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Chios Island Off The Beaten Path: 11 reviews and 34 photos
After hundreds of years of history it is understandable that the primal forests on Chios have all been cut. But in the area of Nea Moni, Anavatos and Avgonima is a precious little pine covered forest surrounding the area that is the most significant remaining forest on the island of Chios.
Here in this fragrant pine forest, with its back to Elinda Bay and the Aegean Sea and boldly facing the mountain heights, is the story book like village of Avgonima. The road going to Nea Moni will also take you to this well-preserved stone village that is almost a hidden treasure of Chios.
Today, there are only a few permanent residents living in the village, however, many of the urban dwellers of Chios own summer homes here such that the summer months bring crowds of people that fill up these little stone houses.
The stone building of Avgonima blend in with the background rock forming a camouflage that hides the town from a distance unless you are alert. The streets of the village are narrow and meandering. It is fun to walk around and see what is around the next corner. One simply cannot get lost. If you have already visited Anavatos then you can see the contrast between these two villages. They have the same kind of stone buildings but here they are decorated with gardens and flora that take away all of the harsh edges. This is what Anavatos must have looked like before it was destroyed.
And if you are lucky you will stumble upon some serene sights of the blue Aegean Sea and its beaches and maybe, on a clear day, even of the neighboring island of Psara.
Nea Moni (New Monastary) church and bell tower
In the hills to the west of Chios city stands Nea Moni, the island's most important Byzantine monument. Nea Moni (New Monastery), founded by a monk named Constantine, was built in the 11th century and for hundreds of years was the most important religious site on the island. It remains as one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture, extraordinary frescoes and mosaics in Greece.
Nea Moni was central to a very dark drama that played out here in 1822. For you see, this monastery and all of those who fled here for protection suffered to the last person during the Ottoman invasion of 1822. It was the culmination of situation that began in the mid-1500's.
In the middle 1500s much of Greece was conquered by the Ottoman Turks. Chios was taken without a fight. Due to the fact that the Ottomans saw a great deal of profit coming out of Chios they wisely ruled with a benevolent hand. But the people always saw themselves as Greeks. So when Greece revolted against the Ottoman rule in 1821 Chios ultimately decided to join the revolution. The people knew they had much to lose but longed for independence from Turkey.
After hundreds of years of benign rule, Sultan Mahmud II was enraged that Chios opted to join in the Greek revolution. A Turkish army numbering 7,000 was sent to the island to punish the people for their disloyalty. The resulting slaughter was almost unimaginable.
Of the 118,000 people living in Chios, only 1,800 remained in Chios after the invaders cut down the population like cord wood. All of the inhabitants and refugees at Nea Moni were killed. Many of the people of Chios that they spared were sold as slaves. About 50,000 women and children were sold to brothels and slave markets in Constantinople and elsewhere.
The massacre of Chios shocked and enraged Western Europe into giving support to Greece for its independence. But Chios remained apart from Greece until a treaty signed in 1923.
The last tragedy to befall Nea Moni was the terrible earthquake of 1881. The dome, the belfry and the vault of the church collapsed and many of its wonderful mosaics were damaged. Currently some restoration work is underway.
The promitory upon which Anavatos was built
Near the center of Chios island is the village of Anavatos. It is perched precariously high on a rocky elevation with sides so steep it can only be approached from one direction. The walls and buildings of the town were built to defend it from its enemies. Unfortunately, that hope was crushed in a most dramatic way. But the natural defenses of the site make it probable it was originally founded to control the island's west coast during the period of piracy during the 15th century and later.
The town was attacked and overrun during the Ottoman invasion of 1822. Many of the women of the town threw themselves off of the high cliffs to death to avoid falling into the hands of the Ottomans.
Today the village is completely deserted and in ruins but the overall shape of the settlement is quite well-preserved to give a unique picture of a ghost town surrounded by a wild and rough natural environment.
When you visit and climb to the heights you can use your imagination to see the advancing Turkish troops and to understand the panic and despair of the trapped residents that would force them into unthinkable acts of desperation.
This hallowed place is now a Greek National Monument.
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