The east coast & the sulphur mines

The upland area inside the triangle formed by Palaiochori, Zephyri­a, and Kato Komia—i.e. the central east of the island—is a strange landscape, remarkably rich in a diversity of minerals, which was once inhabited by those who worked them but is now virtually deserted. There are also a number of interesting churches. The unmade roads that traverse the area depart from the east end of Zephyri­a, signed ‘Θειωρυχεία’ (‘Theiorychei­a’ or ‘sulphur mines’). Taking a left fork after 1km, the road climbs up to the church of the Panaghia Kastriani­ (dedicated to the Virgin as ‘Zoodochos Pigi’ or ‘Fount of Life’), situated on a bluff with a commanding view of the plain below, the bay of Milos, Plaka and Kastro, and the island of Anti­milos in the distance. The low barrel-vaulted structure, supported by neatly cut bracing arches, incorporates several decorative elements from an Early Christian predecessor—over the west door, and in the interior at the north and south windows. The road continues through an empty land scape, with occasional steep scarps of brilliantly coloured earth, to Komia, where the east coast and the island of Polyaigos come into view. The valley below was a major source of light, easily worked building material—bentonite—which was cut here on Milos and exported to construction sites on the mainland during the last century. This explains why, apart from the walls for defining the fields, there are also heaps of stones on all sides, look like buildings shaken down by earthquakes, especially lower down near Kato Komia. Three hundred metres be fore entering Kato Komia, you pass the church of Aghia Barbara, poised on a shelf of the hillside with panoramic views. Both this church and the double church of the Koimisis (Dormition) and of the Taxiarches (Archangels) in Kato Komia itself, contain many marble fragments from destroyed Early Byzantine buildings, both stacked outside and incorporated in the structures and their al tars. The east and south coasts had the greatest density of population in Early Christian times, with communities here, at Tri­a Pigadia to the north, and at Paliochori and Aghia Kyriaki­ to the south. To the south of Komia is the site of the island’s most important obsidian source after that of Nychia Hill, known as Demenegaki. To the north, the bay of Tri­a Pigadia has hot springs by the rocks at the south end of the beach.
    By taking the same road east out of the village of Zephyri­a, and continuing due east (i.e. not taking the left fork followed above), you pass through the zone of Langada where alunite was not only extracted, but also baked and leached with water to create cakes of alum: some of these ‘baking pits’ can still be seen in the area. Continuing east and taking the right branch (at 3.7km from Zephyri­a (signed again ‘Θειωρυχεία/Theiorychei­a’), you descend into a narrow gorge where the Palaiorema sulphur mines once operated. Before the descent be comes steep (5.2km), you pass a gallery in the hillside with a dump of sulphur-bearing material flecked with the characteristic yellow crystals; the track continues 600m down to a beach of emerald water between two multi coloured cliffs.

The Romans surface-quarried sulphur here, and called the site Rema, hence its current name ‘Palaio (‘old’) Rema’. Industrial extraction began in 1862 and continued until 1958, during which time a community of 200 people lived on the site: the north slope is occupied by the galleries and the re mains of the processing plant; the south slope, by the houses and offices. The soft ore was crushed on site; steam from coal-fired boilers was passed under pressure through it; the sulphur melted, was collected and cooled with sea-water; the finished product was then packed and shipped from the bay.
Viticulture in France was the company’s largest customer, using the sulphur for vine-spraying. Much of the original plant and machinery are still to be seen in situ. The buildings are all constructed from local perlite, including the two-span railway-bridge at the mouth of the bay.

Milos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.
The east coast & the sulphur mines.

 

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