Well, I arrived on Psara at sunset and leave at sunrise – a fitting tribute to this beautiful island and also the trouper of a ship that is the Psara Glory.
The wind really whipped up last night. I could hear the chairs on my patio being tumbled about. That doesn’t bode well for a calm crossing. Anyway, the Psara Glory handled the trip from Oinousses very well in choppy waters so I have faith that she will do the same again. I know it may be a bit rough whilst out in open seas but as soon as we reach the channel between Chios and Turkey it will be fine.
I weave my way through village with the scent of the four o’clock flower still heavy in the early morning air. The eery orange glow of the tungsten street lights illuminate my way through the maze of streets. No neighbours around to greet with a ‘Kalimera’ or a ‘Yiasou’.
Dawn is about to break and the blood red sky begins to creep out from the horizon. The sea birds screech their welcome to a new day. The Psara Glora is ready and waiting and I board along with an elderly man who looks as though he was going on a shopping trip to Chios for the day. And that’s it. Apart from the refuse lorry and the two men operating her, it’s a pretty empty ship.
By the time we leave, the sky has changed from its rich jewel colours to the pale pastels of peach and pale yellow. The Glory of Psara bids us farewell as the ropes are let loose from the mooring points. The ship Psara Glory makes her way out of the safe harbour where all is calm. Farewell Psara!
As soon as we reach the open sea it’s a bit of a fairground ride. She bounces up and down like a dolphin through water. When a large swell hits her from the side she begins to rock from side to side. She moves with the waves in all directions – a bit like a gyroscope.
I’m the only one on sitting on the outside deck in one of the sheltered seats. I’m not going to lie, there were times when a sideways swell hit us full on that I’d grip the seat and curse and blaspheme. I remind myself that I have Master Mariners in my ancestry and they’d be turning in their graves if they could see me being such a wuss. At least I don’t get sea sick!
This journey is four hours in duration and this little ship continues ploughing through the swell and rolling with every punch. Thankfully as soon we get closer to the Chios coastline it does calm down – a little. Soon we are level with Oinousses and the view of the monastery and then the harbour comes into view.
The last bit of the journey as we approach Chios harbour is actually very pleasant. I spot the Chios Windmills down by the sea and try and gauge whether it’s in walking distance from the port where I’ll be staying. It looks doable.
Coming back to Chios is a bit like adding Athens to the end of an island hopping trip. It has the feel of a city with a good shopping centre, great museums and lots of things to see and do. I’ve always liked going back to Athens after a particularly great trip because it serves as a great distraction and the sadness of leaving the islands.
I have a very short walk to my next abode which is the Aegean Sea Rooms overlooking the port. I chose this hotel because the reviews were good and I like the location – watching the ships will be great. I’m given a warm welcome and they note that the ship was half an hour late because of the weather. I’m told that I have a sea view room which makes it sound very grand. The room isn’t that great to be honest. It has a little bit of what I call the ‘ick’ factor – primarily the bathroom which seems to have loads of mosquitoes in it for some reason. I won’t dwell on it too much. The room was cheap and I’m only here for four nights before moving on somewhere else on the island – I don’t know where yet. On the plus side the bed has a memory foam mattress so I think I’ve just about broken even.
I’m not going to unpack fully whilst I’m here. I have a very organised suitcase where clothes are sorted by type in packing cubes – the same with toiletries. I can just pull out what I need very easily without unloading everything. I have dresses and trousers that lay flat on top of the packing cubes – all freshly washed and ironed before I left Psara, which I lift out and put on hangers.
Enough of that – I’m keen to head out and explore. I’d got my bearings of the town roughly when I first arrived on Chios so know where I need to go for the main high street etc. The first thing on my agenda is to get a timetable from the bus station and some information from the tourist information office. I must say that both ladies that I spoke to were very friendly and very helpful indeed.
With a bag stuffed with information I had towards the main square where I see what looks like a public garden. From the entrance I spot a large statue taking pride of place and realise that it is none other than the swashbuckling Psariot hero Konstantinos Kanaris. Things really do seem to knit together.
Chios town is busy. The traffic is pretty full on and a bit of a shock to the system after several weeks on two very quiet islands. Here people in the street are not as eager to greet you or smile at you. The way people dress is a bit more cityfied – a little bit more sophisticated. And I’ve come with a wardrobe more suited to being a beach bum! Who cares!
I don’t know how but I find myself wandering in the back streets behind the port. I immediately notice the old houses with their beautiful old doors and windows and spend the rest of the afternoon just wandering these streets. I’m in heaven. Many of the old houses have the closed balconies which are seen a lot in cities like Cairo. It is only when I stumble across a huge tower that I realise that I’m within the old defensive city walls and the Kastro area.
Some of the houses are really grand with well tended gardens and trees heavily laden with pomegranates, oranges and lemons. Many are completely derelict – and these are the ones that I love the most.
I see a sign for the Turkish Baths and using Google maps I eventually find my way there. I know it will be closed at this time of day but once I’ve located it I’ll put it on my agenda for the following morning. I take a few external snaps through the gate.
Back into the labyrinth of the Kastro, I literally stumble across a small square where the Ottoman cemetery is located. The cemetery is small but one thing of note is that one of the gravestones belongs to Kara Ali, who was blown up along with his flagship by Konstantinos Kanaris in Chios harbour in 1822.
The square looks really nice and I decide to come back here later for something to eat. I follow the path around and it takes me out through a city gate. Ah now it makes sense. I had entered the Kastro area down a side street behind the port. Now I can see exactly where I am.
Back at the hotel I go about squashing as many mosquitoes as I can before having a shower and change. I make my way back to the square via the castle gate which is a much more straight forward way to get there when you want to just ‘in and out’.
Before I head back to the square n the Kastro I want to walk to the windmills which are just a little outside of the town. Google Maps sends me along the back of the Kastro wall and along a main road. It take about twenty minutes to walk there including having to dodge traffic. Pavements aren’t really a thing in Greece. What pavements there are usually have cars parked on them – it’s a very car-centric society. But then again aren’t we all.
I reach the windmills – firstly a couple of derelict ones and then the four windmills complete with sales on the sea front. I take a few snaps and then head back to the Kastro.
Once through the main gate I’m in the little square almost immediately. The taverna’s in the square aren’t busy which is perfect for me. I decide to eat at Kafenes with it’s upcycled pallet tables. I have a lovely meal actually – a nice friendly service with great food.
I’m really excited to explore Chios further – I go back to my hotel to study the leaflets and books from the tourist office and see where I may go.