TRAVEL

    WELCOME TO CHALKIDA

    BY MARIA SIDERI

    Thanks to its strategic geographic position, the city has remained a crossroads of cultures over the centuries, a bone of contention for many foreign conquerors. Today the cosmopolitan city of Chalkida, the administrative and commercial centre of the island built on both sides of Evripos straits, is a popular destination among Athenians for short breaks away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Thanks to its impressive ultra modern cable bridge, the access to the city has now become easier and quicker.

     

    Chalkida, the city of the sacred fountain of Arethousa is an ideal short break away, just a stone’s throw from Athens and loaded with a history stretching back over 3,000 years. It felt like no time driving away from the capital and leaving behind its northernmost suburbs to reach Chalkida, whose suspended bridge, completed in 1993, connects the mainland and Evia, Greece’s second largest island.

     

    For Athenians, Chalkida is generally regarded as an ideal getaway for a day trip during which a little tsipouro and seafood can make for a relaxing day. Chalkida, however, is not just an entertainment destination but a temptation to explore as well, blessed with a history stretching back 3,000 years. Its influence in antiquity was wide reaching and its colonies spread all the way to Sicily and Italy. As other areas in Greece, it later fell to a succession of rulers – Franks, Venetians, Ottomans and Germans.
    Walking around the fortress area is a cultural and religious experience. The buildings here have endured through the centuries, such as the old Saint Paraskevi church and the 15th century Emir Zade Mosque, featuring an impressive dome. The Karababa fortress, built by the Ottomans in 1684 as protection against the Venetians, is an imposing site on the mainland side of Chalkida.

    If visiting Chalkida for the first time, the promenade along Avanton Str. and the esplanade by the sea are appropriate starting points for tuning into the city’s vibe. Avanton Str. is lined with shops selling brand name products, while the esplanade is ideal for a romantic stroll, a pit stop for coffee or to simply take in the view of the harbor’s boats and seabirds.

    Two Chalkida trademarks are located at either end of the esplanade, Kokkino Spiti (Red House), a mansion dating back to 1884 and the old bridge – one of two connecting Chalkida’s mainland and island sides. The old bridge, located at the narrowest point of the Euripus strait and one of the world’s last remaining “sliding” bridges, opens every night a little after 23:00 to allow vessels to pass through the strait.
    Chalkida is also particularly famous for the tidal phenomenon that takes place in Evripos, i.e. the swift change of water direction every six hours, created by the Moon’s pull. During each change of direction the water stops moving for about eight minutes.


    Where to stay in Chalkida
    Lucy Hotel | The emblematic Lucy Hotel, whose entrance features an embalmed lion, there since the 50s, is a great option with a celebrated past. Celebrities such as the Maria Callas and Monica Vitti, have spent time at this hotel’s suites. Many Greek films were shot at this hotel during the 60s and 70s, a prolific period for the local film industry. For breakfast try the local specialties, such as Mantoudi pudding with almond, trahana and pumpkin pie.
    Lucy Hotel, 10 Voudouri Av., T:  2221 022051


    Where to eat in Chalkida
    Thalami | For fresh fish from the day’s catch head to Thalami, located at the small picturesque port of Kourenti, To get there, take the road leading to Kanapitsa. The mezedes here are well prepared, and the shells could not be fresher.
    Thalami, 78 Ethnikis Simfiliosis Str., T: 2221 074442

    Where to shop in Chalkida
    For an extensive collection of Greek designers' creations, one should visit Elsa's (Perikleous Stavrou 28, T: 22216 00807), which also offers selected pieces from The Motley Goat collection among other renowned Greek brands. Close to the city center, Amali Kerasmata (Chaina 3 Av., T: 22213 07800) is a grocery shop that started with the production of fruit vinegars, which involves adding fruit to the vinegar and properly processing it. Visitors can purchase daily made fresh sweets, jams, biscuits and cereal bars, handmade by Amalia, along with other excellent products and spices from the prefectures of Evia and Fthiotida. Loukas (42 Avanton Str., T: 2221 029289) a 33-year old workshop on Avanton Street is the Mecca of pies. It is easily spotted because of the long queues overflowing onto the street. Some 20 different types of pies are made here.

     

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