With a luxurious morning and early afternoon at sea (the only occurrence of this schedule on the entire tour) we arrived mid-afternoon at the charming port of Chios, on the island of Chios, the fifth largest of the Greek islands, midway between Istanbul and Crete.
The island of Chios (pronounced HEE-os) is the legendary birthplace of Homer, and civilizations have been found there dating back to 2000 B.C. Mostly mountainous, the principle cities are on the coasts. Chios is mostly famous, though, for three things: the home of the Nea Moni monastery, the Chios massacre of 1822, and for the production of mastic gum.
We visited Nea Moni (“New Monastery”) very briefly during the afternoon, as we had to come back to town to prepare for the 5pm concert. The trip up into the hills afforded a nice group photo opportunity and a spectacular views of the town, the outlying islands, and the harbor, with the Corinthian II visible just left of center.
Sometime in the 11th century, three monks saw a glow in the forest, and soon discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary unharmed in a burning bush. They removed it for safekeeping, but the icon found its way back to the bush every night, so they decided that meant that they should build a monastery on this spot. They petitioned the Byzantine Emperor Constantine IX for money and were funded handsomely, building a beautiful complex, decorated with sublime art. An earthquake in 1881 damaged many of the frescos and mosaics, but tantalizing portions remain. The place became a convent in 1952, but today only one nun survives, and when her time comes, the monks can take over again. Until then, she’s on her own.
Extraordinary mosaic: Christ submerged for baptism
Chios has at various times been under control of the Minoans, Greeks, Romans, Venetians, Genoese, and the Turks. After the crumbling of the Roman Empire around 400 A.D., the island fell under, and stayed under the rule of the Byzantine Empire until roughly 1261 when it was given to Genoa. The Genoese managed to hold on for two centuries until the city finally came under control of the Ottoman Empire.
The rebellion by the Greeks against their Ottoman rulers was put down with frightening brutality by a force of Turks who landed on the island and wiped out entire towns. There is no memorial, but skulls of the murdered can be seen at Nea Moni, where 600 monks and 3500 women and children were killed on Good Friday. A total of 23,000 people are said to have died, with another 47,000 sold to slavery.
In a somber mood, we traveled back the short distance to the town for our concert. The program included the Mozskowski Suite for two violins, plus Beethoven’s magisterial Archduke Trio went a long way towards restoring the group’s spirits and its faith in the good of man.
We celebrated the end of an extraordinary day with a dinner in the harbor, which came as close to a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding as we would get.
While dining, we watched our ship’s lights gradually light the water, beckoning us to board.
After watching Greece lost to Argentina 0-2 in a local bar…
…we headed back to the ship for another peaceful overnight journey, this time to the nearby port of Kusadasi in Turkey.
Click here for more photos from our Chios trip on Flickr.