Sunday, April 4, 2010

Pirghi, home of Christopher Columbus?

We wove our way through the fields and around the coast toward the village of Pirghi (lots of ways to spell this one- no one seems to have made up their mind, probably because it's all Greek). It is a major tourist attraction because of the buildings as well as it being the "home" of Christopher Columbus. There has been a lot of dispute about where Columbus was from but apparently they're quite sure that not only was he from Chios, it's specifically from Pirghi. While there's supposed to be a building with his name on it, we didn't go searching for it.
The other claim to fame for this town is the geometric decoration "xysta"  /ksista/ that is on all of the buildings. The houses are all built one upon the other - there's really little room for privacy. Most people meet all the time in the town squares, which usually includes eating or drinking places and a church. The xysta is a traditional form of decoration that is symmetrical and geometrical, creating beautiful patterns across the building.
This is also an area where they produce masticha, a white resin that comes from a tree, grown exclusively here in Chios. It is used for chewing gum, seasoning for many things, crushed to use in liquor, mixed with honey or sugar for a drink but also can be found in varnishes. Apparently even Columbus was supposed to have started with the masticha trade.
In Pirghi there's also the Byzantine church of the Holy Apostles. The view from the tunnel was spectacular and I'd have loved to have gone inside but, alas, it was locked. There is, however, a web page with information about this lovely building.Church of the Holy Apostle

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