CHIOS



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Chios - general

General

Grand and solitary, rich in architecture and flora, but tinged with a note of tragedy that lingers from the events of its long and complex history, Chios is—perhaps more than any island in the Aegean—a world to itself. It is separated by wide, open waters from its nearest neighbours— 55 nautical miles from Samos with whom relations were cool since Antiquity, and a comparable distance from Lesbos with whom its links historically were few. It has acquired over time a proud independence and self-sufficiency; yet it is still intensely Greek in feel. Both its mountainous profile and its character are aquiline, and there is a harder edge to its landscape which contrasts markedly with that of its biggest neighbour: where there is a femininity to Lesbos in the expanses of olive-groves and sheltered, almost landlocked, gulfs, Chios has an open, rugged and dramatic coast with some of the wildest highlands of the Aegean in its interior. Lyric Sappho was from Lesbos; Chios claims epic Homer.
   Of the wealthy ancient city, with its walls of polychrome marble, which was shown to Cicero when he visited the island, little remains to be seen today; but a sense of its artistic individuality and political activity is vividly evoked in the city’s Archaeological Museum. The island has an unbroken history of excellence in the visual arts. An architectural renaissance followed on from the building of the monastic complex of Nea Moni, by the Emperor in Byzantium in the early 11th century. It dates from only a few decades earlier than the Monastery of St John on Patmos, but the two buildings could not be more different. Stylised and sophisticated, with rich decoration and a cleverly modulated and dramatic interior, Nea Moni influenced over the following centuries the building of a number of other unusual churches around the island—Aghii Apostoli in Pyrgi, and the rural churches of the Panaghia Krina and Panaghia Sikelia—all of which are later meditations and variations on the great 11th century church. The refined mosaics of Nea Moni—large parts of which somehow survived the Turkish devastations of 1822 and the earthquake of 1881—are amongst the most important in Greece. The smaller churches have important paintings—those especially from Panaghia Krina, now displayed in Chios town, which bear interesting comparison with their contemporaries in Italy. But the variety of painting on Chios does not end at the Middle Ages: in the evocative ruins of the Moni Moundon, in a remote valley of the central north of the island, is a curious cycle of 19th century ‘nai―f-Byzantine’ paintings; and, most unexpected of all, in the tiny chapel of the Ypapanti (the Purification of the Virgin) south of Chora, are the enchanting murals painted in 1963 by the Hawaiian artist, Juliette May Fraser, and given as a gift to the villagers of Vavili.
   Unique to the south of Chios are the house-fronts decorated in grey and white geometric designs in sgraffito technique which constitute such an attractive aspect of the village of Pyrgi, and others of the ‘Mastic Villages’. Unique also is the planned, fortified design of these mediaeval villages, densely built within walls around a central tower; unique to Chios is the cultivation and harvesting of mastic gum from the trees, which has never been successfully replicated anywhere else in the Mediterranean; and unique are the lengths to which the Genoese overlords of the 14th and 15th centuries went to protect their monopoly on mastic trade—fortifying the whole island with a circuit of 50 watchtowers, fortresses and lookout posts, as if the island itself were just one big castle in the sea. Like Genoa, the city of Chios is hemmed between the mountains and the water; the Genoese must immediately have felt at home here. They settled and slowly became Greek over the centuries, continuing to run the economy of the island together with the local Greek families, long after it came under Ottoman administration—with the firm and cautious grip for which the Genoese are known iIl Campo’), they built stone villas, farmsteads and orchards to classicising designs, out of a warm red local stone, creating one of the most beautiful and historic suburbs in Greece. The same families, rich from trade and shipping, endowed their city with libraries and institutions of learning. Chios was an elegant, civilised and peaceful city, when it was suddenly dragged undeservingly into a vortex of carnage and destruction in 1822. This was immortalised in the European imagination by Delacroix’s tragic painting of the Massacre of Chios. Something of the background to those events is explained in the epilogue to the Chios section of this book.
   In spite of the loss of some areas of forest, flora, birds and butterflies are abundant and varied on Chios. The island is rich in herbs, honey, and in flavours that range from the cleansing pungency of mastic to that of the aromatic samphire which grows on the island’s cliffs and animates the salads served at its tables.


Chios Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
Chios General Information


Random information you might what to know about Chios Island
Second Athenian Confederation
Ionian League

 

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access

Chios Island, Greece.

