East of the island Aghios Nikolaos & Prassa
The road to the east of Chorio heads north along the east coast of the island. After 3.5km, it circumvents a steep valley, with the narrow inlet of Aghios Minas below: the whole landscape is suddenly filled with manmade hillocks and screes of honey-coloured stone, especially on the north side of the inlet. There are deep cuts in the ground, and mounds of buff-coloured rocks of a roughly uniform size on all sides. This is a stone which the island exported to the mainland with great success over the last two centuries. The stone is soft to cut and shape, but then hardens on contact with the atmosphere. It was loaded into boats in the harbour here and shipped directly to Piraeus were it was used as building material: a good deal of late 19th century Kifissia and of downtown Athens is constructed with Kimolian stone.
The road continues, as a track, into a successively drier and whiter landscape as far as Prassa (6km), passing along a shoreline of rocky outcrops in tormented volcanic shapes. On the south side of the bay of Prassa, opposite the islet of Prassonisi, there are hot springs. The waters, which are slightly salty and contain iron and sulphur, are therapeutically radioactive. They rise at 47Β°C beneath a small concrete structure just by the shore, and mix almost immediately with the seawater, creating a pleasant temperature for swimming, even if the immediate setting is not particularly inviting. The waters are indicated for arthritic conditions. The energy derived from them is cur rently being used for the desalination of sea-water for the island.
Beyond Prassa are cliffs and terraces of pure white which lend an unreal, turquoise colour to the water in the bay below. The headland to north and east has been cut away and exported from the island for well over 2,000 years: it was one of the most important sources in the Mediterranean of fuller’s earth in pre-industrial Europe, and before that of a mineral soap and medicinal agent, known in Antiquity as ‘Kimolian earth’.
‘Κιμωλία γῆ’, or ‘terra cimolia’ (a hydrous silicate of aluminium, now called ‘cimolite’) is the soft slick white powder created here by the decomposition of granitic rocks: it is a kind of kaolin or ‘china clay’, referred to in its less pure form as ‘fuller’s earth’. Pliny and Dioscorides both mention its medicinal uses for curing blisters, inflammations and skin eruptions, and it is still used widely today in poultices and in dusting powders for preventing irritation. Pliny (Nat. Hist. XXXV, 198) goes on to talk of its (commercially) more important use for finishing textiles, absorbing the oily im purities of new cloth, and giving brilliance to dyed colours. For an island with very little water and limited agricultural potential, the exportation of this ‘clay’, which is unusually abundant on Kimolos, was an economic lifeline. The quarries are still active today.
Immediately beyond the quarries to the north is the inlet of Vromolimnos, below a promontory of contrastingly dark volcanic rock. There is evidence here of the small mine installations created in antiquity for the extraction of a low-grade, silver/lead ore.
Kimolos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.