Aug 12

THE MGNIFFICENT MASTIC TOWNS OF CHIOS (ΧΊΟΣ)

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
Jun 02

FLYING ON THE BALLOON OVER THE WONDERS OF CAPPADOCIA (CAPPADOCIA)

Cappadocia is really a great experience; some say even more interesting and exhilarating than a visit to any other European capital. Because the trip is sticking out of any pattern: a balloon adventure at 650 meters above ground, walks through volcanic valleys that make up the spectacular scenery and accommodation in a hotel carved into the rock.

Whether you’re in the bubble, whether you walk on the ground through the valleys of eroded volcanic rocks, the scenery of Cappadocia is spectacular and unique in the world. It is an area of volcanic origin, and the unusual shapes displaying their splendor in front of your eyes are the result of the erosion caused by wind and snow through the ages. After the first human settlings, people begun shaping the grottos and caves to adjust them to their needs and the area was preferred by the fore father of early Christianity, as hiding places for the hermits.

The area is semi-arid, harsh winters and quite persistent snows.

But what you can see and do more precisely while visiting Cappadocia?

One of the best activities is take balloon trip. Wake up at 4 a.m. and catch the sunrise above the clouds. The beauty of the place is doubled by this daily phenomenon; the scenery is filled with the sun-rays and receives their blessings while being bathed in astounding shades of pink, orange, gold and all the variations in between. And on top of all, you can see other approximately 100 colorful balloons starting to float above ground, filling the valley and the horizon just like in a dream-like experience. This is an event that you should not miss.

The balloon flight lasts about one hour and includes transportation from the hotel to the departure. A trip costs about 150-165 Euro per person, but offers discounts for large groups (20 people).

You get on the balloon around 5 o’clock a.m. Forget about your fear of flight, forget that you will rise up in the air at 650 meters, this will be a unique sight that will take your breath away in the best meaning.

You have to keep in mind that balloon flight takes place only at sunrise. A balloon escapade will provide you with a dose of adrenaline that keeps you “high” long after the expired time travel. And don’t worry; the pilots have two-year training before getting the permit, so you are completely safe.

Also, the air is cooler up above, but not insufferably cold; If there are 17-20 degrees Celsius on the ground, up in the sky the temperature is slightly lower. However the flame of the balloon will warm up the atmosphere.  The only recommendation is to wear a wind jacket with a hood, and maybe some lip balm and sunglasses. And the photo camera, of course!

And once you get back on the ground, you will see the wonders of nature and geology and lose yourself in this other-worldly landscape.

I recommend you take a good local guide that will tell you the fascinating history of the place while walking through valleys and erosion cliffs of volcanic tuff.

The main attractions in Cappadocia are the erosion valleys, such as Pashabal Valley – where you will admire the Fairy Chimneys -, Pigeon Valley, Devrent Valley / Rose Valley, Zelve Valley etc.

One of the most famous monastic settlement is Soganli Valley  and the stone-carved monastery in Keslik.

Other carved settlements are: the luxury hotels in Goreme, Urgup, Uchisar, Ortahisar castle.

Also, don’t miss Kaymakli, the largest underground city in Cappadocia.

One of the most unusual places is the Mustafapasa village worth visiting for authentic Anatolian landscape; it also hosts the Ethnographic Museum of Dolls – Bebek Museum.

Cappadocia will definitely be a unique and unforgettable experience.

Photo source

Picture 1: projectinspo.com; Picture 2: adventureworld.com.au; Picture 3: http://1080.plus; Picture 4: http://wtop.com; Picture 5: http://www.cappadociacity.com; Picture 6: http://www.nstravel.ro; Picture 7: http://www.belvuhotel.com; Picture 8: http://www.indiatoturkey.com; Picture 9: http://www.gagdaily.com; Picture 10: http://archinect.com