Astypalaia: A butterfly amid the Aegean Sea
Located exactly where the Dodecanese meet the Cyclades, the island of Astypalaia boasts a centuries-old history, whitewashed villages and sun-drenched beaches. Embark on a fascinating trip where the deep blue of the sea meets the bright white colours of beautiful island houses…
Astypalaia, the westernmost island of the Group, is naturally separated into Mesa Nisi [the inner island] (western part) and Exo Nisi [the outer island] (eastern part) by a thin strip of land less than 100 m. wide.
The island was named after Astypalaia, the daughter of Phoenix and Perimede. In the old days the island was also called Ichthyoessa due to its abundant fishing grounds. It was first inhabited in prehistoric times. In 1204 it came under the Venetian rule enforced by the Guerini family until 1537 with the exception of a brief period in time (1269-1310) when the Byzantine Empire took over again. In 1537 the Turks occupied the island. As is the case with the other Dodecanese islands, Astypalaia remained under Turkish rule until 1912; it was then conquered by the Italians, the British, and the Germans until it was finally integrated in Greece in 1948. There are ferries to Piraeus and Kalymnos and flights to Athens and Rhodes Airports.
Chorais the island’s capital town and port. It is one of the most picturesque towns in the Aegean, perched on a rock that advances into the sea, forming two bays. On the top, you will see Chora’s castle towering over the town with the strikingly white domes of Evangelistria and Agios Georgios churches, visible over the walls. Around the castle lie Chora’s houses with whitewashed walls, blue doors and windows, and wooden balcony rails.
- To the Venetian Guerini Castle (13th c). The small three-storey houses built in the castle’s outer grounds are of particular architectural interest since the outer walls of the houses form the castle wall and narrow windows were used as battlements. Within the castle there are two churches, painted in a pure white colour, with elaborate stone belfries: Panagia Evangelistria (1853), inside which you will see the founders’ inscription dated 1413 and the Guerini coats of arms; and Agios Georgios.
- To the 18th-century Panagia Portaitissa church below the castle, one of the most beautiful churches in the Dodecanese with a woodcarved, gilded iconostasis. Right next to it there is an interesting Ecclesiastical Museum.
- To Narkisseios Municipal Library, also housing the island’s archeological collection.
- To the Archeological Museum in Pera Gialos where finds from the island are on display. Most of them date back to the prehistoric times when Astypalaia had prospered.
- To the eight windmills located over Skala, at Chora. They belong to the xetrocharis category, a horizontal axis type with the roof turning according to the wind direction.
- To Kylintra, bordering Chora on the south side. It is the site where a burial ground for infants was excavated – the only one known to have existed in the whole world. This place was considered as sacred ground since the Geometric Period and up to the Hellenistic times.
- To Megali Panagia. Its courtyard features a remarkable pebbled floor.
- To Panagia Flevariotissa, 6 km NW of Chora. Part of the church is built inside a cave. It has an interesting woodcarved iconostasis.
- To the Monastery of Agios Ioannis o Makrys (12 km W). It is built in an impressive landscape between two forbidding slopes, overlooking the open sea and offering a spectacular sunset view.
- To the castle of Ai-Giannis, opposite the monastery by the same name.
Trips around Astypalaia
West (Inner Island)
Livadia is a seaside village with few residents, built in a fertile valley. There are citrus fruit groves, vineyards and houses overflowing with flowers, creating a delightful setting next to a lovely beach. Distance from Chora: 2 km SW.
- Negros cave, at Vatses (6 km SW). Access it by boat from Chora, or follow an organised tour.
- Agios Vasileios hill and the ruins of an early-Christian basilica.
East (Outer Island)
- Maltezana (Analipsi)
Maltezana is a seaside resort that attracts most of the island’s tourism. It has been named after the Maltese pirates who made their hideout on the island. This is where the French Admiral Bigot set his ship on fire in 1827 so that it may not be captured by the pirates. Distance from Chora: 9 km NE.
- Talaras Baths and their Hellenistic period mosaics that are unique in the Hellenic world coloured in light blue and brick shades as well as an interesting composition that depicts the four seasons and the symbols of the zodiac.
- The monument of the French Admiral Bigot who led the struggle against the pirates in the early 19th century.
