The Singularly Spectacular Syros
Syros is not like other Greek islands. Syros experienced the Renaissance (Yup). Which is pretty remarkable considering the amount of turmoil Greece has had to live with. So what happens when an island goes through such profound changes? Well, for one it becomes the administrative center of the Cycladic island complex; all the amazing architecture isn’t going to look at itself. Syros certainly has architecture. The Italians made sure of that (Grazie tanti, chaps).
That invariably has led to a relative je m’en fous attitude towards tourism from the locals. Which also means less of the tourist-y spiel and crowds and whatnot. And that is just swell. Like most Greek islands Syros is blessed with great natural beauty. Of course the food is dope. And the beaches are to die for. And the locals are charming and hospitable.
But Syros is a singularity. Its capital (not called Chora, how about that) Ermoupolis is a veritable Unesco World Heritage site (its not, but it damn well should). It has been inhabited for 5,000 years by Ottomans, Franks, Siccilians, Arabs, Turks, Byzantines and lastly the Venetians who left the most visible mark on the isle. If you’re after some prehistory, you’ll want to head to Chalandriani; a 3rd millennium BC citadel situated northeast. Better yet, Kastri, is a prehistoric settlement from the 2nd Cycladic period with several tombs and ruins that point to a an affluent past. The area is home to one of the most important Cycladic excavations to date, yielding a significant number of artefacts.
Syros is chok full of class and culture. The town hall itself is an Ernst Chiller masterpiece dating back to 1867. Sitting on the grandiose Miaoulis square, it is the indisputable jewel in the crown. How about the Apollon Theater, designed by Pietro Sambo. This gem was built in 1864 and is modelled after 4 Italian theaters including La Scala. The architectural wonders continue with the Byzantine Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas. Built in 1848, its is massive as it is opulent. Lovers of anything Orthodox will also appreciate the fantastic Assumption of the Virgin church. What stands out about this particular one is the fact that the original icon of the Assumption was in fact created by El Greco. Dang!
And then there is Ano Syros. Its a town built by the Venetians circa 1200 built amphitheatrically on top of the slope for protection.
Syros is home to Markos Vamvakaris. You might’ve heard his songs, he’s only the guy who invented rebetiko music! Thats right, folks. All that sweet sweet music you hear dreamily hazing up in Greek tavernas across the globe, is all thanks to this dude. And that’s exactly what he is: a dude. Because back in the 1930’s the ‘Greek blues’ was a nascent art form practised in less than reputable hash dens and dodgy tavernas in the port of Piraeus. Look it up. Theres still vids up there. Super impressive.