Samos (Vathy) and the East of the island

Nomenclature is complicated here. Samos is the official name for the island’s capital town, situated on the eastern shore of the deep bay which cuts into the north coast. This is not the site of Ancient Samos , which corresponds to today’s Pythagoreio on the south coast. Samos is also the name for the whole island. Since the island has three working ports, this can create confusion when a ferry’s destination is given as ‘Samos ’. To avoid this, the capital and its port are increasingly referred to as ‘Vathi’, a name which originally referred to the older settlement there, on the hill to the south east of the port. This guide follows the commonest, current us age, namely: ‘Vathi’ for the capital town and its port, ‘Ano Vathi’ for its old quarter above the main town, and ‘Samos ’ only when referring to the island as a whole.

   Vathi sits at the head of a low ‘fjord’ (Ancient Panormos) surrounded by hills which are green with dense maquis. It is a 19th century working port in origin, and the old warehouses at its southern end were for the storing and shipping of the island’s two most famous exports—Sami an wine and tobacco. The latter was processed here into hand-made cigarettes, much in demand in Egypt and Turkey. The waterfront is a heterogeneous assemblage of different architectures—the abandoned remains of the 1960s Xenia Hotel stand next to a handsome, Italianate, neoclassical mansion to its right, with heavy rustication on its corners and an elegant Serlian-arched window looking onto the water-front; this, in turn, stands next to a simple house façade with a protruding wooden balcony, redolent of the ports of Asia Minor and the East. To the north along the front, is the arcaded and towered front of the Catholic church of the Virgin in French Co lonial style, while one block inland of the waterfront, a different atmosphere prevails: the narrow alleys, lined with the canopies and wrought-iron balconies of shops and houses, some with courtyards and gardens, has the feel of any busy, Levantine Greek town. It is this mixture of styles, expressing a comparable mixture of cultures, which makes the port at Vathi interesting. The water side of the promenade is dominated by the monument to Themistocles Sophoulis (1862–1949), the ‘geros’ (‘grand old man’) of the centre of Greek politics, in the period between the World Wars. He was born on Samos , and was an archaeologist by profession; he entered politics after the First World War and became the leader of the Liberal Party after the death of Eleftherios Venizelos.

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

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