WHAT TO VISIT IN SKIATHOS?
The Kastro, the ancient fortified capital of Skiathos
I said before, as far as archaeological sites are concerned, it is clear that Skiathos can not compete with mainland Greece or some islands such as Crete and the ancient palace of Knossos or Santorini with its spectacular caldera. However, History buffs, people who love old stone or breathtaking landscapes will not be disappointed .
A place combines History and the extraordinary natural beauty of this Sporades island: the Kastro, the ancient fortified capital of Skiathos.
It is about three hours walk from the city … or a quarter of an hour by car. Since the road leading to it was constructed, any vehicle can reach it easily. However, to get to the fortress, the last part of the journey must be done on foot, among the rocks.
The road is not very long, but is difficult for very young children and impossible for strollers or wheelchairs. However let me point out that we have walked these last few meters with our little disabled boy (who was 7 years old at the time) in the arms … A couple of inhabitants of the island had invited us to share this moment with them. Maria had brought with us all that was needed to enjoy a Greek coffee and a cake in the middle of nowhere. It was the month of May, we were the only visitors marvelled at the beauty and silence of this place.
A table and a stone bench were waiting for us. I also enclose photos of this magical moment.
Even if you can not go to the heart of the old fortress, the trip is worth it for the magnificent view.
The fortified town was built in the 14th century, at a time when the Saracens and pirates inflicted terror on the Aegean sea. It was not uncommon for them to dock on the islands for devastating. So the inhabitants deserted the ancient town of Skiathos, near the port, to take refuge in this place difficult to access, where they had an unobstructed view of the sea
On three sides, the city was protected by the height of the cliffs, while on the fourth side a thick wall finished with battlements and loop-holes.
The heavy wooden door with two leaves had a thickness of 75 cm and was reinforced with iron plates and nails. They could reach the mainland by a drawbridge that was slipped inside of the fortress in case of danger.
Since its founding until 1453, the Kastro was under the dominion of the Byzantines, followed by the Venetians until 1538. Then, the fortress was occupied by the Turks until 1821 to be finally abandoned in 1829.
According to historical evidence, the majority of the population of the island, lived recluse. The houses, dark and small, were backed each other. The only exception was the triangle between the churches of Christ, of Our Lady of Préklan and St. Nicolas where the homes of the notables inhabitants of the fortress were built.
Within the walls of the city and in its surroundings stood more than twenty chapels and in the Ottoman period, a mosque without minaret.
Life of the inhabitants of the fortress was extremely painful, especially under the rule of the Venetians. In 1518, the pressure exerted by the commander Vincenzo Baffo was such that the inhabitants rebelled violently, under the leadership of former Orthodox bishop of the island.
In a report dated November 8, 1521, residents complained of receiving so little protection against pirats that they feared starvation. They didn’t dare to farm their land or to go out to sea to fish and they lived confined in the fortress, “like birds in a cage.”
When in 1528 the city was besieged by the Turk Hayrredin Barbarossa, the inhabitants killed the Venetian commander, so that the Turks have access to the fortress and take it. By doing this, they hoped to improve the life of the inhabitants. Alas, they were wrong because Barbarossa immediately decided to behead the perpetrators and to capture hostages.
At the time of the Greek Revolution, the revolutionaries also oppressed the population of Skiathos and caused extensive damage.
Finally, 14 July 1826, the revolutionary Tsamis Karatassos took the Kastro and plundered it. It was the last event that knew the inhabitants of the fortress.
Today, and since the abandonment of the premises in 1829, the sea is once again peaceful. The houses and churches are in ruins, the fortification walls have collapsed and the old drawbridge has disappeared.
However, when you get there, in front of this magnificent view, in a nature that has not changed over the centuries and you think about all the sufferings people of the time had to face, without comfort and full of fear, on an island where the weather can be extreme in the winter, then, on these windswept hills, you will be deeply moved …
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