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Kalymnos delights with its combination of easy normality and vivid geographical contrasts: a skeleton of rock bare mountains breached by shallow plains of intense green fertility; waters, once renowned for the sponges in their limpid depths, reflecting mountain ridges and summits shot through with caves that are famous among pot-holers and rock-climbers; and, set in contrast to all this ruggedness, the island’s capital, Pothia, which has a busy metropolitan feel. Large for the overall size of the island and built on the wealth that came from fishing and sponge-trading, Pothia is a pleasant and businesslike port with none of the artificiality which comes of picturesqueness or over-dependence on tourism.
The island’s landscape is everywhere profoundly sculpted and folded. An earthquake in the 6th century ad is commonly supposed to have changed the shape of Kalymnos by separating Telendos (now an islet) from the main body of the island. In fact, this separation is more likely to have been the result of a much older geological activity which has fashioned the waters and mountains of the west of the island into one of the most beautiful and dramatic marine landscapes in the Aegean.
Even more than on Kos, there is an astonishing quantity of Early Christian remains—basilicas, settlements, bath-houses, tombs—on Kalymnos. It emphasises how confident and populous the Christian community was that established itself on the island in the early 500s, only to be devastated first by the earthquake of 554 and then cut short by hostile Arab incursions a hundred years later, which left the inhabitants by the end of the 7th century clinging to refuges in remote mountain fastnesses such as Aghios Konstantinos on Telendos. Although Telendos and Vathys are the densest areas of these palaeochristian remains, early churches can be found in all corners of the island and their greatest treasures are often their fine mosaic floors. Many were constructed over remains from pagan antiquity, such as the memorable structure of the church of Christ of Jerusalem, built from demolished blocks of the important Calydnian sanctuary of Apollo. Its elements constitute a veritable museum of ancient inscriptions. The island has two fortified sites of the Hellenistic period, which are both unusual in character—an extensive complex at Empola (Vathys), and another at the dramatic and hidden site of Kastri in the north of the is land.
Kalymnos is an island with a strong sense of identity: a perceptible accent of its own in spoken Greek, and aproud perpetuation of Byzantine names and old-fashioned, more poetic, forms of address and salutation. A number of small museums on the island celebrate this cultural conservatism and diversity, as well as giving a valuable picture of the remarkable—and often tragic— story of the island’s pre-eminence in the world’s spongetrade.
Kalymnos Island is part of the Dodecanese Island group
Kalymnos General Information.