The first island on our itinerary was Chios. The ferry from Piraeus was an 8 1/2 hour sailing that left at 9:30 in the evening. We had considered booking a cabin, but there were no more available when we arrived at the port. The choices were deck class for 38 E, a reserved seat in an upholstered chair for 42 E, and first class for 44 E. We decided to go for first class, hoping that we would get the most comfortable seat for a good night’s sleep. But these seats only recline the same amount as domestic first class seats, and we thought that they were a waste of the extra money. The passengers that had the best “seats” were those that brought sleeping bags, bought a deck-class ticket, and found little cubby holes to stretch out for the night.
We arrived at 5 am with no hotel reservations, but fortunately there were places already open to get coffee. We searched for a hotel for about an hour, and finally found a room with shared bathroom for 25 E with a great view of Chios Port. We used this room as a base for the 4 days that we spent in Chios. Here’s the view out our window:
The first day in Chios town was spent visiting the walled Kastro, doing a walking tour of the town, and getting our rental car. Our hotel was going to rent us a car, but at the last minute decided not to because we didn’t have international driving permits. This is the only time that we have not been able to rent a car anywhere in the world because we didn’t have these permits. We walked down to the main port area and rented a car there for 25 E a day with no questions asked.
One of our first destinations was the beautiful Nea Moni monastery. The main chapel has incredibly beautiful golden mosaics and Byzantine frescoes. The photo below shows the vast cistern that was used to store water during the heyday of the monastic community.
All of the islands that we visited on this trip were subject to repeated Turkish invasions. During the Greek Uprising of 1822, 30,000 Chians were massacred. In almost every church and monastery we visited you see evidence of deliberate destruction of Christian artifacts. The defaced fresco at Nea Moni below is a typical example.
We spent a full day exploring the Mastic Villages in southern Chios. They escaped the full wrath of the Turks, because the gum produced by mastic bushes was a useful commodity. Mastic gum is used in somewhat the same way as chicle. It is also deliciously used in an after-dinner liquor that is served in Chian restaurants.
There are 60 mastic villages and each is unique in some way. Vavili is small, mostly in ruins, and has few inhabitants. Armolia is famous for its pottery, is larger, and has more inhabitants. Mesta (below) is undergoing a noisy building renaissance as Greeks returning from working in America renovate the ancient stone houses.
Black and white building facades are the distinguishing feature of Pyrgi village, another mastic village. The designs are made by facing dark volcanic stone with a plaster coating, and then scraping off the still-wet plaster in decorative patterns to expose the black rock underneath.
You can almost sense the spirits of the 300 Chians who leapt to their deaths to avoid capture by the Turks as the wind blows through deserted Anavatos (below). It appears unassailable from its hilltop site, but has suffered repeated pirate raids and Turkish invasions. It was mostly abandoned after an earthquake in 19th C.
We had no specific destination in mind as we explored deserted beaches (no bathing suits required) and drove up and down the dry hills of Chios.
Before we returned the car, we filled it up with 38 E worth of gas. Our daily expenses were running pretty much the same every day. 6-7 E for morning coffee and pastries, 20-30 E for restaurant meals, and 25 E each for the hotel and car rental.