- The ruins of an early-Christian basilica (5th c.) with remarkable mosaics. Agia Varvara chapel was built over those ruins using the existing Ionian capitals as building material.
- Analipsi church, the village’s oldest one.
Vathy looks more like a lagoon due to its protected inlet (having an opening of about 50 m.). It comprises two small communities: Exo [outer] Vathy at the inlet entrance with a small wharf for mooring boats; and Mesa [inner] Vathy in the nook of the cove next to cropland, sparse tree vegetation and vineyards. Distance from Chora: 21 km NE.
- Chameni Limni [lost lake], a lagoon in the NE side of Astypalaia.
- The ruins of a Minoan settlement and tower situated at the entrance to the cove.
- Drakos cave, where you will see impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations. Access the cave by boat or on foot
- Panagia Poulariani church, on the way to Vathy. It is built on a rock formation which looks like the Virgin Mary holding the Baby Jesus.
From Maltezana cove take an excursion boat and visit Diaporia, Ligno, Chondro, Kounoupoi and Koutsomyri islands (SE) as well as Agia Kyriaki island and its beautiful beach (S). Farther away, to the NE of Astypalaia, visit Fokionisia; then Panormos and Katsagreli to the NW; Pontikousa and Ofidousa to the E; and finally Syrna, Katsikoulia, Tria Nisia, Meso, Stefania, and Zafora isles to the SE.
- Panagia [Virgin Mary] Flevariotissa feast, the winter reunion event for Astypalaians on February 1st.
- The island’s biggest celebration takes place at Panagia Portaitissa church on Panagia’s feast (August 15th) and lasts for three days (August 14th-16th). On August 16th, the municipal authority and the Cultural Organisation arrange special sports contests called “Koukania”.
- Religious procession taking place in Chora, on September 4th with the icon of Panagia Portaitissa as well as the holy relics of Osios Antimos placed at the head.
- Agios Panteleimon feast on July 27th; and Sotiras Christos feast (Christ Saviour) on August 6th.
- Astypalaia Festival, involving many concerts, from June to October.
- Panagia Poulariani feast on September 8th.
- Panagia tou Thoma feast, at Vathy, on September 8th.
- Swimming at the beaches: Agios Konstantinos, Vatses, Plakes, Kaminakia, Agios Giannis, Panormos, Pachia Ammos, Pera Gialos and Livadia.
- Boat excursions for swimming in secluded beaches in the nearby Koutsomyti and Syrna isles.
- Climbing to “Ftera” terrain that involves 20 climbing routes.
- Mountain biking.
- Spear fishing.
- Scuba diving.
- Camping at Chora.
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Former US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will stress that fiscal improvement by Greece over the last few years lays the foundations for much needed future growth, while at the same time reiterating that reforms in the country must continue in order to attract investments. Lew’s comments are part of an interview to the Economist on the occasion of his address at a conference sponsored by the London-based media group in Athens on Monday. The conference’s title is “How fast can we grow?”, which will take place at a seaside resort southeast of Athens. The influential one-time treasury secretary in the Obama administration conceded that differences of opinion existed with the European side over macro-economic issues, while qualifying that preservation of the Atlantic alliance and the European Union was always a common position. Lew’s interview, in full: Do you detect a reverse in the course of the Greek economy? Or is it still too early? On the one hand, Grexit seems to have left the table, but on the other hand we still don’t see any growth rates that would point to a success story in Greece. Greece has clearly made progress. The most recent IMF review reflected that progress, as do measures of economic performance. After a period of better growth, the economy did flatten out, but improved fiscal conditions are a basis for better growth in the future, and a first step back into capital markets reflects that progress. Countries cannot simply cut or borrow their way to sustained growth. To reach sustained growth and improved income equality requires a balanced and disciplined approach that supports both economic demand and investment – which is why maintaining reforms and ultimately reaching an agreement on debt restructuring remain so important. With this balanced approach, Greece should be an attractive place to invest, and should see growing access to capital markets. There is still more work to be done, but with the continued determination of the Greek people and their elected government, and the ongoing cooperation of international partners, the future holds the promise of further economic improvement in this birthplace of democracy. As it emerges from the Eurogroup meeting of June 15th in Luxembourg, the IMF will continue to participate actively in the Greek program, but will only disburse money if and when the medium term measures on the Greek debt are specified. How do you evaluate this development? Is it a good solution? I have long agreed with the IMF that debt restructuring is essential to achieve a long term solution that puts Greece back on a path to sustained economic growth. It is in the interest of Europe, as well as the IMF and the US, for Greece to be on an economic path that promotes domestic and geopolitical stability. I was encouraged that the Luxembourg