K. Andreadis

Mastic villages

Villages made from mastic?

Unveil the amazing world of Mastic Villages in Chios (Mastihohória) a fortified village complex of superb beauty. Villages’ existence is inextricably bound with the valuable crystal “tear” shed by mastic trees that grow only in the southern part of the island. The Genovese built this complex in order to offer shelter to the families who lived there and cultivated mastic. At some point during their occupation, they also erected strong fortresses to protect this blessed land. The massacre of the inhabitants by the Turks destroyed the economic fabric of this closed society.

The villages’ turbulent history is miraculously reflected on the architecture of the buildings: for defensive purposes the villages were built out of sea sight surrounded by high walls with a central tower – the last resort in case the walls were breached by Arab pirates. The tower had no door but invaders could enter using ladders as bridges thrown from the rooftops. The streets were narrow and dark with blind alleys, which not only confused the invaders but also formed the perfect hideout for the villagers to carefully plan their attacks.

Today only 24 Mastic villages have withstood the test of time, since many of them were destroyed by the catastrophic earthquake that took place in 1881. Some fortress towns are still intact, such as Mestá, Pirgí, Olýmpi, Kalamotí, Véssa, Patriká, Vounó, Eláta and Kiní forming impressive medieval settlements. Recent restoration works on old stone mansions contributed significantly to the embellishment of the landscape recreating beautifully the once prevailing medieval atmosphere.

Mestá is the best preserved fortified village of the complex. Take a walking tour to help you admire the three impressive castle towers, the ancient churches and the magnificent stone houses which are built side-by-side tightly joined together with arches. In Pyrgí you will encounter an outstanding black and white geometrical decoration on the houses’ outer walls only to be found here, the so-called "ksistá". In Avgónima the view will definitely captivate you, as the village overlooks the nearby island of Psará.

31 km south of the town of Chios you will encounter the medieval village of Olýmpi. Wander around Kalamotí’s maze-like alleys past two-storey stone houses which proudly stand intact throughout the years. Kallimassiá was almost destroyed by the 1881 earthquake, but you can still discover ruins of medieval towers and rural churches. Enjoy a cup of coffee at the central square and experience the friendliness of the locals, who are only too eager to teach you how mastic is produced according to an ancient practice faithfully followed for the past 2,500 years!

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