Olympoi. It’s all About the Doors!

I’ve almost – but not entirely exhausted nearly every alleyway in Pyrgi. I have still been able to discover new ones every time I go out on an exploration but today I want to do something else. I’ll have breakfast first to think about it.

I’ve found that the main square has its own little enclaves of residents. As I’ve mentioned before the taverna’s near the church in the square seem to populated mainly by the old men. Along one side of the square small groups of elderly women sit and chat and in the cafe underneath Gus’s taverna, younger men sit and watch football on the screen. In the middle is a mixture of all the above and everyone else.

Yesterday I’d had pancakes with chocolate sauce for breakfast in the main square. Today I walk to the smaller square at the entrance to the village. This cafe in the square doesn’t have many customers but they do have bougatsa! In the evening a group of elderly widows dressed in black sit on edges of the square. This feels quite a nice place to be without having to weigh up the group dynamics. As I eat my bougatsa and drink my tea, an elderly lady dressed in black with a white headscarf walks through the square with a plastic carrier bag in one hand. She heaves her body between the chairs of the cafe and I wish her a “Kalimera”. She greets me back and continuing on her way she shakes her head repeating the word “Masticha” as she goes. Maybe she’s on her way to start the painstaking task of cleaning the masticha resin. It is that time of year. I wish I could have an insight into what goes on behind the doors of the houses.

I’ve been travelling for three weeks now and I’ve almost lost track of what day it is. I remember the church bells from the day before and realise that it’s Monday and the buses will be running again. I scan the timetable to see if there is somewhere along the route that I haven’t yet seen and decide that today I will visit Olympoi, the next mastic village along the way to Mesta.

The bus timetable only gives the departure time from Chios town so I do a rough calculation of when it should arrive in Pyrgi and make my way down to the supermarket and pharmacy where the bus will stop. It is just 2 euro’s to Olympoi and a ten minute ride. From the main road there is a walk along the approach to the village with small holdings either side. I notice a sign at the entrance to the village outlining a walking trail between Olympoi and Mesta. Not something that I’ll do this trip but it’s always worth noting for another.

I’d read that Olympoi is a bit more low key than the other mastic villages but it is still worth a visit. I have to navigate my way into the settlement, as the outer houses form a defensive wall. After an initial exploration I find that there is another entrance called the lower gate that will bring you into the village. I find myself in a small square which has a large central tower at the heart of it. From here I set off again taking a new route through the alleyways. I discover that they all seem to bring you back into this same square. Around the village there are some examples of the xysta decoration on some of the arches and buildings but only here and there.

There are a few local people in the cafe’s and I stop for a cold drink in one. I fall into conversation with an elderly man who asks me where I’m from. “Ah, the UK! What part of the UK?” He asks. I tell him that I live right in the middle of Liverpool and Manchester which is the easiest way to describe it. “Ah, I was in Liverpool for several months many years ago”. He continues to tell me that he used to work on the ships and one time he was in the port of Liverpool where he was stuck for several months due to a strike. I detect his American accent and again he tells me another story of how his family left for America when he was a child but he returned to Chios as an adult.

I told him that I could see a church tower before but have now lost what direction it was in. The man who tells me his name is Costa (another one) points me in the right direction and off I go exploring again. Around every corner is a painted door or window. I know that they’ve all been painted at some time or other but these are different. I try to Google how they came about and who the artist is but to no avail. I like them. They are quirky and gives the village its own unique style. Of course there are the original old doors that have their own unique charm too!

I had around 3 hours in Olympoi before the bus came to take me back to Pyrgi. Was that a little bit too long? On my own yes, but I’ve enjoyed visiting the village and definitely would go back again.

Back at my beautiful medieval abode I begin to pack as I leave to go back to Chios town tomorrow. Mr Costa hears me come in and we have another convoluted but entertaining conversation again. I ask him how he is as he had been for his Covid jab today. He feels “Wonderful”. He asks me what I’ve been doing today and I tell him that I went to Olympoi. He looks unimpressed. 🙂 He asks me something that I really don’t understand so I have to get out Google Translate. Basically he insists on driving me back to Chios tomorrow. I tell him that that is very kind but it is too much of an imposition. He won’t hear of me catching the bus. So that is me told!

I go for my final meal at Mastixaki and Gus greets me with a loud American “How Ya Doin”. I fill him in on my day and I order the rocket, parmesan and sundried tomato Pyrgi salad along with beefburgers in a tomato sauce. I’ll be sad to leave Pyrgi. Being sad at leaving a place is a good thing. It shows how much you’ve loved being there.

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