Chora and Mytilinii­

Three-and-a-half kilometres west of Pythagoreio is Chora, the unostentatious administrative capital of the island until 1834. Its attractive streets climb steeply to the older area of the village which was built around a powerful spring that gushes from underneath a couple of cafes.

   Mytilinii­, 3km to its north, is similarly an agricultural settlement, spreading to north and south of a plateia lined with citrus and plane trees. Its name derives from settlers from Mytilene: these could possibly have been the Mytileneans captured by Polycrates and used as the manual labour for his grand building projects, but it is more likely that they were the voluntary immigrants of a later age—in the 17th or 18th century. To the south of the centre is the Natural History Museum of the Aegean (open 1 April–31 Oct Tues–Sun 9–2, www.nhma.gr). Well endowed by the Zimalis Foundation in a modern building, this could be a fascinating museum, given the rich subject matter, were it not for erratic labelling and an absence of indication of provenance for finds. The Palaeontological Collection is the museum’s strength, illustrating the range of animals (more than 60 fossilised species) that were to be found in the mountains and pastures of this area, when it was attached to the land mass of Asia in the Miocene era—antelope, rhinoceros, and a short-necked ancestor of the giraffe, which has only been found on Sa mos and is consequently known as the ‘Samotherium’. A large number and variety of the skeletons were found in a ravine near to Mytilinii­: they date from 6–9 million years ago. The preserved example of a species of tiger, however, which fed off herds of antelope, was captured as late as 1862 in the forests of Samos . It is a timely reminder of how rapidly the fauna of the island has changed over the last century. The museum also contains an interesting mineralogical collection.

Samos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.

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