# Theodore in Andros

Arrival – the town

Theodore and Mabel arrived at the main town, still called Andros, situated on the eastern side of the island. Nowadays, the island ferries deposit travellers at the port of Gavrion on the western side.

. . . the town is highly picturesque: old houses of all colours are built on a narrow rock which juts out into the sea

. . . on an island rock connected with this tongue of land by a fantastic bridge stands the mediaeval castle, all now in ruins.

Behind this town stretches inland one of the most fertile valleys in the world, and the slopes of the mountains are dotted with villages peeping out of cypress and lemon groves.

We took a stroll round the town soon after our arrival, and were pleased with all we saw. The old town on the tongue of rock is entered by a gateway, and the houses are pretty, having more woodwork about them than is common in these islands; We took a stroll round the town soon after our arrival, and were pleased with all we saw. The old town on the tongue of rock is entered by a gateway, and the houses are pretty, having more woodwork about them than is common in these islands;

The plain

Later on I walked out into the plain, and was struck with the fertility of the fields; those which are exposed to the north wind have cypresses planted around them to break the force of the ‘king of the winds,’ and they make tall hedges of bamboos, which sway before the tempests and protect the crops.

miles of stone walls, curiously made, with great, big slabs at an interval of every two yards, built around with smaller stones, do not look picturesque.

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Eparch Matzi was no exception to this rule, for his comparisons between Andros and his native Paros were not to the advantage of the former. To his wife Kyria Matzi we shall be for ever grateful, for immediately on our arrival she introduced us to the great Andriote luxury limonakki, tiny green lemons made into a jam, so deliciously soft, and so deliciously sweet, that we longed for a potful and some bread and butter . . . Lemons are so plentiful in Andros that they can afford to make jam out of the little ones.

The whole of the southern slope of Mount Petalos, which runs across Andros and divides it into north and south, is one vast lemon garden. Boxes of lemons wrapped in paper are despatched to Constantinople, Russia, and England

Mulberry trees

Until a few years ago Andros produced a large quantity of silk, and still a great number of mulberry trees are scattered over the plains and hills . . . Fifteen years ago [around 1869] disease attacked the worms, and numbers of fine mulberry trees were cut down and lemons planted in their stead; with the fruit of those that are left they make a disgusting potent spirit called mourróraki, much drunk at feast time, and the cause of many a bloody brawl in Andros.

Old church at Messariá

A good road is in course of construction up the fertile valley along which we made our way at a rapid pace until we came to the village of Messariá, which has a church, of considerable architectural merit, dedicated to the archangel Michael, on a pillar of which we read that it was built in the reign of Manuel Komnenes in 1157. It is of pure Byzantine style, with a dome, and divided, as old churches of that date were, into narthex, middle temple, and holy place. The screen is of white and grey marble, and has on it several carvings, representing St. John’s head in a charger and Constantine’s two-headed eagle.

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The paradise of Menites

Turning to the right we soon entered the paradise of Menites, with delicious streams rushing down the gorge from the mountain side, and bathing it in verdure; luxuriant maidenhair fringed the water mills, and on banks of soft moss we actually found primroses growing in abundance, and we were glad enough of the shelter afforded by the houses hidden away amongst the trees to take refuge from the midday sun.

At Menites we were first introduced to the towers of Andros . . . These square lofty towers form a curious feature in the landscape. Originally they were entered at an upper storey by a ladder, which drew up and secured those inside from invasion. To the lower storey there were no doors or windows, but it was entered by a trapdoor from above and served as the family storeroom. Round the top of the towers were overhanging niches, out of which the beseiged could pour boiling oil and shoot their assailants; but, thanks to the quiescence of modern times, the gloomy aspect of these towers is much ameliorated. Stone staircases have been fitted on outside, to serve as approaches instead of ladders; windows have been opened, and in most of them an air of comfort now reigns.

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Temple of Dionysos

Menites has a church through which a sacred stream of water flows. ‘This,’ said Kyrios Kretes, who was acting as host, ‘was the celebrated temple of Dionysos, where once a year the water flowed as wine in ancient times.’ I privately begged leave to differ from him, first, because there is not a vestige of antiquity in this part of the island; and secondly, because a sceptical nature suggested that a miracle such as this must have been difficult to perform on a stream which runs straight down from the mountain side; if it had passed through a tank behind I could have understood it.

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Monastery of Panáchrantos

This monastery is built on a fearful spot under the rocks of the mountain ridge, to the south of the vale of Andros . . . As seen from below, it is like a village with a wall all round it, of dull brown stone, and with a whitewashed church rising up in the midst.

The church of the monastery of Panáchrantos is a beautiful one, and looked especially well with plenty of candles and oil lamps. The tempelon, or screen, had a sort of dado of rich Rhodian tiles let into the woodwork, and above were six large silver eikons of St. Michael, St. John the Baptist, &c., with all the mysteries of their lives embossed in silver, which were set in richly carved wood, and along the top ran twelve little arched compartments for pictures of the twelve apostles.

Just above the monastery there is a curious pointed rock, to the summit of which nobody knows how to climb. On the top are evident traces of a wall; probably, as Superior Gregory suggested, this was the former home of some hermit, which has been rendered inaccessible by the falling away of a portion of the cliff.

