You are on holiday in Skiathos with your best friends and after a few days of beach parties, cocktails and Greek food, you feel your brain is getting a bit confused. Time to get on your feet and discover some other aspects of the island! Here are some clues for you.
To those who consider that their holiday must always have some cultural touch, I would recommend: "go and visit our old stones, our churches, our museums or take a Greek cooking lesson". Of course, Skiathos is not Crete, but it does offer some interesting sites to visit. They will give you the opportunity to hear some tellings where historic reality, religion and superstition are strangely and strongly tangled. The inhabitants will love to tell you, with shiny eyes, captivating stories about hidden treasures, miraculous icons and suspicious deaths...
1. The Kastro: the most spectacular place in Skiathos is definitely the Kastro, where the ancient capital of the island was built. In a majestic environment, in the northern part of the island, stood the ruins of an ancient fortress built in the 14th Century to protect the Skiathians against pirates and Saracens. The Kastro was dwelled until 1829. It is at about a fifteen-minute drive from Skiathos town, but the bravest walkers among you will probably prefer to go on foot from town. Indeed, it is a splendid hike, but bear in mind it takes about two hours to get there and during the summer, avoid the hottest hours of the day!
Nature is wild up there and somehow different from the usual Mediterranean landscape. The Aegean sea looks like the Atlantic ocean with its sheer cliffs, its abrupt and sharp rocks and its long and narrow sandy beach.
After the visit, I suggest you to have a cool drink at the little tavern nearby. Nothing luxurious nor glamorous there, only authenticity: reeds, driftwood, motley colours and furniture coming from the four winds. The lady who runs the tavern will try to talk to you with her four words of English and will make you some simple but delicious food: a Greek salad, an omelette, some tsatsiki. That's Greece! And when you'll be back in your home country you will remember with nostalgia this moment spent in this atypical place.
2. The Monastery of Evangelistria: you will find a complete information about it in my article « What to Visit in Skiathos: the Monastery of Evangelistria"
3. The Holy Monastery of Panagia Kounistra: The Virgin Mary, honoured at the Monastery Evangelistria and at Kounistra, is the Patron Saint of Skiathos. If you plan to spend the day at the beautiful wild beach of Asselinos, I recommend you to have look at the Monastrery of Panaghia Ikonistria, better known in Skiathos as Kounistra.
It is located at about 1km from Asselinos and at about 13 km from Skiathos town. Built in the 17th Century and dear to the hearts of the inhabitants, it is a place of particular devotion and the scenery of religious celebrations on November 21st.
According to the most widespread version, in 1650, a very pious monk named Simeon discovered there an icon of the Virgin Mary, portrayed as a young girl, swinging in a tree. This is why the Monastery was called Kounistra, which means in Greek "a swinging movement". Inside the church, you can admire a remarkable wooden iconostasis, some frescoes and an iconography painted in the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th Century.
The icon, origin of the name and of the building of the church, is not kept in the monastery, but in town, in the cathedral of Skiathos, the Tris Ierarches church.
If the Skiathians attribute to this icon many healings and miracles, they also say that it may become furious and severely punish the one who would not respect it. They will tell you about this artisan who wished to restore it and saw in his dreams the Virgin Mary threatening him with death if he dared to touch it. Or this Skiathian who died instantly because he wanted to cut the tree where it was discovered...
On the eve of November 21st, a procession of faithful orthodox bring the icon from Skiathos town to the Monastery and a long night of prayers begins. The next day, the icon is brought back to the Tris Ierarches church, but people say it always seems heavier on the way back, because it is sad to leave its home.
4. The Museum Papadiamantis: downtown, you will have the opportunity to discover a famous writer of the Greek literature: Alexander Papadiamantis, who gave his name to the main street in town and to the airport of the island. He was born in Skiathos in 1851 and died there in 1911. His work, a monument of the Greek literature, often considered as the "Greek Emile Zola", is mainly about human condition, orthodox faith, rural life and often draws its inspiration from the island where he was born.
His native house no longer exists, but the one where he died was restored and is open to the public. This small and modest building, hidden in a charming little square at a stone's throw from Papadiamantis Street, not only shows us the writer's daily life, his personal belongings, his furniture, some manuscripts, but is also one of the very few examples of the 19th Century architecture in Skiathos.
Classified as historical monument since 1965 by the Greek Ministery of Culture, it was carefully restored in 1990. It can be visited daily from 8:30am to 3:00pm. The entry costs 2 euros for visitors from 19 years old and is free for the younger people.
5. Greek cooking lessons: as I have often said in my articles, food is an important part of Greek culture and some dishes, prepared at precise dates, rhythm the Greek housewive's life. Are you interested in learning more about it? The restaurant Calma, in Aghia Paraseki, not far from our villa, and Ergon, a very good restaurant in SKiathos town, organize cooking lessons in a very nice atmosphere.
Culture is not your cup of tea and you prefer to burn calories? I don't forget you and will soon give you my personal tips for a sport holiday in Skiathos.