The island’s history
The early years
Skyros was first inhabited during the Neolithic period (5400-2800 B.C.) as evidenced by findings that have been discovered in many areas of the island. During the early Bronze Age, the island was inhabited by the Pelasgians. Then the Cretans came (1650-1100 B.C.). Skyros under the rulers of the Aegean islands knew a big progress.The Cretans teached the cultivation of wine and olives and gave to the residents their culture, their religion and their economical system. Later came the Dolopes who was a group of Achaion from Fthia. The Chalkidiens and the Athenians dominated and stayed on the island bringing with them their culture and their habits.
The golden age
Αfter the Lelantine War the Dolopes occupied the island until 475 B.C. Then the island passed into the hands of the Athenians. The Athenians settled and had a kind of military occupation. The Macedonians and the Romans followed and after them the Byzantines. During the Byzantium, Christianity prevailed on the island.
After the Byzantium the island became the acquisition of the Franks and the Venetians and then of the Ottomans. During the revolution of 1821, Skyros offered a strong economical help but also many sailors to the Hellenic fleet and also medical care for refugees from all over Greece.
Skyros in mythology and now
The presence of Skyros is significant in Mythology. Theseus, after his return from Adis, was frustrated by the loss of his throne by Menestheas. So he went to Skyros from where his grandfather named Skyrios and his father named Egeas came. Lykomidis who was the king of Skyros thought that his throne was threatened by Theseus, so he eliminated him. Then Lykomidis, whose sister Thetis was Achilles mother, hided Achilles into the palace because Thetis knew that if he was going to Troy he will lose his life. Naturally Odysseus achieved to discover him. But before Achilles left for his last journey, he had a son with Didamia, Lykomidis daughter, his name was Piros also called Neoptolemos meaning young at war because after the death of his father, he went also to Troy at a very young age.
With time Skyros was called by many names like Pelasgia, Dolopia, Anemoessa, Perirrytos (surrounded all around by sea), Egibotos (where they breed goats), and many other names which are lost through centuries. At the end the island was called Skyros because of the rocky ground mainly in the South. All those ancient influences obviously have influence on the manners and the customs even of todays Skyros.
Today, locals find harmony living their own traditional life. The traditional coffee-houses with their intense coffee smell and the sound of the rolling dices have still a lot of sucess. The attachment of the Skyrian people to their tradition is very impressive, the vivid festivals, the habits, the great Skyrian carnival and the wooden sculptured small chairs have not been forgotten until now.
Skyros is well known for its wonderful beaches in the North as much as in the South of the island, those in the South are accesible mainly by sea. Molos is one of the most frequented and organised beach of Skyros, its imposing rocks create a beautiful scene. Girismata is also a famous beach, it lies in the Northeast part of the island and offers to the visitors its golden sand. Kalamitsa is the biggest beach of the island with cristal and very clean sea and it’s the ideal place for watersports. Instead in Kareflos you will find isolation and calm. The beach of Saint Fokas remind the Ionian sea, it’s surrounded by rich vegetation with a crystal green sea and a bit further lies Peykos, one graphic Sporadic beach with wonderful sea in a small bay.
Watching Skyros map the beaches appear in this row:
Skyros belongs to the Sporades but is also close to the Cyclades. It’s the southest and the biggest island of the Sporades with a surface of 210 square kilometers and a perimeter about 60 miles.The population amounts to 2.602 residents. The island is eastern from Eybias which lies about 35 Km.
We could have called it the island of contradictions. Some places remind the Cyclades ( from Chora and south ) because of the rocky landscape, and some other places have the flavor of the Sporades ( in the North part ) as they are full of all kinds of trees. The interchange in the landscape is unpredictable. The North part of the island ( the Sporadic ) is all green with pine tree forests while from Kalamitsa and South the landscape changes. Acute cycladic rocks and small bushes make their appearance and monopolize the interest.
The capital of the island is Skyros also called Chora which is located on the eastern coast. It’s connected with Linaria by an asphalt road length 11Km.
Tradition and manners
Carnival in Skyros
During the carnival the custom of the old man “geros” and the young girl “korella” is very famous. The central figure is the “geros” who is dressed with a hairy black cape and wears a goatish leather mask and has a belt with herd’s bells. He is accompanied by the “korella” who is a young man wearing a traditional dress and by the “Frank” who wears a mask and a big bell.
