Chalki - Tragaia

In the centre of the island, at a distance of 16km far from Chora, it is located the verdant plain of Tragaia fully covered with olive trees. It is surrounded by the mountains of “Koronos” and “Fanari” from the north part and by the imposing “Zas” Mountain from the north-east part of the area. Thanks to its location Tragaia was always considered to be the commercial centre of mountainous Naxos. The villages of Tragaia, Chalki, Koutsocherado, Tsikalario, Kerami, Metochi, Kaloxylos, Monitsia (Rachi), Akadimoi, each one with its peculiarities and its own character but all of them close to each other, always considered as a unity.
 
The great history of Tragaia dates back to ancient times. Footpaths from Tsikalario and Koutsocherado lead to the Upper Castle that stands out in the central Naxos since antiquity. There is also the prehistoric wall that used to be the fortress of ancient Tragea while two ancient cemeteries of Geometric period still remain at the foot of it. There, you can also see a “Menchir”, which is an upright stone, a stone megalith monument of particular interest and beauty. The castle, which was used successively in Byzantine and Venetian period, is really astonishing: walls, embrasures, tanks, chapels, palaces compose a Medieval city that definitely compensates the visitor for the tiring hike.
 
The most churches of the island are built in Tragaia and that explains why the plain of Tragaia has been characterized as “an island Byzantine Mystras”.  There are a lot of remarkable churches among the villages of the plain but the oldest one (probably dates from the 6th century) is Panagia Protothronos (Evaggelistria) in Chalki. It is important not only for its architecture but also for its successive coats of murals. It is about a church of transitional type cruciform with dome that according to its current shape it is estimated to have been built between the 9th and 10th centuries. The decoration of the church was completed in five different periods and it consists of three succesive coats of exquisite religious paintings: one of the coats dates back to iconoplastic period and it can be seen into the Ecclesiastical Museum, located next to the church.
 
Agios Georgios Diasoritis is also another church of particular interest, located just few miles out of Chalki in the direction of Monitsia. It is cruciform with dome and many significant religious paintings of the 11th- 13th centuries. In Monitsia, which is a settlement that after many years of desolation now begins to have again more residents, you can also see the church of Agios Isidoros and Panagia Rachidiotissa. A little bit higher, in Kaloxylos it is located the church of Panagia Damniotissa and in the nearby Kerami the church of Agios Ioannis Theologos.
 
Tragaia had also an eminent position in the administrative sector during the Byzantine and Venetian period. In the plain of Tragaia there are a lot of Venetian monuments, such as the three-storeyed tower of the Venetian family of Barotsi in Chalki, next to Panagia Protothronos.
 
Other buildings that belong to the family of Polites (Makropolites), who had the power in Tragaia during the Ottoman rule, are Papadakis Tower in Akadimoi, Kalavros Tower in Kerami and the tower in the village of Metochi. Also in Kaloxylos there are the towers of Kokkos and Koronelli which was demolished so as to use its materials for the construction of the village’s church.
 
The existence of a great deal of monuments, churches and the key location of the village in the centre of the island converted Tragaia into the administrative and commercial centre of mountainous Naxos. It is not accidental the fact that when all the other villages still had oil lamps for light, Chalki already had electricity. In Chalki you can also see marvellous neoclassical buildings, evidence of the village’s previous prosperity. The place is ideal for strolls on its stone paved narrow streets, food, coffee and shopping while you will also have the chance to taste “citro” in Vallindras distillery, which is in operation since 1896 producing this famous liqueur, and get a guided tour into the traditional distillery.
 
Every village is special; Chalki for its neoclassical buildings, Kerami for its narrow streets, Tsikalario for the wild beauty of its Upper Castle, Kaloxylos for its flowers and gardens. Tragaia is a stable value which harmoniously combines historic memory with tradition and beauty.

Written by Katerina Giamouri
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