Built right in the middle of the island this monastery was built in the 11th c. by the Byzantine Emperor Constantinos Monomachos. Adorned with beautiful mosaics, this has been an Unesco World Heritage Site since 1990.
A handful of nuns are still there to treat you to a lukumi and water. Best time to visit is on a Good Friday when the procession of the flower adorned Epitaphios takes place in the courtyard followed by priests, nuns and people chanting. Under certain weather conditions you could believe you were still living in the Middle Ages.
You can get there by car, but you could also try hiking off the beaten track that will take you through some beautiful countryside with unexpected waterfalls and little brooks. This way goes up from the Girl's Bridge (Tis Koris to Gefyri) You must ask a local for directions on this.
The monastery of Nea Moni is the most famous church in Chios. The mosaic designs on the walls are of international fame. I was very lucky the day I visited to have met the man who was painting the interior of the church during its renovation. The work in the church will not be finished until December, 2007, so you may not be able to go into the church if you visit before then...unless you find my friend, Mr. Tsairis busy painting the walls!
If you do find Mr. Tsairis painting, ask him to show you the one small tile that is the only original tile that exists and from which all the walls are being painted by looking at the design on this tile! Amazing! Originally, the church walls were original marble, but these marble tiles were destroyed in an earthquake. After, the walls were painted to look like the original marble, but this was also destroyed by a fire. Now, the modern restoration will soon be complete and another visit must be had to see the finished work. Next year!
The most impressive thing to see at this monastery, are the magnificent icons and frescos painted on the walls of the main church. The monastery is a very large, rich monastery, but did not seem to be inhabited by many monks at the time I visited. I met with the 'Gerontos' who was called "Agonothikos' who showed me his kindness by giving me a cool glass of water, some lovely 'loukoumia,' a sweet sugary treat, and some healthy dried figs. We chatted for 15 minutes and he told me a bit about the monastery. He seemed quite interested in learning about my personal life, if I were married, if I had children, if my son was married and if he had any children. When I told him my son did not have children, he told me what I should do so my son's wife would become pregnant...He told me that I should take some special grapes, that he would give me, press the juice from them and send the juice for his wife to drink. The grapes, which would be blessed by the 'gerontos' would then help which ever woman drank this juice to have children! Could the same thing happen if you just drank some good wine???? I suspect so!
Anyway, it was a lovely morning that I spent at this monastery, especially since I managed to wander into the church unseen and was able to take some rather interesting photos of the very impressive icons and frescos.
Most people when looking at icons, frescos and painted walls in churches, tend to look only at the faces and clothing of the Saints depicted.
If, however, you pay close attention to the details surrounding the figures, you will perhaps be surprised by the interesting and unexpected figures. Under the heavy, overwhelming robes of the figures on the main church at Agios Pateras, you can see some very small, but unique animals.
I wonder why the artists decided to include these animal figures under the feet of the many Saints in these compositions? Were there such wild animals in Greece at one time, or were these pictures meant to portray scenes in Africa's deserts and plains of days gone by? Maybe the artist was bored by having only to paint religious scenes for his rich patrons and longed for his artistic freedom to explore other artistic images? So, he hid his fantasy menagerie of animals under the dark robes of the Fathers of the Church?
The hill side around the beautiful Nea Moni Monastery have been traced by paths meant for hikers and nature lovers. The paths are clearly designated and the times for each destination written on the wooden signs at the beginning of the trails.
Be careful, as when walking in any dry forest area, that you light NO MATCHES OR CIGARETTES! You cannot help but see the remnants of previous fires that have ravaged the hills of Chios and of all of Greece, especially this summer of 2007!
Watch out! The 'Never Sleeping Eye' is watching from above!
I always thought this 'Eye' symbol was most commonly seen in the mysteries of the Masonic Temple! This is the first time I have seen such a symbol so largely portrayed in the ceiling of a church! Very imposing indeed!
Drive along the coast from Vollisos to Sidirounda and you will come to this beautiful spot called Elinda Beach. The sea is very cold here, but clean and few people again! This was in the middle of the busiest tourist season in Chios, in August!
All along the coast lines of Chios, you will see the castles that were used to look out for invading pirates. I wonder if the workers got overtime pay? Must have been pretty cold in the winter! No Television, No Computers, No microwave ovens to heat up the food! Coffee??? Probably only some stong 'tsipouro' to keep the bones from aching!
Anyway, there sure make for great photos today!
Everywhere you drive, you will find long, beautiful beaches. Many very beautiful ones can be found in the Volisos area. The beaches are long, with small stones and sand. The water is cool are clean. You may even find a few campers, free camping in tents or caravans...
I know things have changed a lot and Chios is not what it used to be and the port of Chios has grown noisier and the original "kafeneia" have given their place to modern bars and cafes but one of the things I have always liked doing when there, was to sit at the port on a hot summer afternoon and enjoy a greek coffee or a mastic "submarine".
It is at this hour of the day between 4 and 5 o' clock that virtually no cars go by, the sea is calm, the boats sway softly, the occasional cormorant dives for its fish and Turkey looks hazy in the afternoon summer heat.
Soon after the town comes alive again so much so that seems almost unbearable. To me at least
Let me give you a picture: I come here at noon, I find a free umbrela, I order a cold frappe' coffee / iced tea / beer, I sit on the chair solving crosswords / reading magazines / reading books or just doing nothing at all and whenever I feel hot I dive into the sea.
The sea: sandy beach - crystal clear water (It's the first time I saw that! Usually sand gives a moody impression). In the afternoon, when the sun is bent a bit, you may even see your shadow at the bottom of the sea, even in dip water.
Then you get out of the sea, for more iced drinks, and doing nothing.
And then again in the sea.
And the night comes, so you order a gin and tonic instead :D
I should mention here that, until now, this tip was under the "off the beaten path" section. BUT I realised afterwards that Emporios is not really off the beaten path in August, so I choose to move this tip for you (and lost all these magnificent ratings, if this is not a sacrifice then what is?). My advice, visit the place in July.
It's like a dream if you like something relaxing. Check my relevant accomodation tip, the photo!!!
Can you believe this place???
The sea is good, people were swimming but we, as others too, preffered to go to the more touristy nearby beach of Komi (2 minutes by car). So we enjoyed our relaxation away from the crowds while sleeping, resting, dinning and we had the "tourist" part as well.
Emporios has some seafood tavernas, where we enjoyed fresh fish just beside the sea.
The almost deserted stone village is situated in the mountain in the western part of Chios. It lies there like an eagles nest, almost invisible. Here woman and children sought refuge during the turkish attack in 1822 and ended up throwing themselves off the 100 meters high cliff to escape being captured.
This stone village is sitting on top of a cliff overlooking the Aegean. You can see the beautiful sunset from here while enjoying a meal at the taverna. The houses in the village is beautifully renovated and if you like, you can rent one and stay the night.
This village in the mastichoria district is famous for its sgrafitti covered houses. Xysta. It is a geometric pattern in grey and white, made by engraving into wet cement. On the town square you'll find a nice, shady places to sit for a drink or a meal.