After a wretched 3 hour journey from Lesvos on the hopefully scrapyard bound ferry Theophilos, the ramp slammed down and I drove my faithful Suzuki Grand Vitara off the boat on to the dock of Chios town at 9:30 on a Friday night. I knew where the Chandris Hotel was, at the far end of the waterfront from where the ferry arrives,
and all I had to do was follow the traffic off the ship and turn left. Wrong. The ship's traffic was directed up and into the city where we met up with more traffic of the local variety and we inched through the
narrow streets. Seeing an opportunity to go left and double back to the waterfront I took it only to discover that one lane of the two-way street that rings the harbor was blocked by a barricade and I was forced back to where I had begun my first journey on Chios, at the Theophilos. I tried again, this time with Andrea looking at a very un-detailed city may in the Rough Guide. The traffic was worse than New York. Worse than LA. Worse than I-40 in RTP. Even worse than Athens! "This road will lead
us through the market" Andrea said as we took a right down a tiny street also clogged with traffic. Half an hour later we were out of the traffic but also out of the city on the road to Campo and its walled agricultural villages. We turned around and looked for hopeful streets that might lead us back into Chios town and the area we wanted to be in. We finally arrived at the Chandris Hotel, an hour after we had gotten off the ferry which we could see a few hundred yards away across the harbor a 10 minute
from the hotel. We parked in the lot that belonged to the bowling alley next door, completely empty since there were still spots on the sidewalks where you could park for free and the lot cost a euro to go in and a euro to leave. I left my car there all night to get my money's worth and we checked into the hotel.
Our room was on the 4th floor with a beautiful view of the harbor. There was a basket on the table filled with every kind of Chios product. Ouzo, figs, preserved fruits, and every type of mastika product from gum to toothpaste, body lotion and candies, weighing altogether about 50 pounds, a
gift from Glikeria,
the Chios representative of Hahathakis Tours. As we examined our treasures the phone rang. It was Glikeria inviting us to have dinner
with her at Petrino, an ouzerie on the waterfront in an old stone mansion. We sat on the pavement as cars whizzed by, music and horns blaring. The sidewalks were full of young people going to and from the loud bars that lined the street. It looked and felt like Saturday night in the East Village or Georgetown and half the voices were in English even though all the faces were Greek. While Glikeria told us of the trials and tribulations of being a travel agent on an island that didn't even seem to want tourism
had the traditional mezedes of Chios, baked mastello cheese, local sausages and tomato-keftedes, drinking Apalarina one of the Chios ouzos, with the not entirely pleasant smell of the sewage filled harbor flavoring every bite and sip.
I typed a short text message to my daughter who had stayed in Lesvos: "This island sucks". I really meant it at the time. Luckily it got a lot better or there would not even be a Matt Barrett's Guide to Chios.
Chances are good that you won't arrive with a car and have to go through the ordeal I went through. If you are smart and have booked your trip to Chios through a Greek travel agency, they will send a representative to meet you at the boat and you can get a lift with someone who knows the traffic patterns of Chios-town. Or maybe you will just happily walk to your hotel, if you are staying in Chios-town. But you will need a car so if you want to avoid the terror of
traffic have it delivered to your hotel in the morning.