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Imagining Chios

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It’s just an island. Or is it? Situated close to Asia Minor, the Greek island of Chios has history, tradition and quality embedded in its culture.

Like the enormous castle that dominates the Chios town (Chora) or the medieval village of Mesta, the whole island resonates a very rich past and a promising future. Although influenced by temporary Italian influences, Chios was a member of the original Ionic League and predominantly Greek throughout the centuries. It is also notable with its huge diaspora dispersed around the world, especially in London, New York and Australia. During summer English can easily become lingua franca in Chios town hotspots.

Chios was also first home of many immigrants from Asia Minor and runaway Greek soldiers from the great catastrophe in the 1920’s. These helped form the abundant cultural riches of today’s Chios. People of the island come second in hospitality and kindness to none. Mr. Hadzeleni at the harbor’s travel agency, or Mr. Spordilis of Hotel Kyma are helping all and every visitor in the best they can, everyday. In my 30 something years of experience I never heard Mr. Hadzeleni say “no” to any request. An islander by birth, Mikis Theodorakis might be considered as an epitome of kindness and grace that represents Chios.

But fame and fashion are not my points in this article. I’d like to present Chios as a mere escape pod. The south full of Mastiha trees and unforgettable beaches and the north, although bare, hosting a few of the most unspoiled spots for recreation, Chios is a heaven for many who had enough of the city hustle, let it be in Athens, London, New York or Istanbul. The food, although far from competing with Lesvos, is unique and non-touristic. In Komi, as well as Chios town, you can find authentic tavernas that will feed you with the care of your grandmother. I would like to mention one: Tasso’s in Chios town, 3 minutes walk south of Hotel Chandris (or Hotel Kyma) is the summit of homely cooking in a touristic town.

Last week I was in Chios. Surely that was not my first time there. Living in Smyrna makes it necessary to use Chios as a gateway to Greece or to the rest of the world. However this was special. I wasn’t there for a quick day or with a plan. I was there to feel free. And being there to feel free made all the difference. Biking the mountain roads under the sun with a Meltemi breeze, finding hidden treasures, be it food or a village and its blossoming hospitality, were all unique experiences even for a seasoned Greece traveler. I have felt at home in many places in Greece, but Chios felt more home among equals.

I will keep and cherish my memories with my bike and friends there, but I’ll share with you this: whenever you feel like you need freedom, forget the crowded streets of Mykonos or Santorini. Chios awaits you with all its charm and sincerity at a short flights range. Say kalimera to all you meet, and they will greet you with unparalleled hospitality, friendship and with their immense culinary riches. And of course best beaches around this neck of the woods are a solid bonus.

Stratos Moraitis

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