Andros. Hiking in the Little England of the Cyclades
Andros. An English countryside in the Cyclades
Andros was known in the past as “Little England” because of its naval force, which sealed its history and, along with it, its physiognomy.
However, if you go for hiking in its hinterland in the spring, you will feel that this nickname also fits well its countryside. Maybe nowhere else in the Cyclades will you feel so surprised by the quantity of water and greenery you will find.
If we add to this a capital constituting one of the finest neoclassical ensembles in Greece and a significant number of monuments of all times, Andros is definitely a destination worth putting into your programme.
Hiking from Apikia to Pythara
The famous spring of Sariza in Apikia. As we stayed next door, every morning we filled our bottles from here. A unique privilege …
Our first hike (always the well-known group, under the guidance of Kostas) was from Apikia to Pythara where we saw waterfalls. Yes, waterfalls in the Cyclades! And they would not be the only ones!
The route predisposes you to the beauty you will face in the “Fairyland” as the folk tradition calls it.
Pythara. Waterfalls in the Cyclades!
From Apikia to Stenies and to Gialia
Our next hike was from Apikia to Stenies, and from there to Gialia.
On the way, we passed from the tower of Bistis – Mouvelas, near Stenies.
In the countryside of Andros, there are various tower houses of squires, dating from the 17th to the 19th century. They are tall square fortified towers. Access was a mobile staircase and an elevated window.
The oldest such structure is the three-storey tower of Bistis-Mouvelas.
The tower was built by Stamatelos Bistis towards the end of the 17th century, sometime after 1674 and certainly before 1696, when it’s certain that Bistis was already inhabiting it.
Chora (the capital) was looted in 1674 by pirates, and the rulers of the island were seeking at that time more security in the hinterland.
‘Mouvelas’ was a nickname of Bistis and means the surrogate of the cadi (Turkish judge).
Three building phases are identified in the tower. The first one dates probably from the 13th century since the building we see was built on the ruins of a square medieval tower.
Stenies. Bistis – Mouvelas tower
The tower of Bistis – Mouvelas as seen on the route from Apikia to Stenies
At the ‘Fabrica’ of Empirikos
Then we arrived at Embirikos’s ‘Fabrica’. The Embirikos Mill is an interesting combination of steam and watermill and a rare remnant of the first phase of industrialization in Greece.
The ‘Fabrica’, as the complex is known, is located at Pera Panta, under Stenies. Its five buildings are arranged on rocky ground with great inclination, next to the riverbed, amidst lush vegetation.
The watermill was built in 1876 by Konstantinos Empirikos. He made a large flour mill for processing the wheat he imported with his own ships from Romania. The products were flour and packaged flour products, but it’s not known whether they were intended for the domestic market alone or whether they were also being exported.
The seamen of Andros worked in the mill as maintenance engineers when they did not travel. The factory operated six days a week.
The Mill of Embirikos introduced the industrial production of wheat products on the island with its numerous traditional watermills. On the one hand, it contributed to the overall increase in production, but on the other hand, it caused many small mills to be abandoned.
The ‘Fabrika’ has been operating successfully until the early 1930s when competition from the Syros and Piraeus mills increased. Also, the absence of a roadway made transport extremely difficult. It’s also said that the coke that burned for the boiler made the operation financially unprofitable. All this led to the decline and eventually the closure of the factory.
At an unknown time, the property passed from the Embirikos family to the Goulandris family. According to testimonies, this happened because Konstantinos Embirikos pledged the Fabrica to buy boats without eventually succeeding in paying the debt.
The Fabrika of Empirikos as we saw it as we were arriving from the trail
Arriving from Stenies to Gialia
At the castle of Faneromeni
We found ourselves at the castle of Faneromeni following the trail Kochylou – Faneromeni Castle – Dipotamata – Syneti.
The Castle of Faneromeni or Apano Kastro (Upper Castle) or Grias Kastro (the castle of the old woman) was the largest medieval city of Andros (but there are also traces of Roman fortification).
It was built by the Venetians for protection against pirates. Remains of houses, aqueducts and walls are still preserved.
Many legends are associated with this castle. Most have an old woman as a protagonist, who either betrayed or wanted to warn or attempted to escape.
Whatever it is, the memory of the old woman has been engraved and a little farther it has given its name to the famous beach of ’tis grias to pidima’ (the jump of the old woman).
The bay of Korthi, as seen from the castle of Faneromeni
Then our route brought us to Dipotamata (double river). It’s one of the most beautiful places on the island, a terrestrial paradise with lavish vegetation, old watermills (22 are preserved) and stone bridges.
