AROUND THE ISLAND
Eastern route from Mandraki to Emboreios and Nikia
Just over a kilometre east of the port is Loutra, once a flourishing thermal station as indicated by the partially abandoned spa building along the shore. The spa was first established here in 1872 and quickly became so well known that a gift of $5,000 was raised from the island’s emigre community in the USA to enlarge the establishment and to create more rooms. Today a part of the buildings still functions as an hotel in the summer season, and runs the thermal plant, which consists of clean, individual cabins. There is both hot water (39Β°C) and a clear, slightly tart, cold water for drinking.
At 2.7km, the road divides; to the left, is the fishing village of Pali, dominated to the east by the huge Pantelides Thermal Establishment—now an empty shell with ves tiges inside evocative of its former glory. In front and to the west, the sea is slightly warmed by still existing springs which rise at between 33Β°–44Β°C at source.
The Pantelides hydrotherapy spa
The waters here were known long ago to the Romans; but two new springs—one hot, one cold—were first dug here on the shore by Pantaleon Pantelides in 1889, who opened the first hydrotherapy spa on the site in 1909. This was, in effect, an early ‘tourist village’, with its own boats and transport, restaurants, libraries, bookshops, international press, art galleries, billiards parlours, theatre and gymnasia; hunting, fishing and fencing facilities were available—and all in addition to the primary activities of taking the waters, bathing and being massaged in any number of ways. Many of those who came never left the compound during their stay. The establishment became renowned and highly profitable: clients from Alexandria, Smyrna, even as far away as Paris and Berlin, came here in large numbers. Pantelides died in 1928, and in 1933 a severe earthquake wrought extensive damage to the buildings. An heir of the next generation gambled away the business in a night of cards. In 1984 the founder’s great-grandson bought the buildings back, so as to begin a programme of restoration—no simple task, given the size of what remains, and the bureaucratic opposition to his plans to restore the buildings which, according to the authorities, allegedly constitute an illegal trespass on the area of beach.
Directly inland of the centre of the Pantelides building, 50m from the shore and a little below ground level, is the charming church of the Panaghia Thermani—a tiny chapel, with the remains of a wall-painting in the apse, built into the corner of the remains of ancient Roman thermal baths dating probably from the 3rd century ad. Sediment and earth has now filled up the Roman builds to the level of the point at which the vaults spring; but the fine, brick-ribbing of the vaults themselves is still visible and complete, and there are remains of stucco decoration. The hot springs are now blocked but beside the chapel is an aghiasma or ‘sacred pool of water’—cold and slightly salty, but reputed to possess curative qualities.
The asphalt of this branch-road ends at Pali, but a track continues for a further 4km to the attractive bay of Lies, and thence as a footpath to the secluded sandy beach of Pachia Ammos.
From the junction above Pali, the main road climbs steeply up to the rim of the volcano at Emboreios (7km from Mandraki) through a landscape of oak, almond and fig-trees, once intensively terraced for the cultivation of olive and grain. To the right-hand side, just before the road ends and the houses of the village begin, is a small, door-less, stone entrance into the rock. Inside is a minute circular space with a low stone seat. Holes low down on the left and at eye-level to the right function as vents from the volcano sending up hot vapours which are actively used as a sort of natural curative sauna. The stultifying temperature of the hot vapour within can be felt before entering.
From Emboreios there are some of the finest views down into the eerie volcanic crater to the south. As a result of emigration and a lack of freshwater, the settlement has remained almost abandoned for some time, although its dignified stone houses, which beetle along the ridge, looking out to sea towards Kos and Cnidos, indicate that it was once prosperous and populous. Its name (which refers commonly to a small trading-port) implies that the inhabitants of Pali below may have decamped to the summit here in the 18th century to avoid vulnerability to pirate attacks, and attempted to carry on their business from the greater safety that this position afforded. The sole taverna in the village offers splendid views and (when open) good food.
To the west, the narrow street culminates in a ruined Venetian castle—one of the three, outside Mandraki, seen and mentioned by both the 14th century pilgrim Niccolo da Martoni, and by the 15th century traveller and antiquarian Buondelmonti, on their respective visits here. Within its ruins stands the church of the Taxiarchis, a foundation originally of the 13th century, later modified and added to in subsequent centuries. An open stone staircase leads to the belfry from which unforgettable views extend. The church was once completely decorated with wall-paintings, probably of the 14th century; only a few of these survive legibly today, mostly on the north side. There are vestiges of decorative colour in the vault ribs, some crudely carved capitals which corroborate the date of the structure, and a restored chochlakia floor.
The winding, stone path to the eastern (opposite) end of the village is lined with substantial and architecturally interesting houses—solidly built, with pleasing proportions and compact interior volumes which are often fine ly vaulted. Many incorporate stone and brick ovens and even olive-presses in anenious economy of space.
From below Emboreios the road continues south into the central volcanic depression- of the island, a drop of 300m down to the floor of the crater which lies at about 100m above sea-level. This is a complex area of surprising diversity with its own climatic environment. The north slope, down which the road descends, is rich in vegetation, providing in its artificially warm and protected air early almond blossom and plentiful olive and acorn crops; the southern slopes, by contrast, are bare and scarred with volcanic activity and the air filled with the smell of sulphur. What you see as you descend is the result of two separate periods in geological history—first, the formation 25,000 years ago of the whole wide depression, with the mountains heaped to its west side; and second, the creation only 4,000 years ago of the discrete craters or ‘explosion sinks’ visible in the floor at the southern end.
Nisyros Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.