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Aegean’s ‘First Lady’

Chios Town, the main town in the island of Chios, is also the First Lady of the Aegean, according to the local authorities. She’s Greek to her fingertips – and surprisingly indifferent towards tourists.

Out so sea in the Aegean

The Lady’s harbour is remarkable, particularly the long side where the houses, with a few tall exceptions, are a genuine idyll: beautiful two- or three-storey buildings with neoclassical facades, set on a background of light grey mountains. Including the moles on either side, the harbour forms a symmetrical seven-sided figure, with a small opening seawards.

In the evening, the harbour turns into a string of sparkling pearls, so seductive that neighbouring Turkey appears to move even closer. The moon, tonight rising on the Turkish side, is attracted by the First Lady, too, and soon hangs large and full straight above our heads, to the delight of all the 25 000 inhabitants, few of whom are tourists as they prefer holiday resorts south of the capital.

A Difficult Choice
A shapely harbour is the ideal setting for satisfying hunger and thirst. The moment I find a tavern and a bar to my taste, I normally become a regular customer.

Chios Harbour

The choice in Chios Town is so large, however, that I have to proceed systematically. I start with a count. In the harbour area there are cafés, bars, taverns, fast food, tea rooms and amusement arcades, in total 40, of which 29 are bars or the like, the rest eating places.

Trying out all of them is impossible, but I heard of a method that might do the trick – a bar crawl. My starting point could be the police, one of the last buildings on the left side. I want to remind them of their duty to close the waterfront to vehicles at night, which they often forget. A waiter explains to me why, “The police think they’re kings!” Hopefully, my last stop will be the bar of the leading hotel, Chandris, situated at the far end on the opposite side.
Talking Away
First, I fortify myself with grilled mackerel in the Katsikadelis Tavern. The simultaneous arrival of two gigantic ferries, just in front of us, create hustle and bustle. The whole town is astir. Half an hour later, the ferries are gone and peace restored. I crawl through the remaining diesel smoke over to the Agirovolyo Café to warm up with a cappucino for the great challenge, the long side of the harbour.

A Bar no less

The Ibiscus Bar greets me with a Heineken and soft reddish brown cushions. My attention is caught by three married couples, elegantly dressed like all modern Greeks, at the table beside me. They’re talking, or rather the women are, their husbands merely adding and correcting. The women are complementing each other perfectly. Number one is brief, number two has got incredibly much to say, number three masters the art of terminating a subject in a few well-chosen words, with a know-it-all smile.

Youth Rebellion
The newly washed cushions of the Nifada Bar make me believe I’m floating on a white cloud, a sensation repeated in the Vivlos next door where an indoor starry sky fascinates me. I join the young people in the Remezzo over an ice coffee. The Drum lives up to its name by nearly splitting my eardrums, and failing to spot my lookalike in the Alter Ego, I decide to play cards with the old men outside the Kafenion, then hit a billiard ball in the Asteras arcade.

Cafe culture

Deafening music drives me out of the Art Café and into a quieter haven, the Bratsera. Proudly, I realize I’ve already completed the long side, now turned into a running track by young guys racing each other on mopeds and motorcycles. They accelerate right in front of my table and roar away in petrol fumes. The noise is infernal. This trifling with their lives and limbs must be a youth rebellion, apparently ignored by the police.

I skip the Café Kavos to refresh my ears in the Rhythm ‘n’ Blues instead, until my sweet tooth is tempted by the Sweet House. A theory of mine, that the level of light is inversely proportional to the level of music, is confirmed in the Metropolis Bar. I leave the noisy darkness to look for post upstairs in Enter, an internet café. Feeling a bit tired, I let the Rock Café El Plo stir me up. Very soon, though, I fancy a slower melody so I make for the Melodia Bar.

Mutual Solicitude
Before taking a breather in the Bel Air, I decide to sum up my findings, in the Status Bar. I’m impressed by the First Lady’s way with the young people and her progressive taste of music, but I dare say I’m more fond of her when she’s a bit old-fashioned. That’s why, tomorrow again, I’ll pick out a tavern just where the ferries put in, sure to be rewarded with tasty fish and scenes of harbour life.

Fish diet failure

New-fangled bars and cafés are a smart piece of scenery. Nevertheless, I’m more comfortable in humble joints, seeing people talk and argue, laugh and yawn without musical disturbances. Moving incidents always stand in line here, as last night: a disabled man, selling tickets for the lottery, cheered up a large group of silent, sad-looking old men. During a long and cheerful discussion, they exchanged not only lottery tickets and cash, but also a tender solicitude for each other.

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