We met at the Athens airport and flew together to Chios with Olympic Airways, departing at 15:25 and arriving in Chios at 16:15 (round air tickets cost €190); slower and cheaper ferries are available.
The focus of the visit is, of course, The Kampos (Campos, Cambos, Kambos, Compos, etc.) where our ancestors lived (see map). Located a few kilometers from the airport, the Kampos is a collection of estates that served basically as summer residences in the 19th Century for the Chiot elite. At present, some estates are in ruins; others are farming citrus fruits and several have been converted to Bed & Breakfasts (at about €35 per night for a group our size). Our accommodation was in two of these, located across from each other on Vitiadou Street, one of the narrow, walled paths that dominate the Kampos.
After arriving from the airport and settling in at the B&Bs, we had Sunday dinner at O Kambos, a local tavern/restaurant just a kilometer from our accommodation. Sitting at a long table, we were served more than a dozen courses, beer, bottled water, and house wines as pre-arranged by the trip organizer, George Agelastos (This meal, more food than we could eat, precluded individual ordering and, as with all the other feasts, came to about €15 per person).
Although dishes differed among the various restaurants—with a standard fare but varied according to spices and particular ingredients—this night’s repast included several salads (bean, garden, Greek topped with a block of feta), tzatziki (yogurt, cucumbers and garlic), grilled red peppers, tempura eggplant, cheese balls, potato fritters, chicken, meat stew, fava beans, calamari, cod, shrimp, French fries, mastelo (fried grilled cheese, a Chiot specialty) and figs.
This day was the first of two family heritage days (Wednesday is the other).
Our tour began with a visit to the new (since 2008) Citrus Museum, which introduced us to the history, culture and agricultural economy of the Kampos. The Museum displays maps and artifacts and is interested in creating a rotating exhibit dedicated to one of the old Chiot families. We enjoyed a buffet in the museum’s garden and then went on a walking tour of the Kampos, visiting what remains of an Agelasto property that was the ancestral estate of George’s grandfather’s grandfather.
We visited the Monastery of Aghios Minas, five kilometers from Kampos. Built between 1572 and 1595 by the Reverend Neofitos Koumanos and its son, Reverend Minas, it stands on the top of a hill, outside the village of Neohori, looking down on the Kampos and the sea. It is now a national monument. In 1822, during the Massacre of Chios, women and children gathered in the monastery for safety but were killed by the Turks; an ossuary holds the bones of some of the 3000 victims.
Next we drove across the southern coast to reach the village of Kini, where there is a plot of land still called “At the Agelastos.” There we saw mastic trees.
Dinner was at the Rousiko Greek Tavern in Thymiana, a village adjacent to the Kampos. A few years back there was no where to eat in this village and now there are several good restaurants.
Several weeks before the reunion, George sent an email announcing our visit to the various media on Chios—print, television, radio, internet. Even before our arrival, several articles appeared:
16 September on ChiosNews.Com
16 September on Dimokratiki
On 21 September a full page article, “The Day of Agelastos' Homecoming: The festive Comeback of the Byzantine Family,” by George Xanthakis materialized in Politis (The Citizen), followed by articles on 23 September and 25 September.
The Island of Chios has several claims to fame. Besides it’s role in the war against the Ottoman Empire for Greek independence, and especially the massacre of 1922, Chios is the world’s distinctive producer of mastic gum. Traditionally, mastic production has centered around a number of villages in the southwest of the island. We drove to Pyrgi, the principal medieval village. The facades of the houses are uniquely fashioned, in geometric designs and pastels; walking through the village is a visual pleasure. Old women can be spotted on their front stoops picking through and sorting pieces of mastic resin for later production into health and beauty products / available from various retail chains (and for use in alcohol).
We then drove to Emporios on the southeast coast where a few of us swam in the clear, blue Aegean at Mavra Volia (black pebble) beach. We dined at seaside restaurants.
We drove to and walked around the pleasant medieval village of Olympi, which dates back to 14th century. Finally, we ended up at Mesta, dating from the Byzantine era (15th Century), the best preserved and most visited medieval settlement on Chios, having survived the earthquake of 1881 and modern-day tourists as well. We visited the recently renovated, working 19th Century church (largest on Chios) known as “Megalos Taksiarhis” (the big Michael church dedicated to Archangels Michael and Gabriel ), and the monument Byzantine church referred to as "Palaios Taxiarchis" or old [archangel] Michael church. We visited the latter with a film crew from Turk Sky TV.
We had dinner on the central square at Mesaionas Restaurant.
This day was dedicated to family heritage, beginning with a walking tour of the Chios Fortress, built by the Byzantines about 1000 years ago. Over the centuries the Fortress has served as a seat of government for the various conquerors of the island; we walked along Negroponte Street.