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Miserable journey to Korthí

In a storm of sleet, and with a biting north wind behind us, we set out from our somewhat-dreary halting-place on our way across the mountains which lie at the back of Panáchrantos, and divide the vale of Andros from the parallel vale of Korthí. To our left we passed one of those ruined Venetian fortresses on the summit of a rock, covered, as usual, with the ruins of towers, houses, and cisterns of the Latin epoch

Before entering the village of Korthí you pass a whole row of towers: this spot is called Kampana because the rich family of that name once owned most, if not all, of these towers. They are gaunt, imposing-looking edifices, buried in trees and surrounded by well-stocked gardens

Korthí, however, can boast of some interesting churches, one of Byzantine architecture, of very early date, and another now in ruins, but in its ruins most picturesque — so buried in olives and fig trees that it is hard to effect an entry — and the roof is covered with wallflowers and has a cypress growing on the top of it, by some odd contrivance of nature.

The vale of Korthí is quite shut off from everywhere being surrounded on three sides by lofty mountains, To the south the land continues rocky and barren to the southern cape, close to which is a now deserted monastery, where in former years was the great ‘panegyris’ of the Cyclades, before the Evangelistria at Tenos was invented. Everywhere the same complaint is made, ‘Before the world went to Tenos they came here;’ nearly every island complains of the disrepute into which its miracle-working shrine has fallen within late years.

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Our destination to-day had a pleasant-sounding name, Aidónia (Nightingale), where dwells the chief magistrate of the deme of Korthí. ‘Nightingale’ is a little village above the town of Korthí, where the wealthier inhabitants now dwell in their large towers. Our host was quite an aristocrat, belonging to the archon family of Kaïres, who had married a Kampana. He lived in a very large tower, approached by an imposing flight of steps, from which we entered directly into a fine room, where the family receive.

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The Theophilos Kaïres orphanage

When in the capital we visited the building he had erected, which was closed for twenty years after his death, but now is opened as the Government school.
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The ever-present graceful silhouette of Gyaros

The view from the highlands of Andros, as we began rapidly to descend the more precipitous slopes of Western Andros, was very fine; another of those ever-varying groupings of islands which form the charm of every view in the Cyclades. Close to us now was the isle of Gyaros — just a large barren rock, uninhabited, except in summer time by herdsmen.

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Palaeopolis, as the Andriotes now call the spot where the ruins of the old city still exist, is a heavenly place. When the temples and the public buildings stood here it must have been one of those ideal places which we see depicted on theatrical drop-scenes. Everything that nature can provide is granted to this spot. Behind it rise the precipitous heights of Mount Petalos. Two clear streams dash down the slopes, amidst olives, cypresses, and lemons, which grow in profusion here.

Every building in Palaeopolis, church or cottage, has some trace to show of antiquity

In a barley-field we saw the headless torso of a woman and child

The acropolis of Andros is a good climb from the town, and on the top of it is the basis of a square tower and traces of brick pipes, up which presumably water was carried from the hill above to the top of the tower; and by its side is the little yellow church of St. Demetrius, containing an inscription.

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Mpatzi has a comfortable little harbour full of fishing-boats, but nothing more. All the boats here have the step on the stern, on to which the fisherman leaps when he has pushed his craft off the beach; they have huge iron rowlocks and unwieldy oars.

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Of all places in the world Gavrion is one of the most desolate. A few houses are dotted along the shore of a spacious land-locked harbour; before these houses stand tall wooden erections that look like gallows, but they are merely places on which to dry the bodies of the octopodia in the sun and wind.

Gavrion has no protection from the north winds, which rush down upon it from the lofty mountains of Euboea, and do great harm to the crops. On this account the threshing floors near here are surrounded by huge tall slabs with a narrow opening to the north, so that just enough wind may enter to assist in winnowing the corn; otherwise all the straw and corn would be scattered by the blasts.

Before leaving Gavrion we took an easy excursion to the Albanian village of Phelló, a clean, hospitably-inclined place, very picturesque, and with houses for the most part decorated with old china plates built into the walls. On one house we were amused to find a willow-patterned plate thus honoured. They have glorious views from here over the snow-capped peaks of Euboea

Close to Phelló we visited an ancient marble quarry, where are still to be seen huge blocks of marble cut out of the cliff ready for transportation. The quality did not look to me so good as even that of Naxos, but tradition says that the white temple of Apollo at Sunium was built of it.

The Tower of St. Peter

Without a pang of regret we turned our backs on Gavrion next day, and set off to see the old round Hellenic tower of St. Peter — a fine object on the hillside, surrounded by olives, and just below a hamlet of the same name, about half an hour’s ride from Gavrion harbour. The stones of which it was built have become rich and mellow with age; they are colossal at the foundation, and diminish in size as they go up.

The Monastery of Hagia

After leaving the tower we went on to the neighbouring monastery of Hagia

Outside, like all Greek monasteries, it was forbidding enough; just a fortified mass covering an acre of ground on the top of a hill, so that there was no doubt about its being cold, but inside affairs looked more promising.

the church is inferior in beauty, but behind the high altar there is a curious cave, which you have to enter on hands and knees. Here is the sacred source (agiásma gr) from which the name of the life-giving stream has been given to the monastery.

The great attraction of this monastery is its library, containing some very old and valuable illuminated manuscripts.


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The Bents’ journeys in Andros

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