meeting produced greater certainty that debt restructuring will be addressed, and in that context hopefully resolve the Greek financial situation so that it does not require constant revisiting. That in and of itself will help produce a better environment both for economic growth and political stability. Since Luxembourg, additional progress on the IMF review and an initial step into the private capital markets are both positive developments. In your opinion, where should the Greek side give more emphasis? On the demand for further frontloaded debt relief or on the implementation of reforms that will improve competitiveness and increase GDP? What’s more important? The best solution is not a choice between these options, but all of the above. A well balanced plan that maintains credible fiscal targets, economic reforms that promote sustained investment and hiring, and debt restructuring that produces sustainable flows should all be combined in a comprehensive plan. Until all the elements are addressed at the same time, there will be an expectation of additional rounds of negotiations and all parties will hold back because of that. Moreover, the sum is greater than the parts if done together, and the impact on confidence and investment would be greater. What is your experience through your cooperation with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, and how do you assess the performance of the Eurozone today? Minister Schauble is a good friend, and I deeply value the role he has played to advance US and European cooperation to build a stronger and safer world. He and I sometimes have different macroeconomic views, but always stood together on the importance of maintaining the Atlantic Alliance and the European Union. On matters of mutual security and protecting sovereignty, one could ask for no better partner than Minister Schauble, whether addressing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, supporting Iraq’s economy so battlefield gains against ISIL were not lost in a weakened economy, or working together to stop terrorist financing. In response to the refugee crisis, Germany relaxed fiscal demands, at home and through Europe, to promote an immediate and significant response. Minister Schauble was a leader within Germany to knit together east and west, at substantial economic cost, and to advance cross European cooperation, including in the areas of financial reform and resolution Europe is finally experiencing sustained economic improvement, and in my view Europe’s improved economy would be even stronger if available fiscal space was used more fully, and this would relieve pressure to use monetary tools. But it is also the case the Europe’s economy is much healthier than it was a few years ago. Where do you detect changes in US economic policy until now, following Donald Trump’s election, and how is the prospect for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement being shaped? I believe that trade agreements like TTIP and TPP are very much in the interest of the United States. High standard agreements that open markets for trade also advance progress on labor, health, environmental protection and business practices. Since the US has historically held to high standards on our own, broadening the acceptance of high standards makes the US more competitive. I fear that abandoning US leadership in these multilateral negotiations invites others to fill the void, with the likelihood of lower not higher standards as an outcome. The workplace is changing rapidly not just because of globalization, but even more because of advances in technology. Our political debate tends to merge the two, perhaps because it is easier to blame the anger of an anxious public on others than it is to take a hard look inward and ask how we can address issues within our own economies. Each country and region faces its own challenges. In the US, for example, we know that we can build a stronger foundation for economic growth by investing in our aging infrastructure, which would create good middle class jobs today and in the future. We also know that we need to do better at education and training – for the young and not so young – so that we have skilled workers to fill jobs that are and will remain available. We also need to maintain a responsible fiscal policy and pay for these investments, particularly with the emerging demographic challenge of an aging baby boom. In a growing economy, we do not need big tax cuts that add to the deficit. And in an economy where increasing shares of income go to returns on capital and highly compensated individuals, we should not roll back tax rates on the most fortunate. We should fix a tax code that too frequently lets wealth accumulated from investments go untaxed and in a deficit neutral way reform our business tax code to eliminate loopholes and lower rates that drive businesses to leave the US. It would be reverse Robin Hood to cut health benefits for low wage workers to reduce taxes on high levels of investment income, yet that is exactly what pending legislation would do. Going forward, we will do better if the debate shifts to areas where we should be able to work together – things like rebuilding our infrastructure and training our workforce. This would start to address the real source of the anxiety that is driving political expressions of anger.Panos - Sep 26, 2017
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