CHALKI



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Chalki - West to Chrorio and the centre of the Island

After leaving the houses behind the port, the roadway passes along the inlet of Pontamos (10 min. by foot), with a taverna and attractive beach: the low area inland of here is moderately fertile and supports the cultivation of olives and almonds. Several 4th century bc tombs have been excavated here and have yielded a wealth of finds, including some unusual red-figure, sacred drinking-vessels in the form of the heads of Silenus and Hercules, now in the museum in Rhodes . A short distance due north of Pontamos Bay and of the new road, is the small monastery church of the Aghii Anargyri, standing beside the former mule-track leading from the port to Chorio: its south wall is mostly constructed of large isodomic blocks from a pagan building of Hellenistic times. After Pontamos the modern road climbs to the west up the lower slopes of Mount Merovigli—an inhospitable rocky scree that was once intensively terraced and is dotted in places by carved niches in the escarpment. At the top of the rise (25 min.) the road levels out: the deserted settlement of Palaio Chorio is to the left, below the castle on the summit; to the right is the cemetery-church of the Metamorphosis tou Sotiros, constructed from a number of re-used ancient blocks and with fragments of Hellenistic funerary monuments visible above the door. Above and behind it is a stretch of ancient wall. There are many large 19th century stone sarcophagi in the graveyard around the church. The remains of -Palaio Chorio stretch up the mountain slope to the south, punctuated by three whitewashed churches. This was the site of both the capital of the is land in Classical Antiquity and again in Mediaeval times, when piracy had made coastal habitation untenable: in both periods the strategic value of the protected and hidden site, below a naturally fortified acropolis guarding the whole of the southeast corner of the island, was prized. Remains from the two periods can be clearly distinguished—the irregular masonry of the mediaeval construction contrasting vividly with the perfectly regular, isodomic masonry used in the ancient fortification and embanking walls. The short stretches of ancient wall, low er down on the hill, probably formed terraces supporting larger buildings above. The path leads up first to the early 14th century church of the Panaghia (if locked, the key may be obtained from the taverna at Pontamos). The church has clearly been enlarged westwards in three separate campaigns during its long history, and its construction incorporates ancient fragments amongst which is a conspicuous piece of marble cornice with deeply cut dentils, above a window in the exterior north wall. The interior is a graceful, vaulted chamber with pebble floor, decorated in the apse and on the ceiling with relatively well-preserved wall-paintings from the mid 1600s, depicting scenes from the Early Life and Miracles of Christ (south side) and from the Passion and Resurrection (north side), together with scenes from the Acathist Hymn (a 6th century hymn of thanksgiving to the Mother of God), and saints in aureoles above. The colours have retained their intensity in many places. The 19th century wooden iconostasis, carved in low relief, is of high quality. On the north wall, immediately beside the door, the plaster has been removed in part to reveal the ancient column and eroded Corinthian capital beneath. A path through the gate at the southwest corner of the courtyard leads uphill to another small church with damaged 15th century wall-paintings and a fine ancient marble drum as altar. Running west from its entrance, is a particularly good example of Hellen stic walling in perfect courses of regularly rusticated, isodomic masonry. Remains of the ancient settlement become increasingly apparent as you climb: deep, rock cut cisterns, often with finely shaped mouths; carved rectangular niches; a fragment of inscribed architrave (with the name ‘ISANDROS IARATEUS’, clearly legible); beside it, the base of a statue with holes for the dowels under the feet; and, just before the final climb to the castle entrance, an area in which the rock has been cut like a shelf, with insets and declivities for the fixing of stelai or statuary. The entrance of the castle itself is built up on well-preserved, ancient wall-foundations. The Castle of the Knights of St John bears the coat of arms (above and right) of the Order’s Grand Master, Pierre d’Aubusson: the fact that this escutcheon does not yet show the cardinal’s regalia which was bestowed on d’Aubusson in 1489 suggests a date for the castle’s construction between 1476 and 1489, putting it in the same period as the castle on Symi with which it is strategically linked. The entrance leads into a roofless guardroom with cannon embrasures, before a magnificent ancient door way, constructed from ten dressed, monolithic blocks, which opens into the oblong area of the ruined interior of the castle. The finely castellated north wall of the enceinte, which follows the line of the ancient Hellenistic walls, is particularly well preserved, with a narrow sentry walk, central tower (with latrine beside), and rooms built into the interior face to accommodate inhabitants during periods of siege. The south wall is mostly collapsed and preserves only the bases of two of its towers. Mid way between north and south walls, a deep cistern (probably of ancient origin) with plaster lining is still visible. The central area is dominated by the form of the roofless church of Aghios Nikolaos, whose remaining walls show clear evidence of having been reinforced at a later stage. Although exposed to the elements, areas of the original wall-paintings of the church are still visible—both some colourful abstract decoration just above floor-level and, high up on the south wall, a still legible panel with St Nicholas steering a rigged boat at sea which relates to a persistent tradition that the saint stopped on Chalki and probably explains the prominence given to churches dedicated to him both here and in Emboreio. To the south the land drops away dramatically to the Trachia peninsula below with its two shallow anchorages at the isthmus. There is a magnificent view from here of the south west coast of Rhodes , with its two prominent castles. This look-out post would have afforded the Knights of St John protection of the main sea-route into Rhodes from Crete and the west.


Chalki Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.


access

Chalki Island, Greece.

By boat: Daily service (90 min.) from Kameiros Skala on Rhodes (dep. 14.30) by caïque (Nikos Express or Nisos Chalki), with limited capacity for cars; returning daily at 6am from Chalki. Larger ferries stop at Chalki three times weekly on the route between Rhodes (Main Port) and Karpathos, Kasos and eastern Crete. A local water taxi (Alevandros, T. 22460 45251 or 6944 434.429) connects Alimniá with Chalki, on request.

Chalki Travel Guide

eating

Chalki Island, Greece.

A number of tavernas by the port serve fresh, local ly-caught fish: Omonia tou Nouri on the waterfront has excellent spit-roasts and vegetable dishes in addition.
Chalki Travel Guide

lodging

Chalki Island, Greece.

Places to stay are limited, although slowly increasing. The Captain’s House hotel (T. 22460 45201; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . gr), open generally May–late Oct, is a charming and hos pitable home with garden, set back from the harbour a little east of the main church. For longer stays, -Villa Praxithea (T. 22410 70172 or 6972 427.272; www.villapraxithea. com), an elegant house on the waterfront sensitively restored by the owner-architect into furnished apartments, is delightful and much to be recommended.
Chalki Travel Guide

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