mosaic-tiled floors and wall paintings from the lavish Roman mansions of the 2nd century BC located in Mytilene.
There are local archeological museums in Molyvos and Eressos that would also appeal to someone interested in the island’s ancient history and of course numerous actual archeological sites throughout the island that one should visit.
For anyone interested in Christian religious art, The Ecclesesiastical-Byzantine Museum is certainly worth a visit. Located across from the entrance to the Church of Aghios Therapon in the centre of Mytilene, this museum contains many sacred and valuable icons and other holy relics spanning more than 700 years of Christian history. The museum is certainly worth a visit along with visits to the various monasteries and their collections of ecclesiastical treasures, particularly Limonos Monastery whose collections of manuscripts is second only to those held at Mount Athos.
The Museum of Industrial Olive Oil Production is housed in the old communal oil-mill in Aghia Paraskevi and is an oil-mill turned into a museum of an oil-mill, restoring both its architectural and mechanical features to their original condition. The old machinery and equipment that have been preserved, and fully restored, are not only on exhibit but actually used in demonstrations.
The Vrana Olive Press Museum Located in Papados in Gera and built in 1887, the Vrana Olive Press was one of the first steam-powered factories on Lesvos and in the Aegean . It was built by Nikolaos Vranas, grandfather of the Nobel prize winning poet Odysseas Elytis and was operated continuously until the early 1970s. The factory has been completely restored by the Archipelagos Society and its mechanical equipment has been preserved. On exhibit is a rare archive collection, an exhibition of paintings of significant artists, as well as old items used when the olive oil press was in use.
The Barbayannis Ouzo Museum: Located in Plomari on the grounds of the distilleries of the Barbayiannis family, one of the oldest producers of ouzo in Greece, the museum showcases the original equipment used to bottle and label ouzo as well as the first alembic, constructed in 1858 in Constantinople, used for testing recipes and production techniques. Tasting tours are also provided on site.
The Plomari Ouzo Distillery Isidoros Arvanitis is located in a magnificent olive grove in the picturesque Plomari, the place where Ouzo of Plomari was first created by Isidoros Arvanitis in 1894 and where it has been produced for over 120 years. The distillery “opened” its doors to the public, inviting ouzo lovers to visit its premises and “live” a unique experience for all the senses. Guests have the opportunity to see from up close the traditional production process, held in 18 small, handmade, traditional stills. All the stills are copper, handmade, by the same family of coppersmiths. Visitors can enjoy a remarkable collection of museum artefacts which complements a unique experience of an unforgettable journey through time. This collection illustrates the evolution of ouzo production through century and includes items used during the distillation and bottling just like old stills, collecting containers, labelling machines. During the tour, visitors can learn about the history of ouzo, the national drink of Greece and see the production process. They will touch and feel its finest ingredients from the land of Lesvos, like the aniseed of Lisvori, considered the best in the world. They will watch the bottling process and witness a ritual distillation process that takes place in 18 small handmade copper stills. They will smell the unique aroma, taste the fine flavour and discover the secrets of Ouzo of Plomari Isidoros Arvanitis, through tasting sessions. They can also explore a great collection of museum artefacts.
The Museum of Paleontology and Geology – Natural History Collection in Vrisa (near Vatera) holds recently discovered Paleolithic fossils (mastodonts and mammoths, tortoises, giant macaques, rhinoceros, sabre toothed cats, etc), unique in Europe.
The Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest in Sigri showcases findings from the Lesvos Petrified Forest, one of the most fascinating and rare monuments of geological heritage in the world created in the Miocene period 20 million years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity in the Aegean. The Museum comprises two halls, the Petrified Forest Hall and the Aegean Hall. The exhibition contains fascinating fossil remains of over 40 different plant and tree species found in the area (petrified trunks, branches, twigs, leaves, leaf imprints, fruit and roots) as well as fossilized remains of animals that lived on the island at the time such as the dinothere, a trunked ancestor of the elephant from the region of Antissa (one of the oldest fossils of a vertebrate in Greece and particularly rare in Europe). The Aegean Hall presents the 20 million year long geological history of the Aegean, highlighting geological phenomena and processes that helped create the Petrified Forest.
For those wishing to get a better glimpse of the island’s folk culture and traditions… The Folk Art Museum: Housed in the refurbished Old Harbour office on the waterfront it holds many examples of the folk cultural heritage of the island including clay plates from Agiassos with scenes from daily life, bowls, pitchers, wooden mortars, cheese-molds, chests with highly artistic carvings, pistols, scimitars, swords, muskets, lamps, earrings, fabulous hand-towels, local attire samples, paintings by Theophilos and more. It’s located on Kountouriotou street near the square in the main part of the port.
The Old Lesvos House: This museum was formed at the initiative of the progressive and diligent Marika Vlachou Molinou, President of the Woman’s Association of Lesvos and is in the ground floor of her mansion near the cathedral. It is a revival in complete detail of the island house of 1800-1900 which also gives a complete picture of local folk art, folk artistic feeling and housekeeping.
The Museum of Costume and Embroidery of Lesvos: This is another achievement of the Women’s Association of Lesvos. Its rooms, in a building on Komninaki Street, display the whole spectrum of attire from the past century, male and female.
The Archontiko Gogou at Vatoussa: The mansion of Gr. Gogou near the upper square in the village has been refurbished and exhibits different aspects of village life with historical photos, clothing, utensils and a gallery of local artists’ works. Paintings of British artist Anne Welsh are often on display here.