The very characteristic dry stone walls of Andros, different from those of other islands. Huge local slopes interrupt harmonically at intervals the construction of smallest stones
At the noble Chora
Then, the program had a visit to Chora, one of Greece’s finest neoclassical ensembles. The result, of course, of the wealth that shipping has brought to the island and gave it the nickname ‘Little England’.
The present settlement is an extension of the much smaller medieval settlement. It was built by the Venetians who, under the direction of Marino Dandolo, conquered Andros in 1207.
Since then, Andros has been part of the Duchy of the Archipelago, which was based in Naxos and lasted until the death of the last duke in 1566. Then all the islands except Tinos were officially incorporated into the Ottoman Empire, which had in fact conquered them in 1537.
Marino Dandolo also built the castle on the islet on the edge of the peninsula, known as ‘Kato Kastro’ (lower castle), as opposed to ‘Apano Kastro’ (upper castle), the castle of Faneromeni.
Inside the castle lived the governor of the island with his guard and here the inhabitants of Chora took refuge in case of a raid.
Chora with its ruined castle on the islet. The medieval settlement was right on the edge of the peninsula. In the event of a raid, the inhabitants passed from the small bridge to the castle, on the islet. There it was easier to confront the enemies
Chora of Andros is one of the most beautiful neoclassical complexes in Greece
A memory from the traditional architecture: a sahnisin (closed balcony) in a neoclassical house where there should normally be a marble balcony
The seal of shipowners is everywhere, since they have funded all charitable foundations
The Kampanis fountain at Kairis Square. The priest and philosopher Theophilos Kairis is one of the most famous children of Andros
Riva Square. The statue of the Dissapeared Sailor, in honour of all sailors who lost their lives at sea. It’s the work of Michael Tombros
The connection point of the islet of the medieval castle with the settlement
The few remaining ruins of the medieval castle. It was destroyed in 1943 by a German bombardment
At the monasteries of Andros
Andros also has very important monasteries. We visited three of them.
The monastery of Saint Marina, near Apikia, as seen from Chora
We started with the abandoned monastery of Saint Irene, near Apikia, dating from 1780.
Monastery of Saint Irene
Then we visited the equally abandoned monastery of Saint Nicholas, also near Apikia. Possible date of construction is considered to be 1540.
The entrance of the monastery of Saint Nicholas, with the alternation of white and green stone, reminds intensely of the Tuscan churches in Italy. Long-standing Venetian domination can explain these influences
The church of the monastery of Saint Nicholas presents Italian influences similar to those of the monastery’s entrance
From the Mesaria valley, we started the great hiking that led us to the Panachrantos monastery.
Ruined medieval settlement in the valley of Mesaria
The roof of a chapel in the valley of Mesaria. The huge slopes are typical in Andros, as in neighbouring Tinos, as the two islands are geologically related
Following an upward course, we reached the inhabited monastery of Panachrantos. The monastery was founded by Nikiforos Phokas as a sign of gratitude for the liberation of Crete from the Arabs in 961. However, today’s buildings are the result of later rebuilding. Here we ate pasta prepared under the supervision of the abbot, father Evdokimos.
Monastery of Panachrantos. The fortified aspect is due to the dangers of piracy
The church of the monastery of Panachrantos
Lardia – Rogo – Korthi
The trail Lardia – Rogo – Korthi was the next one in the programme.
A dovecote next to Korthi
A little before Korthi. A strange dry stone wall
Korthi. Tis Grias to Pidima (the jump of the old woman). Here, according to the legend, the old woman who betrayed or wanted to escape from the Upper Castle (Faneromeni or Grias Castle) fell and was transformed into this rock
Menites – Lamira – Chora
The next trail, Menites – Lamyra – Chora, was also in an idyllic setting, which was nothing like the characteristic dry Cycladic landscape.
About the name of the village of Menites, there is the view that it derives from the mainads, the nymphs of Dionysus, but another version claims that the name Mainites comes from the Latin word “amoenitas”, meaning a pleasant place.
At the trail from Menites to Lamyra
Mesaria – Chora
On the trail from Mesaria to Chora, we met the important 12th century Byzantine church of Taxiarchis (Saint Michael).
Mesaria. The 12th century Byzantine church of Taxiarchis (Saint Michael)
At the trail Mesaria – Chora
And here we finished our trip, full of the images of this indescribable beauty we gathered in just three days. And think that we did not get to visit any of the great museums that this culturally so rich island has. But next time …
About the author
Hello! I am Denis, an architect based in Athens, Greece. I teach history of art and architecture in higher education. That’s one passion of mine. The other one is hiking, in and out of town. If you follow me, I’ll share my discoveries with you.
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