By air: Domestic flights from Athens, three times daily with Olympic Air and twice daily with Aegean Airlines, serve Chios throughout the year. Five days a week there are Olympic Air connections with Thessaloniki, including a twice weekly local, Eastern Aegean route, from Thessaloniki to Rhodes , via Lemnos, Mytilini and (once a week only) Samos . The airport is 3km from the centre of Chios town.
By boat: The principal route—Piraeus, Chios, Mytilini— is served by Hellenic Seaways, with a daily 12.30 departure from Piraeus, arriving Chios at 7pm, continuing to Mytilini, and returning to Piraeus overnight. NEL Lines run three times weekly along the route from/to Samos to the south, and Mytilini, Lemnos, and Kavala, to the north. Smaller ferry-boats connect Chios with Psará (5 times weekly), and Oinousses (6 times weekly). Crossings to Turkey (Çeşme) run almost daily during the summer season (Easter–mid-October); thereafter much more infrequently.

Chios Travel Guide

beaches

Chios Island, Greece.

 

Lithi Beach

Emboreios Mavros Gialos

Chios Travel Guide

eating

Chios Island, Greece.

Delightful, welcoming and with fresh, imaginative dishes and good bourekakia (lightly filled and fried filo-pastry rolls), is the (recently much enlarged) taverna, Roussikó, in Thymianá (just east of the main church in the village).
In the main town of Chios: both "Byzantinio" and "Elleniki Kouzina", on opposite sides of the crossing of Ralli and Roïdou Streets between the port and the public gardens, are favoured by locals for their clean environment, inexpensive home-cooking and well-prepared, workaday food; no frills and no atmosphere, just simple food.
Iakovou (evenings only), on Aghios Giorgios Street in the Kastro, has more atmosphere and offers a number of Asia Minor dishes.
Around the island: Lefteris at Pandoukiós (just south of Langada on the northeast coast), Tria Adelphia on Lithí Beach (central west Chios) and the taverna, Limani Meston in Liménas (southwest Chios), all offer excellent, fresh fishdishes in pleasant settings by the shore; while Markellos at Pitiós is well-known for meat and vegetable dishes of local cuisine; and Pheragides offers mezes in the delightful setting of a plane-shaded plateia at Kardámyla in northeastern Chios.
The cliffs and rocky coasts of Chios are home to an aromatic samphire ("kritamo") which is a distinctive element of its salads—always worth asking for, if it has not already been included in the mixture. Chios also has a tradition of excellence in oriental pastries; the quality of the baklava and other sweets made by the Amandier Patisserie in Livanou Street (south side of port) is worthy of any Ottoman pastry-chef.

Chios Travel Guide

further reading

Chios Island, Greece.

For social history of the important families of Chios and for the events of 1821/2 the following site contains much valuable information: www. christopherlong.co.uk/pub/ chiosinfo.html

Chios Travel Guide

lodging

Chios Island, Greece.

A number of the nicest places to stay on Chios are in Kampos, to the south of the main town, in the elegant stone villas which are so characteristic of the area. Two, that are close to one another, and run by different members of the same family, are particularly recommended:
-Perivoli (Argenti Street, T. 22710 31513, fax 32042, www.perivolihotel. gr), and -Perleas (Vitiadou Street, T. 22710 32217, fax 32364, www.perleas.gr). Both offer simple accommodation and attentive hospitality, moderately priced, in elegant villas with gardens. Although signposted, neither is easy to find: if you call ahead, you will be piloted, or collected. There is public transport to this area, but a rental vehicle is advised. In the centre of town, at the south end of the port, is the Hotel Kyma in a stone-built mansion looking onto the sea (T. 22710 44500, fax 44600, email: kyma@chi. forthnet.gr); the antiquity of the plumbing and bedroom furniture are more than compensated for by the friendliness and attentive hospitality of the owners and by the charm of the building.
A different experience is offered by Spilia Xenonas at Kardámyla above the northeast coast, 23km from the port (T. 22720 22933, fax 22823, www. spilia-chios.gr). This is a group of small, carefully restored, characteristic, stone cottages at the top of the village, with views towards the sea in the distance: a good homemade breakfast is provided. Wooden signposts guide you up to the cottages on steep stone paths through the village; any car will need to be left some distance below.

Chios Travel Guide

museums

Chios Island, Greece.

Archaeological Museum
Byzantine Museum
Folklore Museum

Chios Travel Guide

practical info

Chios Island, Greece.

821 00/02 & 822 00 Chios: area 841 sq. km; perimeter 213km; resident population 51,060; max. altitude 1,297m. Port Authority: T. 22710 44433. Travel and information: Municipal Tourist Office, T. 22710 44389, www.chiosonline.gr

Chios Travel Guide

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