One of the things I love about living here is that you can just hop over to Greece for the day on a ferry……
”You go to Greece for the day?!” one of my friends asked. Yes, and it’s only an hour off the coast of Cesme. I regularly visit Chios, the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, seven kilometres (five miles) off the Asia Minor coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Chios Strait. The island is noted for its strong merchant shipping community, its unique mastic gum and its medieval villages. The eleventh century monastery of “Nea Moni”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located on the island. It’s a lovely place to spend a day wandering round the town or hiring a car or a scooter and exploring everything the Island has to offer.
Not an easy feat when the sound of the mosque at 5am means it’s your bedtime because it’s simply too hot to sleep any earlier, but we dragged ourselves out of bed and drove from Izmir to Cesme so I could catch the ferry over to Chios. A ticket costs 30 euros (which is roughly 60 lira, depending on the exchange rate at the time) for a return and the boat leaves at 10am. The journey takes about an hour, there’s indoor and outdoor seating areas on the boat and a little cafe that sells drinks and snacks. I have done this trip a couple of times, in 2008 I was lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins swim along side the boat which was a great start to the day.
Chios is such a pretty island and the port area is made up of a stretch of pastel coloured waterfront cafes and bars opposite the bay. With expensive looking yachts moored in the harbour and beautiful mountains in the background it really does look like something from a postcard. The first thing I wanted to explore when I got there were, of course, the shops as i’m sure any girl will understand! The first time I went to Chios I was pleasantly surprised at the shopping area – a main highstreet with pretty stone walkways running off it full of both upmarket and tourist shops, boutiques and cafes. You can’t spend Turkish Lira in Chios, and if you didn’t get a chance to change your money in Turkey, there are plenty of banks and ATM’s around the town where you can withdraw Euros. It feels very odd going from the Lira to the Euro – food, cigarettes and clothes all seem so expensive compared to the country you’ve just left.
Once you arrive in Chios at around 11am, it’s best to hit the shops straight away as most of them close around 2pm for the siesta and don’t open back up until 5 or 6pm, although the supermarkets and cafes are all still open. The best time to go and eat lunch is when the siesta starts. I love the food in Greece, it’s very similar to Turkish food in the sense that it’s very fresh and flavourful. I always go for the tzatziki (a creamy combination of yogurt, cucumber and garlic) with lots of fresh bread to dip in it.
One of the main reasons I love going to Greece for the day is because of what they sell in the supermarkets over there – Lurpack butter, Digestives, Hobnobs, Ribena, pork, Salt and Vinegar Crisps….yes I love my British food and it was like all my birthday’s have come at once! There are a number of supermarkets around the town, I normally head to Key Food and Dia. Key Food is probably the easiest to get to on foot as it’s close to the main shopping area and they give you a discount when you tell them you’re on a daytrip from Turkey. No idea why, I didn’t want to question it!
If you’re not bothered on stocking up on bacon and booze, there are lots of other things to see in Chios; old villages, historical ruins, churches, beaches – sandy or pebbly, and museums – including The Archaeological Museum located close to the harbour and open most days from early morning to early evening. There are more than 50 beaches with clear, crystal waters around the coast of Chios. If you don’t have transportation, I usually go to a beach within walking distance from the port area, it’s very quiet with only a few locals cooling off in the sea or taking a nap on the sand.
You’ll also notice the Castle or Fortress of Chios, which lies north of the center of town. When it was built, it enclosed the entire town of Chios, soon thereafter, however, the town expanded beyond the enormous Castle walls. In olden times, a wide moat filled with sea water surrounded the Castle, now it’s filled with cars and used as a car park, but you can still see bits of the old wall.
Another big difference that you notice when you go from Turkey to Greece are the churches. Chios has an innumerous amount of churches and monasteries, the most impressive monastery is without a doubt Nea Moni which unfortunately I did not get to see. I did however find a couple of beautiful churches in suburban areas when I was exploring the town center.
Located near the town square in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the shops and restaurants is the beautiful and peaceful Municipal park. It’s like stepping into another world after all the hooting and honking from the scooters whizzing by. It’s full of impressive sized palm tree’s and statues of important people from throughout the ages. I’m told that during the Summer evenings, there’s an open-air cinema there which I can imagine would be lovely.
There are some old windmills scattered around the Island of Chios, I visited the one in Vrontados, which is located four kilometers from the town center and where the legendary Poet Homer was supposedly born. There’s also a very big supermarket just to the left of the Windmills, and a small pebble beach where you can take a dip in the beautiful blue sea.
It was a nice day out, but pretty long and tiring because of how hot it was. The ferry leaves Chios and heads home to Turkey at 5pm but it’s better to get to the port area ready to check in at around 4.30pm.
Αντίο Greece, until next year!