Euboea Island, Greece.
Dafnousa (West); Pili and Sarakiniko (East); & Pagondas (South)
Prokopi is at the meeting-point of several roads. To the west, a road leads towards the eastern slopes of Mount Kandili, densely forested in mature Aleppo pines. Two kilometres beyond the village of Dafnousa (4km from Prokopi), formed by Slav settlers, is the large Venetian tower mansion of Bezas (the track south of Dafnousa, then west, climbs up beneath it). Beyond and to the north lies the area which was most actively mined for magnesite around the turn of the 20th century—now amply re claimed by forest.
From just south of Prokopi centre, a branch-road leads to the east coast, touching the shore at the crescent bay of Pili (42km). A few metres before the harbour, to the left of the road, is the tiny mid-14th century church of Aghios Ioannis Theologos, whose single-vaulted interior is completely covered with later wall-paintings, which in places are hard to read because of a layer of dirt and soot. A particular curiosity is the bizarre frieze of hellish tortures depicted in a running frieze, low on the south wall: some of the artist’s inventions are worthy of Bosch.
Beyond Pili, a * scenic road climbs a further 10km along the coast to Vlachia and to Sarakiniko (52km). The forested massif of Mounts Pixarias (1326m) and— more distantly—Dirfys (1743m) towers to the inland side and the road is bordered by magnificent pines. Most of these trees will necessarily date from after the last major fire 50 years ago; but a number of very impressive specimens predate that. The small bays are frequently backed with majestic plane-trees and, off-shore, the coastline is given interest and beauty by tiny rocky islets. The wild east coast of the island can be followed further from here, but the road is sometimes poor and a resilient vehicle is required.
The main road south from Prokopi enters a narrow defile, shortly after the wayside church of Aghios Giorgios (34.5km), and climbs steadily through densely forested gorges for the next 11km to the summit of the pass (609m) which affords * magnificent views towards the Sporades. In these landscapes it is possible to understand the enthralment that Edward Noel and his contemporaries felt when they first visited this area, referring to it as the ‘Greek Switzerland’.
Shortly before the summit a branch road leads to Pagondas (48km), and beyond to Markates, small mountain communities immersed in steep pine-forests. To the south of Pangondas are the Larko Nickel and Iron-ore Mines. (The southern descent of this road to Psachna and Chalcis is covered in the next section, at pp. 66–67.)
Euboea Island, Greece