Passing a bakery some consider Chios’ finest, we spent some sobering moments at a monument dedicated to Chiot notables taken hostage and later hanged by the Turks in 1822, including seven men on the Agelasto bloodline: Nicolas Dimitri Petrocochino, Dimitrios Emmanuel Sevastopoulos, Michael Matthew Rodocanachi [name does not appear on the memorial], Paul Matthew Rodocanachi [name does not appear on the memorial], Petros Paul Rodocanachi, Nicolas Lorenzos Scaramanga, and Leoni Zannis Schilizzi, as well as several fathers-in-law. Agelastos were among the 33 persons on our family trees who died during the events of April 1822, but none is recorded as among those hanged. Afterwards we wandered around downtown Chios, covering the length of Agelasto Street, before we headed off to an afternoon event at the Korais Historic Public Library.
The Library houses the collection of the late Philip Argenti, whose Libro d'Oro de la Noblesse de Chio, published in 1955, still provides the basis foundation for genealogists exploring their Chiot roots. An upstairs museum includes Chiot artifacts, portrait gallery and folk art collection; Argenti’s personal library is housed in the director’s office. The library staff kindly provided the facility for our use, while offering us refreshments and a selection of books to take home. Pavlos Kalogerakis, president of the Administration Board of the library officially welcomed us. Isabella Bournia, a local politician who had recently published on Chiots of the Diaspora, expressed the city’s enthusiasm over our return . We then listened to a number of short presentations. Two authors, Demetrios Melachrinoudis and Anastasios Tripolitis, related stories about Agelastos they had come across in their research. The meeting, which was organized by George Agelastos, included PowerPoint presentations by Tony Ralli and Parker Agelasto, on their respective family histories. In addition, Ioannis Kolakis, who works downstairs in the library’s archives, presented slides from a recent trip to Constantinople/Istanbul, where he had visited some of our ancestor’s graves in Sisli Cemetery and The Holy Church of St John of the Chiots.
To finish off an information-packed day, we dined at the most innovative and best value restaurant on Chios, Hotzas.
Our morning took in a visit to Nea Moni, an 11th century monastery with fine mosaics, the most important Byzantine building of Chios, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. “New Monastery” was founded by three hermits and is home to the miracle-working icon of the Theotokos which was found hanging from a tree. Decorated with mosaics from the best artists of the period, many of which survive, the monastery was attacked by the Turks in 1822, its inhabitants slaughtered and again in 1828. The bones of some of those killed in the massacres can be seen in its Chapel of the Holy Cross.
We then went to the medieval village of Anavatos, impressively situated on a steep, rocky hill and abandoned after the 1881 earthquake. At the foot of the hill a small restaurant, after a fashion, provided a snack.
At 16:00 hrs we assembled for vespers at St Tryphon Chapel, part of an old Agelasto property in Kampos. St Tryphon is the patron saint of gardeners and the name is used in a branch of the Agelasto family. The service (evensong in Anglican) was sung by the local priest and a lay assistant (Orthodox services are almost always chanted). Afterwards the Philippidis family, current owners of that property, invited us in their house for refreshments.
Dinner was a revisit to Rousiko Greek Tavern in Thymiana.
George had an early morning meeting with Belles Christos, author of the recently published Mastiha Island (Aegeas, 2008, 333 pp; ISBN 978-960-89048-9-7), which discusses the definitive role of mastic in Chios history.
We visited Daskalopetra (Homer´s rock), located near the village of Vrontados, 5 km north of Chios Town. Daskalopetra means “stone of the teacher” and refers to where the blind poet sat and narrated his works to his students. There is no reason to suspect that Homer is not our direct ancestor.
Then we drove across a moonscape toward the village of Diefcha in order to visit Moundon Monastery, whose main church’s every wall is covered with remarkably well preserved popular style paintings. Unfortunately, the keeper of the keys (he runs the local pub) failed to show up as promised and after waiting an hour we headed off to Volissos on the northwest coast and, unannounced, appeared at a local tavern, which managed to find us victuals.
After a brief respite in our hotels, we were off at 17:00 hrs to visit Argentikon, best restored old mansion of Kampos (now converted into a luxury hotel) and to have a self-guided tour of the Argenti estate.
Farewell dinner at Hotzas in Chios Town. George Agelastos was presented a copy of The Architecture of Chios by Dimitris Pikionis (George’s former professor) to reflect the group’s appreciation of his organizing this visit.
Morning was at free disposal, for shopping in Chios Town or for walking around the Kampos. Departure at 16:40 with arrival in Athens at 17:30. George presented the final accounting, which amounted to about €570 per person for the weeklong trip to the land of our ancestors.