Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oct 20 - Chios

Today we moved onto the laid back Greek Island of Chios in the Eastern Aegean – this is the fifth biggest Greek island, but most people have never heard of it, and it's scarcely touristy at all.

This place is principally famous for 3 things:
1. Chios is the only place in the world where Gum Mastic is grown. In the Middle Ages, gum mastic (which is the dried resin from the Mastic tree) was more valuable than gold – these days, it's used for fairly horrible chewing gum, and cosmetics.
2. In the 19th century, the Turks massacred 30,000 of the islanders and enslaved a further 45,000.
3. Christopher Columbus MAY have been born here. Quite unlikely, but the tourist people are fairly keen on the theory.

On our tour, we visited the sleepy villages of Pyrgi and Mesta, where the stray cats easily outnumbered the people, and the only life on the streets ancient local ladies were sorting through this year's crop of mastic, and we got lost in the maze of narrow streets which had been designed to confused marauding pirates (and now marauding tourists). The copious cat droppings may also have slowed down any pillaging the pirates may have managed too.