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The lady of the Aegean

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Syros: The lady of the Aegean

Anchored in the heart of the Aegean, the elegant capital of the Cyclades is the largest island (in population) and the administrative centre of the Cycladic archipelago. The cradle of early Cycladic civilization, as evidenced by the archaeological site of the prehistoric acropolis of Chalandriani (3rd millennium BC), and the birthplace of the first Greek bourgeoisie of the19th century, the famous "Syra" found in old European maps, shaped its distinct identity through the centuries.

Syros is knownfor the harmonious coexistence of the Orthodox and Catholic tradition, the Asia Minor and Venetian culture, the Cycladic and neoclassical architecture, its aristocratic aura and cosmopolitan character and the inherent nobility and benevolence of its people. All these traits made Syros the first industrial, maritime and cultural centre of Modern Greece.

The glamour of the rich social and intellectual life of the island radiates to this day through its majestic buildings and cultural foundations, echoing the admiration of the French romantic poet Théophile Gautier (1852), before the "capital of elegance and nobility".

Routes & Attractions

Walk around Ermoupolis, the island’s capital, a representative sample of 19th century neoclassical architecture. The heart of the city beats in the marble-paved Miaouli Square with the monumentalTown Halldesigned by German architect Ziller. A bit further up is the majestic Apollon Theater, the first Greek opera house (1864) builtin the same model of the Italian opera houses. The famous Vaporia, the old ship-owners’ quarter with the neoclassical mansions, the palm trees and the magnificent terracesthat once hosted elegant evening parties and receptions.St. Nicholas Cathedral, built in1850, stands out to this day with its impressive sky-blue dome rising above the sea.Don’t miss the chance to visit Syros’Industrial Museum to embark on an experiential journey through the industrial heritage of Greece’s very own “Manchester”

Just a few 870 steps above Ermoupolis is the medieval castle town of Ano Syra (13thcentury); A gem of Cycladic architecture that combines galleries, covered passages, white-washed houses with colourful gates and small craft shops; a balcony with unprecedented panoramic view of Ermoupolis, the port and Neorio, the island’s historic shipyard. At the top of the settlement stands the church of Saint George, the emblematic Catholic metropolis. A two-storey traditional house is the home of the small Markos Vamvakaris Museum that honours the memory of the “Patriarch of Rebetiko”through a touching exhibition of personal items, photographsand rare manuscripts.

Leaving Ermoupoli and Ano Syros behind, all roads lead to the aristocratic resort of Delagrazia(Posidonia) with 19-century neoclassical summer mansions with turrets and well-tended gardens. On your way there, pass by the evergreen Episkopio to admire the legendary “haunted” Red House, that inspired Karagatsis to write his novel “The Great Chimera”.

Those who love offroad adventures must follow the trail up to the pre-historic acropolis of Chalandriani (3rd millennium BC) through a breath-taking mountain route with infinite view of the Aegean.

Beaches & Activities

The frilled coastline of Syros hides some idyllic sceneries of unparalleled natural beauty with beaches that meet the needs of all travellers. The cosmopolitan beach of Galissasis a popular destination for those who seek to combine relaxation on a golden sandy beach with water sports. Crowded Vari is the perfect spot for families with young children,thanks to its vast sandy beach and sportsfacilities(beach volley court), while picturesque Kini with its magical sunset view is a magnet for couples in love. If you want to feel the island’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, visit the exotic Delfini beach with its exquisite pebbled beach and beach bars, or Agathopes with turquoise waters overlooking the islands of Stroggylo and Schinonisi.

If you love hiking, follow one of the fascinating trails of Apano Meria (the rocky northern part of the island), where you will find some of the most beautiful, untouched beaches of the Aegean.Among them, the evergreen beach of Gria Spilia and the famous Grammata, a sailors’ haven dating back to the roman and byzantine times, as shown by the inscriptions carved on the rocks.

Tastes of the island

Syros’ gastronomy is a refined pairing of Greek traditions, flavours from Asia Minor, venetian influences and fine local delicacies. Syros is famous for its loukoumia (traditional delights) and its savory halvadopites (halva pies). These recipies were brought from Istanbul by the refugees who arrived from Chios. San Michali hard cheese PDO, produced in the mountainous village that goes by the same name.

Syros sausages made of pork with fennel or garlic (garlic sausages), the Syrian louza, the «pastelaria» (sweet made of dried figs with sesame, cinnamon and walnuts) are ideal with shots of local tsipouro; fennel gives the delicious fennel pie called marathopita; the local caper turns into a heavenly caper salad, sun-dried tomatoes served friedwith batter… these are only a few of the delightful local products worth trying or buying when visiting the island.

Among the specialties of Syros’ cuisine are seafood dishes such as octopus patties, aetopita(fish and vegetable pie), atherinopita (fried atherina with onions or eggs) as well as dishes of fine local meat, such as pork with quinces or cabbage, sisira (a pork delicacy), braised flinguni (pluck), ampelokorfade syiachni(grapevine shoot stew), cabbage rolls with raisins, karavola kokkinista (snails in tomato sauce and sage).

Syros produces excellent wines from exclusive Cycladic varieties as well as the handcrafted Syra beer, and marvelous spirits made of local fruits such as figs and gooseberries.

Traditions & Events

The long history of Syros is reflected in the island’s enchanting traditions and customs. Easter in Syros is a unique life experience as this is one of the few places in the world wherethe Orthodox and Catholics celebrate Easter at the same time. Thehigh point of the festivities is the procession of Orthodox and Catholic epitaphs in the streets of Ermoupolis and their final meeting in Miaouli Square.  August 15th is celebrated in Kini with the revival of the custom of "fotarides", when the houses’ facades are decorated with lighted lanterns made of tin cans and children illuminate the surrounding terraces and the beach.

The feast of St. Peter (June 29th) offers the enchanting spectacle of the procession of the saint’s icon on a boat, accompanied by other decorated vessels. Celebrations last until themorning with the offering ofkakavia, paella and wine to the people. The Carnival of Syros is just as famous as Easter on the island, with a float parade and the revival of ancient satirical customs.

Don’t miss…

Visit the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Ermoupolis to admire the homonymous hagiography which the famous painter of the Renaissance Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) painted at a very young age (1562-64). It is a masterpiece of byzantine style of the Cretan Renaissance school and Italian Mannerism. Legend has it that it was taken to Syros by refugees from the island of Psarra during the Greek Revolution.

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