The Quiet Eloquence of Galaxidi
Located only 3 hours by car from Athens and below ancient Delphi
is a quiet mainland destination with the air of a distant, romantic island.
When you arrive in Galaxidi, the first thing that strikes you is the quiet. The road into this picturesque coastal village at the foot of Mount Parnassos leads you to Nikolaos Mamas Square – named after a sea captain and local benefactor – and the main port.
The fresh sea breeze, the cafes and tavernas lined up in a row, the fishing boats and yachts tied up in the marina, the people strolling on Pera Panta Hill and the beautifully renovated stately homes – once the residences of respected sea captains – comprise a setting that is reminiscent of the castle town of Nafplio in the Peloponnese, but with a more tranquil and less commercialized character. I remember it being like that ever since I was a child.
Walking up main Iroon Street, I steal a peek through the odd gate to admire pretty, colorfully paved courtyards, while soft music emanates from one of the neoclassical homes along the strip. I push aside my envy of the people who get to live in such beautiful homes and make my way to the Nautical Museum of Galaxidi. This museum, although small, has a respectable collection of antique weapons and stamps, as well as artifacts salvaged from wrecks, and serves as an excellent introduction to Galaxidi.
In the same neighborhood, which is one of the oldest quarters of the village, the Church of Aghios Nikolaos boasts an exquisite iconostasis dedicated to the church’s namesake, the patron saint of sailors. On the same road, another church – that of Aghia Paraskevi, features something rare for a Christian temple: a depiction of the zodiac calendar on its marble floor.
A historical gandeur
Once one of Greece’s busiest and wealthiest ports and shipyards, Galaxidi entered a period of decline in the early 20th century after failing to make the technological leap from sails to steam. Yet, despite the hard times it experienced as a result, it managed to retain its character, remaining a destination steeped in the history and elegance of its nautical traditions. It was listed for preservation in 1978 and is today a protected heritage site.
In recent decades it has also become a tourist and yachting destination, although its development has remained relatively low-key.
Nicole is an Australian doctor on her fourth visit to Galaxidi.
“You become enraptured with its sense of beauty and calm,” she says. A group of French and German tourists standing nearby and enjoying the tranquillity appear to agree. Most visitors to the area are Europeans; many combine a trip to Galaxidi with visits to Ancient Delphi just a few kilometers away up the mountain.
I head back toward the port for a bite to eat, and as I walk down cobbled Aghios Nikolaos Street I am invited for an afternoon coffee with the owner of the very home I had noticed earlier with the music. Roxani Limniou shows me around her beautifully renovated home with its air of a charming, bygone era. She points out photographs of ancestors, pretty needlework and the window frames that were painted by her husband, Aris.
Nearby, in another splendid home, Stella Sendouka has prepared an orange cake and offers me a slice. While I’m not suggesting that you go around knocking on random doors if you visit Galaxidi, if the opportunity arises to visit one of its renovated stately homes, do not pass it up.
Galaxidi’s sailors traditionally treated the floors of their homes with the paint that was left over after they had painted their boats. Most of the old homes are two stories high, and the top floor was usually arranged in an open-plan design to make room for sewing and repairing ship sails.
In the afternoon I decided to take a bicycle ride to Chirolakas, Galaxidi’s second harbor, named after the sailors’ widows (“chires”). Rodoula Stathaki-Koumari is a scholar of local history and folklore as well as the owner of one of the neighborhood’s imposing houses. She regales me with tales about the village and points out some interesting landmarks in the area, such as a home built on the walls of Chaleum, as Galaxidi was known in antiquity.
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