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Vessa, Aghios Giorgios Sikousis & the road back to Chora
Other watchtowers in less good state of preservation can be seen from the road beyond Limenas as it follows the indented coast. Thirteen kilometres beyond Mesta, at the top of a limestone ravine, dotted with stone chapels and hidden from view from the sea, is the village of Elata; after crossing a rocky plateau, the road descends sharply to * Vessa (17km from Mesta), in many ways the most attractive and unchanged of the Mastic Villages. The centre of the village is reached at the end of an avenue of eucalyptus trees.
The settlement, hidden from view until the last moment, straddles the fertile floor of a shallow valley between two limestone ridges. The stone houses along its compact and logical grid of narrow streets, have many of the elements typical of the 14th century Genoese ‘masterplan’ for the villages of the area: narrow stone relieving arches above windows and doors; protruding machicolations and turrets; balconies supported on small arches; upper floors which cross the streets creating covered passageways; storage areas on the lower levels; towers, gates and fortifications. Concrete has hardly intruded into the stone and mortar buildings at any point. Many of the fine structures around the attractive plateia, though mediaeval in origin, bear the dates of their reconstruction or renovation—typically the 1820s and 1830s.
Vessa is 18km from Chios town by the remaining (northern) sector of the southern loop road. Seven kilometres east, after crossing the watershed amidst pines and limestone outcrops, the port and the straits between Chios and Turkey come dramatically into view at the village of Aghios Giorgios Sikousis (‘rich in figs’), which is built along a ridge of the mountain, lined with the remains of windmills. Although this is not one of the canonical Mastic Villages, it is a mediaeval settlement whose plan can be seen at the north end of the ridge, around and to the south of the patronal church. Vaulted passageways, gates, and even a substantial part of the original mediaeval fortress tower still stand, unselfconsciously woven together with 19th century buildings. The main church of St George was, like the earlier Panaghia Krina in the valley below, a 12th century building strongly influenced by the catholicon of Nea Moni: it was completely rebuilt in the late 18th century, and preserves a memory of its former self in the brick drum and cupola. Above the main west door, a fine decorative slab of green, Thessalian marble has been preserved from the earlier church; while in front a large area of 19th century chochlakia pavement extends to the west.
Like Aghios Giorgios Sikousis, the tiny village of Ziphias, 3km further east towards Chora, was also a walled and gated mediaeval village on a smaller scale: remains of its fortifications are still visible. The south door of the main church of Aghia Paraskevi conserves the elaborately carved door-posts and lintel block of an earlier 18th century predecessor.
One last, fine example of the decorative brick-work typical of the early churches of mediaeval Chios can be seen near the next village to the east, Chalkeio (6km from Chora), above and to the left (north) of the eastern extremity of the habitation. The elaborate window-surrounds and decorative blind niches at the east end of the church of Aghios Ioannis are part of the original, 14th century construction. In the 19th century the surrounding monastery buildings were lost and the steeply pitched roof was rebuilt. Many ruined brick kilns are visible in the area between here and Chora, and it must have been the predecessors of these that supplied the material for Nea Moni and for the many mediaeval churches on the island that copied its design.
Chios Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
The NW of the Island, Vessa, Aghios Giorgios Sikousis & the road back to Chora.