The "Portara" is probably the strangest antique monument we saw in Greece. As we arrived by the ferry boat around 10 pm we didn't discover this marble frame of the door of the Apollo Temple before we visited Chora in daytime.
Actually we arrived at Naxos in May 1977 after a tour of Athens and the Peloponnesus so that we were more interested in the beach of Pyrgaki where we were staying in one of the few hotels existing at that time in Naxos.
It was the pre-tourism period of Naxos with not more than a hundred tourists on the entire island. Seems it changed!
The only original characteristic of my photo of this iconic symbol of Naxos is that it dates from 1977.
Naxos was the first Greek island we visited. I don't know what it looks like today but thirty years ago arriving at a Cycladic island not touched by tourism was somewhat of an adventure.
We were only a dozen tourists to arrive on an evening of May 1977 with the "Naxos" ferry boat. A frenzied crowd was standing on the quay and shouting at the ship. We wondered if a revolution had burst out at Naxos and we hurried to catch one of the few taxis.
Our hotel was at twenty Km from the harbour. After a few Km of asphalt the road became a trail and suddenly the driver stopped! The country was desert; the only light came from the moon. We thought this was our last hour!
The driver went out of his taxi to pick up a rabbit he had knocked. He was happy about the future dinner and we discovered that we both could communicate in German.
We arrived safe at our lonely hotel of Pyrgaki. The manager explained us that the frenzy at the "Naxos" arrival was due to the fact that this ferry boat belonged to a cooperative company hold by the inhabitants of the island and the financial manager had run away with all cash!
After that Naxos became quiet again until the tourist rush started in the late eighties.
We staid here in 1977 and 1980 because one of the very few modern hotels of the island was located here. Actually the Pyrgaki bungalows hotel belonged to a Belgian so that a Belgian tour operator specialized on Greece was sending the first tourists to this place.
Located 20 Km south of Naxos Chora by a mostly not asphalted road in that time, it was certainly far off the beaten path. In that time Mykonos and Paros were the only tourist islands in the Cyclades.
It was a wonderful feeling to be there nearly alone at the end of Naxos. It was the first time and last time my wife and I felt such a freedom and carefreeness.
From the beach one could see to the west the mountains of the island Paros. It was always a wonderful view to have the sun go down over Paros.
From the Naxos tourist office I read now:
"It is an endless beach with golden and white sand, amazing crystalline waters and verdant bushes surrounding it. In Pyrgaki waters are always calm, protected from the strong north winds (called “meltemia”). A few accommodations are available in the area around the beach as well as nice taverns."
PS. On present photos I can distinguish the bungalows of our former hotel but no indication if it is still operational. I can just say that it is not the Finikas Hotel.
Chora is the port and capital of Naxos. Following the 1204 sacking of Constantinople, Venetians siezed many of the Aegean islands, following the collapse of Byzantine authority. Marco Sanudo captured Naxos in 1207 and gained supremacy over the other Venetians on the other islands, uniting them under the Duchy of Naxos. But the Duke wanted a bit more independence than the Doge and his people back home in Venice were willing to grant him, so he broke away from he Venetian 'Republic' and allied hiimself with the Latin Emperor, thus becoming the Duke of the Archipelago. Naxos was split up into 56 provinces and shared out among his officers. they ruled directly for 300 years. Even after the Turks came in the 1500's, they continued to rule - paying tax to teh Turks was enough to keep them happy.
The old town is clustered atop the hill above the harbor. There were two neighborhoods in the old town: Bouros, where the native Greeks lived and the higher up Kastro, occupied by the Venetian noblemen and their families. There is a Catholic Cathedral up here - founded by Marco Sanudo in the 13th Century. Some 19 Venetian houses still bear their old coats-of-arms. The waterfront is filled with cafes and restaurnts. Main beaches are to the south - bus or small boats take you out. The little island of Myrtidiotissa with its chapel, lies in the harbor, picturesquely.
