One of the great things about living in Turkey is that it is almost entirely surrounded by water. Where there is water, there are ferries to interesting places. Along the western coast, many of these ferries go to Greek islands. Greek island hopping has always been on our “to do” list, so we couldn’t wait to get started. Last year we started, by taking our first ferry to Rhodes, and this year we tried the small island of Chios.
To get there we drove to the coastal city of Cesme and paid a mere 40 Euros for the return ticket for that one day. The only frustrating thing was that we didn’t know to fight to get to the front of the passport control line and we were behind many Turks. The Greeks have to hand-input all of the Turks’ information and this took up some of our precious time.
The rest of the island is well set up for a day trip. We walked straight to a car rental place and rented one for the remainder of the day. The rental agency clerk assured us we could fill our day easily, and recommended our next trip we stay over the weekend. However, she cheerfully marked out the route we should take to get the most out of our one day. She was right, we discovered, next time I would at least spend a weekend there. One day really was great, but two would have been amazing.
Our first stop was the Nea Moni Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (inscribed in 1990 along with two other monasteries from the same period and style). It’s a good thing we started here, too, as the monastery closes at 1:00 PM each day. We had about forty minutes to do the entire complex, which included the church and a small museum.
I love hearing how the monks decided on where to build a new monastery. For Nea Moni, three monks were looking for a new site to build upon when they discovered an icon of the Virgin Mary on a bush. The icon is now located in the museum along with at least one copy. Constantine, himself, footed the bill after he was named emperor according to one of the monk’s predictions. Because of its lofty beginnings and favors, Nea Moni became one of the riches monasteries in Greece.
Evidence of this can be found inside the church where the backgrounds of the many mosaics are painted in gold. Some of the mosaics were very complete where others have been badly damaged, either from the Ottoman take-over or the earthquake that followed.
Apparently the battle of Chios was extremely bloody. One of the rooms inside the church has a glass cupboard displaying skulls and bones from some of the victims.
After the monastery, we drove to Lithio, where we ate lunch and swam in the warm, crystal-clear blue water. Along the beachfront were many restaurants, and we had our obligatory calamari. Calamari, in Greece, is the whole squid cleaned and cut into slices, lightly battered and fried and this was some of the best we’ve found anywhere. The tentacles are delicious, but you must remember to not swallow some of the cartilage, like the beak.
After swimming, we didn’t have much time, so we high-tailed it back to the rental car agency. The girl had said she would be there to collect the car, but it was siesta time and the shop was closed up tight. We had just a few minutes before our ferry was supposed to launch when she showed up, got in a fight with a parking policeman, and delivered us to the port. A heart-pumping end to a relaxing day on just another Greek island.
If you are looking for some other Greek islands, check out 10 Things to do in Mykonos!