I spent two weeks on the Tragakis olive farm on the island of Lesvos, Greece. It was a beautiful time in a beautiful place!
Getting to the farm was a confusing, rural, non-English-speaking hot mess (in true WWOOF fashion). Our emailed instructions from the farm owner, Dimitris, were… a little rough. Try as we might to follow them, the overnight ferry from Athens to Lesvos didn’t exactly provide the best night’s rest, and things got confusing once we docked in Mytilene, Lesvos’ main port city. That’s something you learn traveling around Greece, names of port cities rather than islands.
Anywho, once in Mytilene we fumbled our way to the bus ticket sales, somehow managed to buy two tickets to where we were pretty sure we wanted to be, and got on a bus. The tickets did not have a recognizable letter or number on them to speak of, so at this point we’re going off the gestures from the old Greek woman selling bus tickets. Gestures–another theme in Greece.
After getting off at the totally wrong stop and hailing a ride across the island from a nice couple at dock (can safely say that’s the only time I’ve ever sea-hitchhiked), we made it! Woo! Dimitris was waiting at the (correct) stop, a little confused about what took us so long, but otherwise basically exactly how you would imagine an adorable old Greek fisherman farmer.
We spent most of the following two weeks in the olive groves under the burly, gruff supervision of the hired farm hand/Spartan warrior, Mihalis. He would chainsaw some olive branches, grunt and point, and we would carry the branches to wherever he’d just grunted and pointed at. It was hard, hot work, but Mihalis took a lot of smoke breaks. My. Arms. Got. Ripped.
Some highlights? The bajillion adorable cats living on the farm with us. Or, the night a gigantic white horse escaped and wreaked havoc on the farm until we could help herd him. This might not count as a highlight, but seeing the largest spider of my damn life in our bedroom was definitely… interesting. It turned out to be a huntsman spider, which sounds very scary but is actually harmless.
All in all, though hauling olive branches in the sun was hard work, taking dips in the beautiful Aegean sea every night made it worth it. The two-hour walk to the nearest village for delicious Greek yogurt and cheap jugs of wine was also worth it. I’d go back to the Tragakis farm in a heartbeat.
Tips for WWOOFing in Greece
- Have an open mind! I found fewer English speakers in the rural areas of the island than anywhere else on the trip, which made getting around and figuring out work difficult at times. Sometimes you just gotta communicate with yours hands and grunts!
- Book a farm well in advance. Several of the farms we contacted a couple months in advance were already full.
- Get as detailed transportation information as you possibly can. Getting ourselves to the farm was the hardest part!
- BRING SUNSCREEN. ‘Nuff said. This is probably true no matter where you WWOOF, but if I was awake I was basically always in the sun in Greece.