Naxos is almost as well-known for its ancient marble as neighbor, Paros. The Terrace of Lions at Delos and the marble sphinx at Delphi were both of Naxian marble. 15 km east of the main port of Chora, are the ancient marble quarries at Fleuris. There are two giant 6.4 meters kouroi still lying in an unfinshed state among the olive trees here. Statues were roughed out in the quarries and then sent, finished or unfinished to their final destinations. These kouroi were never finished for unknown reasons and have lain here for millenia since. Probably something to do with an overdrawn VISA card?
The original reason for the causeway was to build what was to be the most glorious building in Greece on the little islet. 522 BC, Lugdamis, the Naxian tyrant/leader, set in motion what would have been another of the Wonders of the Ancient World - a truly monumental Temple of Apollo. It is thought that a local war with the friendly folks over on Samos, brought the project to an end. Only the massive doorframe - lintel - remains, a 'door to nowhere', much to the delight of countless photgraphers looking for that perfect sunset picture.
Just north of the port, lies the little islet of Palatia. An ancient causeway was built, linking the islet to the main island. There is a small sandy beach curving around the causeway, protected by an ancient mole that was rebuilt in the relatively recent time of Marco Sanudo.
You bet your life I slept soundly due to a combination of jet lag and 36 hours without sleep. In fact, Thanasis and Spyros had a hard time getting me up at 11.30 that morning. I woke from the most sound sleep of my then nearly 25 years. They wanted to go to the beach. They hadn't said anything about it before. Despite still being tired, I still hadn't lost that sense of adventure. The trick was summoning the requisite energy to get out of bed. I could have very easily crawled back in bed, but I didn't want to miss the beach. I managed to get down a little bread and a half a cup of coffee. We piled in 3 cars to go to the beach. It was a warm, but windy day, a perfect day to go to the beach. I sat under the umbrella for awhile and I went into the water. On the surface, it was round about 80? (27?C) but got colder as you got deeper, though not nearly as cold as the water at some beaches in northwestern Spain. Thanasis, Spyros, and I walked the entire section of beach.
No visit to the Castro of Naxos can be complete, without visiting "the Venetian Museum: Domus della ROCCA-BAROZZI! If you are interested in getting to know the glorious past of Naxos during the Venetian period through the 8 century history of a mansion or tower house, belonging to the Greek-Venetian-Frankish families of Della Rocca-Barozzi, then you should not think twice!
According to the Museum brochure:
"The tower house of the Della Rocca-Barozzi is situated on the north side of the Fortress (Castro) of Naxos, to the right of the main gate(in Greek called "Trani Porta", meaning "Great" or "Mighty" Gate).It was built by the Venetians, during the 13th century, and is constructed from stones.The walls are 6 m. wide at their base and their upper part reaches 1.65 m.The stones used for its construction are of large dimensions and are made of granite and marble, which originated from Ancient Greek and Byzantine ruins.The main level of the house is the residence of the family and consists of the living room, the dining room, two bedrooms, gallery, library , a Catholic chapel, and the kitchen.In addition, there are two lower levels.The Della Rocca family is of French origin and they descend from the counts of Burgundy (Comtes de Bourgogne) and their family name used to be "De la Roche".Then, due to the Venetian influence, changed to that of "Della Rocca".The Barozzi family is an aristocratic Venetian family and one of the twelve families who founded the Republic of Venice.During the fourth Crusade (1204), we find members of the family in Santorini, Herakleion (Crete) and finally in Naxos."
The Venetian Museum "Domus della Rocca-Barozzi" is also the venue for the "Domus Festival".Every summer, from the first week of May till the fisrt week of November, a plethora of cultural events are taking place on the premises of the Venetian Museum:
1)The old Cellar, where they used to store wines and other food supplies, it was turned into a multi-exhibition hall, where painting, sculpture and jewel exhibitions are held.
2)The courtyard (I would describe it as "a secret garden!), an oasis of tranquility between the Walls of Castro, with a big palmtree in the middle, hosts different kinds of concerts and recitals: piano, violin, violoncello, guitar performed by Greek, as well as, by foreign artists of very high standards, some of them are reknown artists internationally.There are music and song performances such as: traditional and popular Greek music, Jazz and religious one (Byzantine choirs).Conferences on different art subjects are organized, as well as, book presentations.