Groups of disguised people go all around Chora dancing and singing. The ambience remind the Dionysic atmosphere which is reinforced by the second part of the Skyrian carnival with the custom named “Tratas” when we recite satyr poems on the main square.
If you find yourself in Skyros any wedding eve, you will see that the invitation is not the classical written invitation. The families of the happy couple go door by door in all the village and offer pancakes with honey in a single number.
In a bright Skyrian wedding, you can admire up to fifty young girls dressed with the traditional bridal costume named “Allameni” wich means the one who change costume. The bridegroom must dance with each of them on the main square to honor them because they wear this expansive and traditional costume for him. Expensive of course literally and figuratively!
The Skyrian little horse
The small size Skyrian horses race is today one of the rarest in the world. It’s a small and with thin bones horse. It has a long mane and a relatively big belly. He is characterised by the hair above the hoofs, they are named “wings”.Their colors are shades of brown, of grey, and less often shades of red and very rarely shades of yellow and black. In some horses you can see white spots on their heads like small stars.
The Skyrian horses are very social and have a very kindly behaviour towards children. Their natural living place is the mountain Kochylas in South Skyros, on the mountain like Skyrians say. This area has a particular ecological value and it’s part of the program NATURA ( IBA ).
It happens to be one of the indigenous horse race of Greece that existed all over Ancient Greece. But he succeed to survive mainly in Skyros. Skyrians horses exist in Skyros, in Corfu at the breeding and therapy center of Ms Sylvia Dimitriadis Steen ( plan SILVA ) and at the farm of the Aristotelis University of Thessaloniki.
All over Greece the Skyrian little horses are estimated about 220 from which 120 are living in Skyros. They are considered by the EU a protected rural race that faces the danger of extinction. For the rescue and the development of this race, the Skyrian horses race organization operates with headquarters in Skyros. It’s a non profit organization founded in June 2006 and its purpose is to record all the horses, to hold a genealogical book and to promote their growth. It’s worth to notice that the Skyrian horses are now a protected specie like the seal Monachus-Monachus and the turtle Caretta-Caretta.
The best known festivals of Skyros are:
– of Saint Ermolaos on July 26 at Marmaro and at Trachy.
– of Saint Paraskevi and Saint Ermolaos, where the locals go with their caique from the small port of Molos to the little island opposite of Pouria as there is a small church there.
– the festival of Saint Mamas at Kalamitsa on September 2.
– of Saint Artemios on the mountain Kochylas on October 18 where the church dedicated to the Saint is in a cave.
– the festival of Saint George, which is one of the biggest on the island as he is the patron saint of Skyros, a litany take place with his ikon escorted by the band and also by navy and aviation.
– the festival of Saint Nicholas at Skyros harbour that happens at noon.
– the festival of the Saint Spirit on August 15
– of the Prophet Hlias on July 19 at Trachy.
– of the Savior on August 5.
– on August 15 we celebrate the Blessed Virgin of Meglos and the next day Saint Myronas.
– the festival of the Blessed Virgin on August 23.
– the festival of the Blessed Virgin of Lybianis on September 8.
The island is famous for its local delicacies which are many and worth to taste. In Skyros they make delicious cheesepie and “teroptaria” with “trachana” and rice.
Another local recipe is “teroptes”, with pumpkin and greek cheese named “myzithra”, roasted in the “tserami” which is a ceramic plate covered with onions and olive oil. Also you have to taste the skyrian dolmades named “giaprakia” and from sweets you should choose pancakes with traditional honey.
Skyrian wooden sculptures
The most important and best known branch of handmade creations are those of woodcraft. The wide variety of patterns and the particular style of carving make skyrian furniture unique works of art that decorate many lounges all over Greece. During the passed years, those furniture was made using mulberry-trees and walnut-trees. The wood of black berries trees was prefered because it has a great resistance, it isn’t eaten by the weevil and with time it acquires a special black color. Today wood of mulberry-trees doesn’t exist anymore and walnut-trees are rare and expansive so beech tree is used from the market. However some artists are trying to continue the skyrian tradition and even today they are still using wood of very good quality not considering its huge cost. The knitted seat of chairs and stools are made with the “tsiperi”, one aquatic herb that grows at river sides, and exists in great quantity in the area of Limnas. The seat is knitted by persons with particular experience. This knitted seat gives to the chairs practical solutions and adds much esthetic to their appearance. The skyrian wooden sculptures are different from the byzantian because they are not deep.
