Pyrgi, Mesta, Lithi. A day in Real Chios Life! ! !
What a perfect day. We are in Chios, a magnificent island which lays at North-east Aegean Sea, a sea where in accordance with Zorba the Greek (Nikos Kazantzakis) : “Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea”.
Good things happen in the morning so we are set to off around 9 a.m. The bus driver will drive us through Mastihohoria (the villages in the south part of the island where mastiha is produced) heading to village named Pyrgi where is our first stop.
A little story about Pyrgi:
The entire village of Pyrgi – 25 Km south of the town of Chios – is one of the areas which still stands as it was built. The narrow roads, the innumerable churches, and amongst them the 13th century Byzantine church of St. Apostles in combination with the unique black and white geometrical decor of the outer walls of the houses. -The “xysta” -are the things which enchant the visitor.
It has been designated a listed monument. It keeps its houses tied tightly together in what seems like a closed and compact form. The streets are cobbled and narrow. This type of fortress, a four-cornered structure, was built for protection against the frequent attacks by pirates and Turks, as well as for better cultivation of the mastic bush. It lies in small, treeless valleys far from the sea. The gray houses had doors and windows that faced only the interior of the wall, that is, inside the village. The outer walls contained adjoining parapets with small towers at the corners and only one gate. The inhabitants could enter and leave the village only through a door which can be found today at the location Kato Porta.
At the centre of Pyrgi rises the defence tower, where the inhabitants took refuge in the case of attack, using a movable bridge. The streets are narrow, stone-paved, and are connected to the central tower square. At frequent intervals there are transverse archways supporting the structures, as well as vaults and arches supporting the rooms. The functional character of the houses was geared to defence, and thus the inhabitants were able to move about the roofs without being seen. The four-sided shape of these houses, their thick structure, the defence system, the small areas for general use, and their relation to the treeless, natural surroundings, convince us that Pyrgi was built on a fixed plan which may have been imposed by the Genoese.
At Pyrgi, one sees scraped designs called Xysta on the facades of the houses. This is a technique of hand-engraving geometric motifs in black and white on plaster. It is based on plastering-sand being applied to the wall, carefully painted white, then scraped with the designs. These Xysta, reminiscent of the Italian Sgraffito, a form of decoration which stems from Genoa, has made the Pyrgi unique.
We will be able to see:
The St. Apostles church after a narrow arched gallery starting at the north-eastern corner of the central square.
The Central church of the village dedicated to the Assumption of Holy Mother.
A walk around the narrow streets and alleys of the village is heartily recommended.
Our stop to Pyrgi village will take about an hour. Them we will be back to the bus and the driver will drive us all the way to Mesta, probably the most characteristic of the medieval villages. This village-castle remains perfectly preserved since the Byzantine period.
A little story about Mesta:
Mesta in old medieval texts is mentioned as Amista, Amistae and Lamiste. Perhaps in Greek it was named Amistha.
According to another view the name derives from the Byzantine word “mesta” which means “hard” (the opposite of “tender”).
A third view is based on the shift of the initial letter of the word Vesta – Mesta. “Vestas” was the one responsible for the emperor’s clothing. “Vestarhaton” used to be a feud given by the Emperor to “Vestas” in order to honour him.
Unverified tradition quotes that Mesta was founded by the dwellers of Meskia, a village in Peloponnese and by the natives that used to live in various small settlements up to then. They constructed the village by bordering it with a great wall.
Nowadays Mesta has 500 residents approximately. Many more are those who dwell in Athens, Thessaloniki and in the USA. Associations have been established by the communities of Athens and of the USA, whose primary concern is to be in direct contact with the manners and customs of their native land.
Many embellishment works have been taking place due to the villagers living abroad. In the past the communities of Egypt and Russia made great offers to the village whereas these days the communities of the USA and Athens contribute essentially to the promotion of the village.
The villagers themselves are vividly interested in the maintenance of their cultural heritage as well as in the environmental conservancy. As far as cultural issues are concerned there is the “Cultural Association of Mesta” and about the environment issues the Association of Amateur Fishermen “The Friends of Limenas of Mesta”.
Walking around the narrow alleys you will realize how difficult it was for the attackers to find their way through the village.
You will be able also to visit the Church of Great Taxiarchis and the church of older Taxiarchis.
Would you like to have a coffee here? It is ok. Lithi is about 25 kms away from Mesta and there we will be able to enjoy the sea (the kids will be very happy of that) and we will enjoy a nice lunch.
5 p.m. will be the last call for jumping into the bus for the way to return to Chios. The bus will leave with or without you (maybe you will fall in love with Lithi and you would like to spend the rest of your life there but don’t forget why you came to Chios….