In preparation for the next few blog posts about our amazing Greece trip, I decided to give you a short intro to the island of Chios, the place where beach hair is a must, you never go hungry and the ocean is never far.
My husband is American-Greek, although he would call himself being just Greek. Americans are funny that way, even if the connection to whatever country their great-great-great-grandparents three times removed may be from, they still feel it necessary to mention, that they may have some loose tie to a specific culture or country. Europeans don’t share information like that, especially not, when we first meet, maybe once we’ve been friends for a few years, and you’ve been invited to our private Christmas parties, maybe, and only maybe then, do we share personal information… In any case, my husband’s dad’s family really is Greek but my husband was born and raised in the US. But hearing about it and seeing it, are two different encyclopedias (if you don’t know what that is, google it).
A’s family is from a small island off the coast of Greece called Chios, the most wonderful place on earth, at least according to A and when he first said it, I thought, surely he hasn’t seen the Azores, the Philippines, tiny little villages in Germany, how could he claim the title of an awesome place?But little did I know, that Chios really is one of the most amazing places on this planet. It’s the only place where you get Mandarin juice made from mandarins grown on the island and where you somehow can buy two differently sized flipflops at the grocery store and a guy in the middle of the town square sells olives in a bucket, while he sips on a frappe… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Chios is about a 35 minute flight from Athens on a small, shaking your entire core just getting into the plane, not enough space in the overhead compartment for your average hand-trolleys, so don’t bring them with you airplane. But somehow we made it safely (after a 9 hour layover in Athens, where we got massages and ate the most delicious airport foods at the Sofitel hotel across from the airport – I’m not kidding, check it out!).
We arrived “late” by our standard (i.e. 8pm at night, but in Greece, late means early the next morning) on Tuesday night but were greeted by our car-rental person, who immediately asked us if we had any connection to someone’s cousin in some remote village with the same last name he once had ouzo with (and yes, my husband does, because somehow in Chios everyone with the same last name is somehow related, apparently different families having the same last names does not occur on this tiny Greek island). In the dark (because who needs street lights in a place where no motorcyclist wears helmets, and every road has a million and three bends) we somehow made it to our hotel, which was ridiculously spacious and also insanely hot, because – to save energy – why would you have an AC run all day when no-one uses it? But you can’t stay hot for long in Chios, wherever you are, I promise you, you’re max. 30 minutes from the ocean (and we drove around a lot, so this is fact-based on my personal observation…).
The island of Chios is about 7 km (4.3 mi) long, home to about 52.674 people (wikipedia!) and has so much history to offer, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I think, most importantly, what makes Chios so awesome is a product called mastic, which can only be grown in the south of Chios (not even the entire island, just the south!). It’s tree sap which may be used in everything and anything, i.e. gum, health care products, water, alcohol, you name it! But it cannot be grown anywhere else, many people tried to export the mastic growing trees on several occasions time and time again in and around Greece but also the rest of the world, but ultimately failed. Chios is unique that way, the population of Chios, through history, has overcome many hardships, but yet, somehow, they continue to thrive on this tiny little island.
Nature is plentiful and offers everything from barren mountains, to thick forests, soft sanded beaches and beaches with loads of pebbles and rocks. Cliff-side roads like you can only imagine in your worst nightmares and highways paved in the most weirdest places. Goats heading for the coast, random cows on the streets, little lizards and lots of fish. Every village has so much character, each differing tremendously from their neighbors, like seriously, you wouldn’t even know you were on the same island! Little streets build for donkeys but used by cars (I bet insurance must be a pain in the butt on this island), and yet, the people persevered. Through human-caused challenges, wars, massacres and natural hazards such as earth quakes and wild fires throughout time, I don’t believe they ever had an easy time and it shows.
Yet, Chios people are friendly and welcoming and even if you don’t understand a lick of Greek, they’ll help you in whatever way they can. Of course, they’ll yell at you lovingly, after all they’re Greek, but ultimately you will feel loved like you are the most important person in the world. No wonder I fell in love with my husband, right?!
Oh and the food! Wherever you go, every restaurant and every village, every person will make their Greek salads just a bit different, because they pick the very best ingredients available to them, so sometimes you find green olives and bright red tomatoes, other times you find capers and seaweed, it’s a new exciting experience every single day! And it only starts there, I ate so much good food, quality like none other, prepared with care and love and we found ourselves in many different restaurants, from beach cafes to mountain village, and I never went hungry!! But for now, let me tell you, that once you’ve been to Chios, you may forever long for the smell of thyme while cruising through the island, encountering rich culture and history every turn you make and the feeling of dried salt on your skin and hair. So read the next few blog posts carefully, as they may entice you to pack up all your stuff and move to the island of beach hair, amazing food and scary roads!