The Nea Mone, Chios – and the Vagaries of Levantine Travel

November 10th, 2011 by admin

Further to my last blog, the Nea Mone, Chios, was not quite deserted when I visited it on Thursday 10 October 1991, as I was reminded on re-reading my diary of the journey.

The previous day I had lunched with elegant Greek friends in Athens, before embarking at Piraeus on the Sappho, bound for Chios at 7 o’clock. I describe the ‘hellish atmosphere’ on board, ‘my class in one communal room with bar & food, television. Shortage of seats, which were cramped & uncomfortable. Many Turks, gipsies (one dirty boy begged from me) and soldiery. Slept badly …’

All was well on my arrival at Chios town. It had a ‘very Turkish atmosphere. Shacks built on top of the ramparts. Giustiniani Museum with a few Byzantine relics.’ On Thursday afternoon, the redoubtable Pandeles Spanos (‘the beardless’) drove me ‘up mountain to Nea Mone – sick-making hair-pin bends, a long drive to a very remote place …’ Pandeles thought we should delay our arrival till 3.45, as the monastery would surely be closed ‘for a long lunch’. He proved to be an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. ‘A kindly old monk supervised in the church – an illiterate.’ Pandeles ‘explained that I was a writer of Byzantine history, about which he was unfortunately ignorant. Later another, younger monk appeared, & an elderly nun, who gave me Turkish Delight & a cup of water. She had seemed charmed when I doffed my hat to her & also when I said the sweet was “nostimo” – delicious.’

We ‘went on to Anavatos, a desolate, haunted place, inhospitable enough even when inhabited’.

It is strange that my strongest memory of this day should be of seeing the Emperor Monomachos’s prayer book, and that, of all details, I should have omitted to mention this in my diary.


1 comment

  1. admin says:

    No wonder the Sappho was so uncomfortable. It was built in 1966 at Cammell Laird in Birkenhead in 1966 for Ellerman Wilson Line and used as a ro ro ferry on their Hull to Gothenberg route until 1973 and was named Spero.

    It was then sold to the Greek Company NEL and became Sappho and was used on the Aegean island routes until it was sold again in 2002. It became Santorini 3 and was used on that route until 2003.

    She was eventually sold for scrap to an Indian company and was finally beached at Alang in India in January 2004.

    She was actually a fine looking ship in her day. It is interesting that many of the Greek ferries operating in the Aegean are ex British channel ferries from the sixties and seventies others of which have ended up as far away as New Zealand (Pirbeck Portsmouth/Caen), Viking 1 is in Trinidad (Dover/Calais) and one other (Dover/Calais) is in Indonesia.

    On a side line the Portsmouth/Isle of Wight Car ferry St Catherine is now in Sardinia as GB Conte having sailed there under her own steam.

    I hope that this is of interest.