Last, but not least, twice a week the "Greek traditional music" (Naxos and other Greek folklore) has its "lion part":Naxian young boys and girls, perform traditional dances of Naxos and of the whole Aegean Archipelago, dressed in traditional Naxian costumes!The whole event is accompanied by an "open invitation": all the "guests" are invited to try the traditional drinks of Naxos: wine, raki and kitro.A really "unforgettable night".
I should extend a "special thank" to Mr. Nikos KARAVIAS (a Della Rocca-Barozzi by his mother side), owner and founder of the Venetian Museum, who treats all his Museum visitors, as his "private guests"!
Few of Naxos visitors have ever heard of it and even fewer have ever visited it!We are talking about the "best kept secret" of Castro, the Venitian Castle-Fortress of Naxos.What is this secret (and we are not talking about the "Da Vinci Code"!):the best and the most somptuous baroque (Catholic) church in Greece!
The "Capella", as all the Naxians called it, it is the private Chapel of the first Venitian Duke of Naxos,whose name was: Marco Sanudo (Marco Sanudo was the founder and first Duke of the Aegean Duchy in 1207,fruit of the Cruisades:the Cruisadors once having taken over the Byzantine Empire, they started the partition of the Greek territory).The Chapel is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.
Its current form is due to the French Jesuits, who gave to the "Capella", a distinctive French flamboyant baroque style, on the 17th century.
The Main Altar contains a big painting of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady and is covered by golden leaves.There are four lateral chapels dedicated to the Saint Louis of The French, to Saint John Vianne, to the Virgin of the Rosary and to Saint Joseph.
The "Capella' is open during summer time-ask the lady, who takes care of the Catholic Cathedral (few metres away), if it is possible to guide you, the major holidays (Corpus Christi), as well as, for the wedding ceremonies.Actually it is very elegant to get married to this monumental church! Think about that!
Once in Naxos, try to include in your staying a visit to this unique place of art and worship.You will be pleasantly surprised to find such a baroque church in Greece!
If you make the drive up into the mountains of Naxos don't miss the store L'Olivier. Katherina and Alex who are the artists who own the store and are the creators of the art inside are perfectly charming and totally passionate about their work.
Portara, this "huge door" is the landmark of Naxos! All the publications, books, leaflets, photos about Naxos, they don' t fail to portray it!
Portara is situated on the small rocky islet of "Palatia", on the left side of the port of Naxos.Once upon a time the islet of Palatia was a real island, but on the recent times, a "walking way" has been built, so it is not anymore a "real island" and is always a pleasure to walk around there.Especially to admire the sunset!
The monument is so impressive to locals, as well to visitors, it gives you such good vibes that over the centuries the local people have given it the colloquial name: "Portara" (the big or huge door in Greek).
Said monument is the gigantic marble gateway into what was once a temple dedicated to Apollo and it is 6 metres high.It was built in the 6th century BC, when the tyrant of Naxos was Lygdamis.The grandeur of the remaining archaeological site reminds us that that time Naxos was a prominent naval, commercial and commercial centre.
According to the legend it is on the island of Palatia (in Greek means: palaces) that Theseus abandoned Ariadne after having killed the Minotaurus and fled Crete and it was from here that Dionysus kidnapped her.Again, according to the legend, Ariadne built her palace, thus the name Palatia.
A large part of the premises of the former "Commercial School of Naxos" (built by the French Jesuits and could be considered as the "first University in Greece), on the highest part of the CASTRO neighbourhood, houses the Archaeological Museum of Naxos.
The Museum is a MUST for everyone who likes the Cycladic art, due to the fact that possesses a large collection of Cycladic idols!
The exhibits come from Naxos and the small surrounding islands of Keros, Donousa and Koufonissia.
The visitor can admire artefacts made of gold, silver, bronze, clay and marble, discovered in tombs, as well as pottery, tools and weapons from the later Mycenanean, Geometric and Roman period.
The terraced countryside of the island's interior belies a fertility not found on many of the other Cyclades. High above, are more towns to be explored, more wines to be tasted, more beaches to be discovered.