Entering a skyrian home you have the impression that you visit a museum as it’s full of wooden furniture all over and shelves with ceramics. The traditional architecture wants the rooms small and with short ceilings. Handcrafted carved chests hide inside them precious embroidered beddings with silk and needles with gold, seen in sacred vestments with designs inspired by skyrian images. You will not find a skyrian home without wooden carved chairs with knitted seat even if you search all the island ! Skyrians use them in their everyday life almost exclusively as they are more convenient. Their wide variety of designs as well as their particular technique are making skyrian furniture unique work of art that decorates many lounges in Greece.
On the island you can visit remarkable archaeological sites like the Castle which stands above Chora. There were situated the ancient Acropolis and the seat of the ancient king Lykomidis. At the place Andriotis Cave, Theseus, the ancient king of Athens, was killed by Lykomidis. Today almost nothing is saved from the ancient Acropolis.
Archaeological site of Palamaris
Palamaris lies Northwest from Chora, there the archaeological excavations brought to light ruins from a ancient settlement.The excavations are still taking place and continuously we discover more elements that inform us about the meaning and the way of life of the ancient city-port which was one of the most important of ancient time.
Another beautiful place in Skyros is the Eternal Poetry Square dedicated to the British poet Ruppert Brooke who is buried in Skyros. On the square there is a statue dedicated to him. At the unveiling of the statue on 5 April 1931, the greek prime minister of then, Eleytherios Venizelos, was present. From the square you have a panoramic view of the East Coast which includes Magazia, Molos and extends to Poyrias.
The access to Brooke’s Grave is relatively easy. The grave is at the place called ” tris Boykes or Tristomo ” which is a small bay at the Southeast Coast of Skyros. From Kalamitsis if you go south, through a relatively easy route to the mountains, at some point the road goes up, when you pass the mountains, the road becomes downhill. With direction ” Tris Boykes ” you will find the grave in a olive grove at your left. Rupert Brooke was a special physiognomy for the locals which inspired them patriotic ideals. Except his grave at “Tris Boykes” , there is also the Brooke Square at Chora close to the small church of ” Saint Triada ” with the statue dedicated to him. This statue was sculpted by M. Tobro and they say that he had as a model the young rising then dancer Alexander Iola.
Archaeoligical Museum of Skyros
The Archaeological Museum of Skyros is in Choras, under the casttle and exposes a lot of archaeological findings that prove the great and important role of Skyros through greek history. There are ceramic vases and containers, ancient coins and jewelery, household items and tools, which many of them have been found in the archaelogical site of Palamaris. There is also a special place where the traditional skyrian home is represented with all its rooms, its decoration and furniture. You will find there the traditional suits, the wooden sculpted furniture, embroideries and ceramics artefacts with traditional motives from Skyros.
Archaeological Museum of Skyros, Brooke Square – Tel. number : ( + 30 ) 22220 91327.
Folk Museum of Skyros
The museum of Anastasias and Manos Faltaits is one of the first folk and cultural museums of Greece. It is housed in the mansion of the Faltaits, one of the oldest noble family of Skyros, from which Manos Faltaits is a descendant. The Museum exhibits many objects of everyday life of Skyros during earlier times, rare embroideries and traditional art ceramics. Other exhibits show also great interest such as old manuscripts and documents, rare editions of books, work of art of famous sculptors and paintings of Manos Faltaits.
Brooke Square – Tel : ( +30 ) 22220 91232
Official website www.faltaits.gr
Fishing spots of Skyros
Well the whole Skyros is one rich fishing place. Lobsters, giltheads, sea breams, scorpionfishes, gilthead are some of the fishes you can find in Skyros and in Skyropoyla.
From Kalamitsa up to Valaxa you will find all these and additional sea breams. “Myrmiggia ” is an impressive fishing place. It’s strange and also dangerous to be in open sea 500 meters from the island and to be able to stand only covered by one sea meter.
Whole Skyros is available for snorkeling but the widely known place is Gyrismata. Second best place is the seaside of the Mountain. Groupers, breams, sea breams, scorpionfishes are the fishes that you find in large quantities in rocks and caves of Skyros. Diving is prohibited in the area around the airport, in the area around the archaeological site of Palamaris (north end of the island) and at Tris Boykes (nautical base).