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The black and white village of Pyrgi on Chios
Pyrgi is one of about twenty mastic villages on Chios, the most famous of these villages are Mesta, Olympi, and Pyrgi. The area where the mastic villages are situated is called Mastihochoria and is located on southern Chios.
The square in Pyrgi surrounded by unique black and white houses.
Mastic is a shrub that grows throughout the Mediterranean, but it is only on Chios that the resin from the shrub is used. It is said that the mastic shrub on Chios have special properties. The resin from the mastic shrub is said to be healing and is used in a variety of products, including in cosmetics, chewing gum, spices, spirits, wine, jams, juices, marmalades, medicines and sweets, and more and more.
Café in Pyrgi.
The village of Pyrgi (about 1,200 inhabitants) is as far as I know unique in all of Greece. Just like Mesta and Olympi, Pyrgi dates back to the Middle Ages, and is built as an impregnable fortress. What makes Pyrgi unique is that the house facades are painted in a mosaic of black and white, the houses looks like chessboards. Another thing that makes Pyrgi unique is that it is said that Christopher Columbus came from Pyrgi. I'll return to that.
The alley leading to the square in Pyrgi.
When we came to Pyrgi for the first time we had of course read about the village and we had seen pictures of the unique houses. Still, we were not really prepared for what we saw. It was a very special feeling to enter the village and see something we had never seen before.
Many of the houses in Pyrgi are beautifully decorated.
The decorative motifs on the facades of the houses are called Xysta. A mixture of plaster and black volcanic sand is used to cover the facades, then the whole glory is painted over with whitewash, and finally parts of the whitewash are scratched off, and the result is extremely cool. Pyrgi is commonly called the painted village, and rightly so.
The patterns on the facades can be compared to a chessboard.
When the facades become worn, the whole procedure is repeated.
Just like in the other medieval villages on Chios, Pyrgi's stone houses are built close to each other and appear to form a defensive wall, as it actually worked as when pirates ravaged in the area. The village's alleys are narrow and covered with vault after vault, narrow stone paved streets, unique architecture and balconies full of flowers that enhance the beauty of the village.
One of the alleys in Pyrgi.
The village was a fortified settlement in the Middle Ages, with defensive walls and towers in the four corners. There was also a tall tower in the middle of the village. This tower gave the village the name Pyrgi, which comes from the Greek word for tower: pyrgos. The village also has three older churches: Agioi Apostoloi (15th century), Virgin Mary and Taxiarchis.
The church of Agioi Apostoloi dates from the 15th century.
It feels like you have been moved back in time in parts of Pyrgi.
A tour of Pyrgi gladly ends with a lunch on the cosy square where the Church of the Virgin Mary stands.
But what about Christopher Columbus? In 1474, Columbus travelled by ship to Chios, where he stayed for a year in Pyrgi. According to some historians, Christopher Columbus was a descendant of a Genoese family from Pyrgi, others have shown that he was stationed on Chios before he set off across the Atlantic. Some even say that Christopher Columbus was Greek and that he came from Pyrgi. But the latter you must of course take with a big pinch of salt. There is a house in Pyrgi that Christopher Columbus is said to have lived in during his time in Pyrgi.
The house in Pyrgi where it is said that Christopher Columbus lived in 1474.
ACCOMMODATION IN PYRGI
The range of accommodation is very limited and it is probably due to the fact that few tourists choose to stay in Pyrgi, most probably only go there for a daytrip. (We prefer to stay in the neighbouring village of Mesta.) Below are two of the few accommodation options in Pyrgi.
WHAT YOU MUST NOT MISS WHEN YOU ARE IN PYRGI