Chios is the 5th largest Greek island and is located in the northeast of the Aegean Sea, a mere 4 miles from the coast of Asia Minor (Turkey). This island is renowned for their unique mastic gum and beautiful Medieval villages.
I found the landscape while driving to be absolutely delightful and awe inspiring. Although it was winter and we were not able to swim, the island’s beauty is truly captivating.
We stayed in an almost abandoned Medieval village called, Avgonima. There lives 12
stubborn proud villagers. It is a half hour drive up the mountain from the main harbor town also called Chios, or by the locals “Hora” (meaning country or capital).
When we arrived from Lesvos by boat, it was a little after 9pm. It was not only dark, it was pouring down rain as we found our way out of the harbor. About half an hour later and half way up the mysterious mountain, the fog became unbearable, for me at least. This is when our “anniversary” trip got a little
stressful interesting. I admit that I can sometimes be a control freak, especially when I think my life is being threatened or I am not getting my way 🙂 But when it comes to driving in bad weather, my husband and I TOTALLY agree to disagree! I am cautious and somewhat fearful of what could be ahead and he is like an 8 year old boy having the time of his life he loves it so much.
So, with zero visibility, pouring down rain, and a whining dog, we blindly hugged a hundred cliff-side curves to reach our almost abandoned village. Thankfully, to my husband’s adventurously wonderful driving we made it just before 10:30pm.
We wanted to stay away from the main hustle and bustle of everyday life and withdraw to a more quiet and romantic location (also somewhere we could sneak in a dog!). As we entered and turned on the lights, we found a precious surprise. Our own little stone apartment with a fireplace and kitchen downstairs and a bedroom upstairs. It was perfect!
The next two days were full of driving around the island, mostly with good/cold weather, and enjoying the company of some wonderful new friends. Vasilis knows a teacher from last year that is from Chios and we hung out with her and her boyfriend most of the trip. They made Chios feel welcoming rather than a foreign place, we are so thankful for their time and company!
We really enjoyed driving around the whole island and getting to know its unique landscapes. In the north are most of the medieval villages, and in the south you can find the mastiha fields.
Each village had its own character and this one in particular was covered in “sgraffito”, an unusual wall decor that has made this village famous and attracts many people to enjoy its ornamentation.
While we were visiting the island’s most famous monastery, Nea Moni, a very friendly priest quickened us to see a partial solar eclipse that was happening at the very moment we entered. It was fantastic to watch and happened so quickly.
This monastery is famous for its byzantine mosaics on the church’s ceiling and architecture that are modeled after the Agia Sofia in Constantinople. What is remaining is really remarkable, considering all that Chios has been through. The whole island contains small remnants of history and its tragic past. Two of the most prominent tragedies were the slaughter by the Ottomans and the earthquake of 1881. In the massacre of Chios during the beginning of the Greek War of Independence, 5/6 of the 120,000 inhabitants were killed or enslaved, and up to 10,000 more were killed in a devastating earthquake. You can see portions of the past here and there, and you can hear annihilating stories of what some Turks did to whole villages and monasteries during those ages. It is somewhat impossible to actually understand the gravity of what happened and what those people went through, but you can imagine when walking through an entire abandoned village that once used to be full of life. It leaves you with a pretty heavy feeling.
At one point I was standing in a small room that was lined with bookcases filled from floor to ceiling with bones that were gathered from an attack that completely destroyed an entire village by force and brutality.
It is all beyond lament.
A brighter part of Chios’s past and present is its renowned “mastiha”, meaning literally to chew or gnash the teeth. This is a small resin that is collected from the tree, a unique kind of evergreen, that is native to only Chios. It seems like an intensive process that collects only small quantities, yet since it is in demand, thankfully it stays in production. The main use of mastiha is for a popular drink or liquor that is exported to countries all over the world. Some other products include gums, lotions, soaps, sweets, foods, and pretty much anything else you can add some scent or flavor. It is very distinctive, yet somewhat subtle.
Here you will see where someone is cleaning some mastiha pieces. It is small, almost clear, and can be chewed as-is, if you like the
dirty natural taste straight from the tree. My new friend that you see here was extremely courteous and gracious to me; it is times like these that I wish I spoke better Greek and could ask to hear some of her life stories.
With our many hours of driving, Meli was exhausted by nightfall and sometimes even in between stops. I wish we had a doggy-sitter but at least we do have a very well-behaved dog! How could anyone resist this precious little pup?
We had a wonderful anniversary and a great trip full of adventure, coffee, sightseeing, laughing, talking, pictures, and making lasting memories. If year two is half as great as year one, then we will have a grand time.
I imagine that life only gets better each and every year to come, God has blessed us beyond our dreams and we are and will continue to be ever grateful to him. Maybe He will even see fit for us to be closer to some of you wonderful family and friends in the future, but only He knows for now.
If you are interested in more pictures from Chios, please check out the Flikr slideshow on the right hand panel of the blog. If you click on the link here
or there, then you can start a slideshow from the top right hand corner of the flikr webpage. Hope you enjoy!