Discover the fantastic world of mastic (resin) cities in Chios island of Greece (Mastihohória), a fortified complex of settlements of rare beauty. The existence of these cities is closely linked to the “tears” of mastic trees that grow only in the south of the island. The Genovese built this complex to provide shelter to families who lived here and cultivated the trees. At some point during their occupation, they have also raised fortresses to protect their land. The massacre of the residents by the Turks destroyed the economic structure of this society.
The turbulent history of these cities reflects miraculously in the buildings’ architecture: for defense purposes, they were built offshore and surrounded by high walls, with a central tower; the last defense possibility if the walls were attacked by Arab pirates. The tower has no doors, but invaders could enter by using ladders, because the bridges were built of roofs. The streets were narrow and dark, with hidden alleys, which can not only make the invaders feel confused, but they were used as hideouts by locals, allowing them to quietly plan their attacks.
There are currently only 24 such settlements that have resisted the passing of time, many of which were destroyed by the catastrophic earthquake that took place in 1881. Some cities are still intact, including Mestá, Pirgí, Olympia, Kalamoti, Véssa Patrik, Vouno, Elati and Kini, forming impressive medieval towns. The recent restoration works performed on the old stone residences have contributed significantly to beautify the landscape, and managed to recreate the atmosphere of the times long gone.
Mestá is the best preserved fortified city in the complex. A tour of these places will give you a chance to admire three impressive castles, ancient churches and magnificent stone houses built side by side and linked by arches. In Pyrgos you will discover impressive black and white geometric decorations which adorn the exterior walls of the houses – the so-called “ksistá”. In Avgonima, the view will definitely captivate you, because this place is near the island of Psará.
Do not miss the medieval Olympic settlement ocated 31 kilometers south of Chios city. Stroll along the maze- like alleys of Kalamoti where you pass near two-story stone houses that remained intact over time. Kallimassiá was almost destroyed by the earthquake of 1881, but you can still find here ruins and medieval towers of local churches. Enjoy a cup of coffee in the square and get to know the friendly locals who are extremely eager to teach you how mastic is produced, respecting a practice 2,500 years old.
Photo source: Picture 1: funkystock.photoshelter.com; Picture 2: funkystock.photoshelter.com; Picture 3: funkystock.photoshelter.com; Picture 4: funkystock.photoshelter.com; Picture 5: funkystock.photoshelter.com; Picture 6: funkystock.photoshelter.com