Vatoussa's St. Nicholas Chapel and Walking Trails Become a Reality

By HCS Staff

During a recent visit to Vatoussa, a beautiful traditional village in Lesvos, Greece, Christos and Mary Papoutsy reviewed the final plans of the restoration of the St. Nicholas Chapel grounds and development of a series of walking trails, park benches, and rest areas on the outskirts of the village. Work on the project began in 2003 with the grading of areas around the chapel grounds and the collection of special stone materials for the construction of the retaining walls.

George Sosonides, a leading Greek architect based in Lesvos, has drawn up plans for the entire project, including the construction of a 300-foot-long, hand-crafted masonry retaining wall. For months, villagers and workers scoured old quarries and razing sites for stones suitable for the walls. Because Vatoussa has been designated a traditional village by the Greek government, construction and renovation projects fall under strict guidelines to preserve their traditional architecture and appearance. When the final phase has been completed, the appearance of the grounds and walls will blend in with the existing architecture of the village.

Once the summer retreat of Byzantine royal families and their skilled artisans, the refreshing breezes of Vatoussa still beckon yearly visitors to the mountainous foothills of Lesvos. Built upward along a hillside, Vatoussa draws a loyal, repeat crowd to her pastel-
stuccoed houses crowded along narrow, cobblestoned streets which wind sinuously upward to green forests and island walking trails. Visitors find Vatoussa a rare cultural gem, with her small local museum and art gallery, upper and lower squares, and traditional coffeehouses and restaurants serving homemade dishes. Recently the village renovated several older homes in the best locations of the village and turned them into small pensions with modern facilities. In addition to walking and hiking through the lush green forests surrounding the village, visitors can enjoy musical concerts by the village's local choruses, performances by the dance troupe, art shows by internationally recognized artists who reside part-time in the village, and musical performances by noted dramatic soprano vocalist, Ioanna Sfekas Karvelas, one of the founders of the island's Deptam Opera Studio.

The St. Nicholas project has been approved and has received the full support of the local Greek Orthodox hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Mithymna, and the Archdiocese of Greece. Plans call for the completion of this village park sometime within the next 18 months. Estimates place the cost of the entire project at about two hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Christos Stavrakoglou, the President of the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Foundation for the Revitalization of Vatoussa, Lesvos, and the entire foundation board, have been laboring tirelessly to transform this geographically beautiful,
historical area into one of the major attractions of the village. Board members are already discussing plans for inaugural activities and extend preliminary invitations to all visitors and Vatoussans abroad to include the charming, traditional village of Vatoussa in their travel plans and to attend the inaugural festivities. Announcements with additional details will be forthcoming from the foundation board.

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