South of Chora
To the south of Chora, the main road runs along the coast and passes successive sandy beaches which are protected from the north wind, but have little atmosphere because of the proximity of buildings and of traffic. The road never really emerges from an area of unrelenting conurbation. The tracks that deviate towards the right, by contrast, soon climb deep into the forested valleys of the interior. Just before Troulos (7km) a metalled road heads to the right (north) for the bay of Aselinos and the monastery of the Panaghia Kounistra (11km. Open 8.30–12.30 and 4–7.30). After the busy activity of the coastal strip, this oasis is a joy to find—isolated on a green hillside, looking north towards Mount Pelion. The date of 1798 over the main door must refer to the building of the narthex only because the catholicon dates from the 15th century or earlier. Lying near to the entrance there are early Byzantine marble fragments which would suggest that there was a much older foundation here before. The church has a simple dome-on-cross form. The interesting wall-paintings, which cover nearly all the interior surfaces, are severely blackened with candle soot, except in the cupola where they have suffered the worse (and irreversible) fate of being drastically over-cleaned at some point in their history: this has upset the chromatic balance of the Pantocrator and the Panoply of Heaven. On the walls, it can be seen that the halos of the saints are made in an unusual fashion for wall-paintings, namely in silver/tin alloy which has been adhered to the surface of the wall. A breach in the plaster, just to the north of the door of en try, shows just how thin the plaster is, and how humbly it has been prepared, with straw to bind it. The 17th century iconostasis of carved wood displays two beautiful icons: the Presentation of the Virgin, and Christ Enthroned. The monastery now has one resident nun.
Three kilometres west along the main road beyond the junction at Troulos, is one of Greece’s most famous beaches—the pine-bordered strand of Koukounaries (10km), which extends in a gentle sweep to the west, with a land locked lagoon behind it. The area of the beach is now the object of strenuous conservation and protection. Fewer crowds and a beautiful open view across to Cape Artemision on the north of Euboea, is provided by the smaller, sandy beach of Aghia Eleni (11.5km) to the west, from where it is possible to contemplate, towards the left of the field of vision, the open arena of sea in which the Battle of Cape Artemision between the Greek and Persian fleets took place in August of 480 bc. Herodotus VII, 175–195 & VIII, 1–18, is the appropriate beach reading-material here. The southwestern point of the island at Pounda is the site of an ancient watch-tower, perhaps the successor to the signalling station mentioned by Herodotus.
Skiathos Island is part of the Sporades Island Group, Greece.