SAMOS



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Samos - general

General

Hera—powerful and often difficult Queen of the Heavens—was born on Samos : and that fact meant that from earliest times the island was a particularly important centre of cult, with visitors and suppliants coming to it from all points of the compass. The richness—economic, intellectual and artistic—which this brought to Samos is reflected in the greatness the island achieved in the 6th century bc, and which it has never matched since. At that time, under the firm and ambitious grip of the autocrat Polycrates, the island dominated Aegean waters and established a trade network extending from the Black Sea to Egypt: it had probably the largest marine fleet in the Greek world and boasted a capital city which was unsur passed by any other Greek city for its size and sophistication at that time, and which was to leave a deep impression on Herodotus when he visited it a century later. The remains of this golden age of Samos are one of the prime reasons for visiting the island. The collection of Archaic sculpture from the sanctuary of Hera now in the museum in Vathi, which includes the huge Samos Kouros, would be reason enough to come any distance to Samos : for it has no equals outside Athens. Polycrates’s ambition endowed the city with civic and religious structures: a temple that transformed the very concept of the building from a glorified hut into a noble structure of impressive and enduring beauty; a solid harbour mole built out into the sea through a depth of 60 feet of water; and, most unusual of all, the tunnel of Eupalinos, which cuts right through a mountain for just over a kilometre to bring water into the city. In a remarkable combination of technology, geometry andenuity, the tunnel was begun from two sides of the mountain simultaneously and met successfully in the centre: it marks the coming of age in the Greek world of the application of theoretical models to the solving of practical problems. In each case, the need could have been satisfied, or the problem solved, by far smaller and less ambitious projects; but to say that is to miss the point, and to fail to understand the joy that the Early Greeks took in setting themselves a seemingly impossible project, and then pulling it off. There is an energy and excitement in this display, akin to the thrill of see a dolphin leaping through hoops. With time, it calms into the measured maturity of what we call the ‘Classical’ Age—the far smaller dimensions of the Parthenon, and the sobriety of Polyclitus’s sculpture. But nowhere better than on Samos , can the sheer chutzpah of early, ‘Archaic’ Greece be sensed.
   Rich in Antiquity,and still visibly rich today in greenness and variety of landscape, Samos , in spite of the ravages of forest fires in recent years, is still a lush and beguiling island—both more cosmopolitan and softer in feel than her more rugged and dowdier neighbours. Palaeontological finds (displayed in the island’s Natural History Museum) show that Samos always had a rich and unusual fauna; its flora, today, is still impressive, with many unique and endemic species to be seen in the is land’s two mountain massifs, and over 60 different types of wild orchid recorded. Both this and the island’s immense archaeological heritage are not without threat to their survival: mass tourism is beginning to be a burden on the island, most of all in the infrastructure and building needed to accommodate it. This is not a recent phenomenon: 30 years ago the airport runway, a large hotel complex and a rash of other building was permitted to invade the heart of the areas of archaeological interest along the ancient Sacred Way—once lined with statuary, which led nearly 6km from the old port to the Sanctuary of Hera. Today, the huge ruins of an Early Christian basilica are hemmed in between the putting course and one of the swimming pools of the hotel complex. Fortunately, Samos is big enough and grand enough to shrug these things off, and to delight the visitor with many peaceful villages of balconied stone houses, and a well-watered landscape which is—but for the repeated fire damage—a walker’s paradise.


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


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access

Samos Island, Greece.

By air: Domestic flights are frequent from Athens – four to five times daily with Olympic Air and twice a day in summer with Aegean Airlines.
There also direct flights by charter from destinations outside Greece.
By boat: Sea access to Samos is also plentiful, but a little confusing because it is split between three separate ports: Karlóvasi and Vathy, on the north coast, for the larger ferries plying the northern and western routes to Piraeus, Chios, Lesbos, Ikaria, Thessaloniki etc;
and Pythagóreio, on the south coast, for the Dodecanese and southern routes,
i.e. the F/B Nisos Kalymnos (4 days per week)
and hydrofoils (daily in summer) to Patmos, Lipsi, Leros, Kalymnos, Kos, and on to Rhodes , with the Nisos Kalymnos stopping at Agathonisi and Arki in addition, before calling at Patmos.
The summer hydrofoil service to Fourni and Ikaria (4 times weekly) also leaves from Pythagóreio. Crossings to Turkey (Kus¸adasi) run daily from Vathy, during the summer season only (Easter to mid October); thereafter more infrequently.

Samos Travel Guide

eating

Samos Island, Greece.

In Vathy, Christos (two blocks in from the water-front, and north of the main square) serves Asia Minor specialties, interesting salads, and good, fragrant wine.
The village of Vourliotes has several tavernas offering good mountain food in its picturesque plateia: less contrived, and more popular with islanders, is Pera Vrysi, at the entrance to the village. On the shore below, at Avlákia, the Mezedopoleío "Doña Rosa" has a pleasing touch of eccentricity, but nonetheless prepares excellent Greek dishes with localredients and good presentation.
Further west at Palaio Karlóvasi, the Oinomageireío "Dryousa", in the plateia where the paved road ends, is family run, providing fresh, home cooking.
The last true tavernas in Pythagóreio closed some time ago; the best remaining eatery there, with a pleasant view from its position at the beginning of the harbour mole, is Varka. For sunset views, however, few can match Balkoni tou Aigaiou at the south end of Spatherei;
while the taverna at Koutsi, up and west from Pyrgos, though not remarkable for food, is an unforgettable and cool refuge on a hot day, beside a spring below plane trees in the hills of central Samos .
Pure comb honey of high quality can be found at Melissa – a small supply-shop, a few metres up the main street of Pythagóreio from the harbour.

Samos Travel Guide

further reading

Samos Island, Greece.

Graham Shipley, A History of Samos 800-188 BC (Oxford University Press, 1987); Hermann Kienast, The Aqueduct of Eupalinos (Greek Ministry of Culture, Athens, 2005).

Samos Travel Guide

practical info

Samos Island, Greece.

831 00 Samos & 832 00 (Karlóvasi): area 477 sq. km; perimeter 163 km; resident population 33,999; maximum altitude 1,434 m. Port Authority: T. 22730 27890, 27318 (Vathy); T. 22730 61225 (Pythagóreio); T. 22730 32343, 30888 (Karlóvasi). Travel and in formation: www.samos.gr ; By Ship Travel, T. 22730 25065 (Vathy), 61061 (Pythagoreio), 92341 (Kok- kari), 37100 (Marathókambos) & 35252 (Karlóvasi).
Samos Travel Guide

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