The Greek island of Chios is about 5 miles west of Turkey’s North Aegean Sea coast. Khios, its capital port, is the only island city in the Mediterranean Sea.
The kidney-shaped island with a birth mark is the fifth largest in Greece. It’s the birthplace of Homer and has an artistic appearance similar to the whitewashed Cyclades Islands, like Mykonos and Santorini. Khios is the capital of this island and Greek island, which both exhibit their own authentic character.
The island produces a unique cultural distinction through its production of mastic. The Lentisk tree produces aromatic gum from resins that are found all over the island. Since ancient Rome, mastic has been an essential component of medicines, perfumes and cosmetics. It’s also added to foods and beverages in the island of Khios.
Because of the Mastic trade’s importance to the island’s economy, it was essential to incorporate fortifications in 14th-century Mastic Villages. Currently, many businesses throughout history revolve around the Mastic trade. In order to ensure the industry’s safety, this rule was implemented in the 16th and 17th centuries.
In the southernmost part of the islands, Mastichochoria is a group of five Mastic Villages. These include Lithió, Armólia, Kalamoti, Mestá and Pyrgi. A trip to Khios that doesn’t include at least one of these villages isn’t complete.
There are two picturesque places in Mestá and the Pyrgi; they’re both home to unique features that still involve the mastic trade.
The village of Mestá was established in the 12th century during Byzantium. The village lies about 35km from Khios, nestled at a 120-meter elevation. It serves as a buffer zone for mastic merchants against pirate attacks.
Defending the village is made easier by its narrow alleys that wind through houses and businesses like a maze. The 2011 Census found 337 inhabitants living in the village.
The Older Taxiarchi church was built in 1794 in the center of the village.
Walking a couple of steps from the church, the main public square can be found. This spot features several cafes and restaurants with seating arranged beneath brightly colored umbrellas.
A few businesses and souvenir shops line the streets leading off the main square.
If you want to get away from the port’s hectic atmosphere, heading to Daidala is a good idea. The village is great for morning or afternoon walks; it’s also a nice place to be if you want to avoid the chaos of Khios. When there’s a cruise ship at port, the nearby restaurants and bars tend to be packed.
Pyrgi is the largest Mastic village with a population of 775 people. It is also the seat of municipal government for Mastichochoria.
The 13th-century Pyrgi Village boasts stunning architecture that was created in the “Xysta” style. These structures are unlike any other in the world. Black and white plaster on geometric shapes gives this architectural style an amazing appearance.
Even the underside of balconies is adorned with intricate designs in the village’s narrow streets.
Anywhere you glance in Pyrgi, you see one of these edifices. They’re impossible to miss.
After exploring the Mastic Villages of Mestá and Pyrgi, return to Khios for a well-deserved meal. Many restaurants line the main road by the port with bistro-style seating so you can enjoy sea views.
Khios’ coastal location gives it access to a wide array of seafood dishes. Among the most popular local dishes is “atherina, a deep-fried pancake made with fish or shrimp and diced onions. Another popular option is “tomato Kaftedes,” or deep-fried tomato balls.
The inside of the church is filled with paintings, pulpits, chandeliers and guilt.
Before entering the church, look out from the loggia to view the village square from above.
In the center of the square is a small area surrounded by restaurants and bars with canopied seating. Make sure to stop by one of these places and enjoy a snack or drink.
Christopher Columbus is known as one of the village’s famous visitors. Before leaving on his grand voyage to the West Indies, he met with mapmakers in the village. This is when history claims that he encountered the Americas instead of Japan.
Columbus stayed in one of the main street homes during his time in town. A Columbus icon is emblazoned on the front door of this home.
I can’t decide which is my favorite fried treat: the new Mastelo I like so much or Mr. Konstantinos Toumazos’ exclusive cheese made only on the island of Chios.
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