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The phenomenal city of Chalcis

04 January 2010 / 13:01:31  GRReporter
4925 reads

Marina Nikolova

Chalcis is situated on both banks of the natural channel Euripus as one part of the city is located on the island of Euboea and the other on mainland Greece. The town is crossed by a sea channel and the famous coffee street is the coastal road along the channel. Remarkable phenomenon which is unique in the world is that the flow of water in the channel is changed every six hours from south to north and vice versa - from north to south. This makes the channel looks like a river with many whirlpools at the time of the tide change and in the middle the tide is towards the south and on both sides the water goes towards the north, which is really impressive to see because of the apparent force of the water.

The strange current, which rotates every few hours, is guilty of two things, which the city is proud of - seafood and "stone pipes" which appear in the menu of every self-respecting tavern in the city and the prestigious gold medals from Sea Kayak contests in the canoe club. Immediately you will wonder why?!

I sought explanations for these oddities from Aris, who grew up in Chalcis and was our guide in the city - according to him the change of tide stirs up the water so much that in some way this contribute to the development of marine shellfish living creatures and the formation of diverse underwater fauna. It is not a coincidence Chalcis taverns offer the most extensive selection of seafood in Greece, and the most famous are the “stone pipes,” which live inside the holes of the reef and are considered to be a great delicacy when prepared in a pan with a rare sauce, which has the slight taste of mustard.

All men in Chalcis from young boys learn to dive without oxygen bottles in the sea and with a hammer to break rocks and find the "stone pipes”. Warning! Collecting “stone pipes” is permitted only if you are going to consume them and not for commercial use. There is no easier way than with a hammer to obtain these rare animals, which look like shells and live in long and flat shells. Though there are many tricks that can be learned by experience, in order to make the procedure easier so that learners will not be discouraged.

Oh, I forgot! – “Chalcis’ canoeing and kayaking athletes are the best because they have the opportunity to train daily in the city taking their canoes against the strong current," says Aris. The fact is that this year the Sea Club of the city has won eight gold medals, five silver and two bronze in the canoe-kayak slalom national contest which took place on a runway at the Athens Olympic Stadium Eliniko.

Of course, favorite topics of discussion in the company of Chalcis citizens are incredible stories about diving, collecting corals and fishing. When I ask how life is in their town, they answer laconically: "It is great as long as you have a job." Many Chalcis people have moved to Athens, which because of the new highway is accessible within an hour or with a fast bike – for half an hour. Alternative means of transportation is by train or bus, which leave every few hours.

Otherwise Chalcis is not a big city – it has about 50 000 citizens, but it exists since ancient times and according to internet sources it has undergone all the glorious eras in these lands. The bust of Aristotle placed in the middle of the coastal street reminds about ancient times - I saw it with my own eyes. It looks like a bust of a politician from the middle of last century this is why a person needs to read the inscribed text in order to understand that this is an ancient philosopher or just to wait for some Chalcisan to tell him that the mother of the famous philosopher had a house there and that the philosopher himself left his last breath there. For years in which the Franks ruled the town testify names of many streets such as the Central Street Giardini (gardens), but also many family names with Italian roots.

The city also has many Armenian and Muslim families and a mosque, which we never found out whether it works. Chalcis is known for the stronghold of Karababa, which until the end of the 19 century was the only building on the hill Furka from the mainland part of the city. Construction around the fortress was banned so that it can have a view of the bay. People from Chalcis pride themselves with "the old railway station” which for many years is not reached by a train but the building remained and the ticket offices still work. People say that old Greek films were shot in this old building.

And if someone asks you who is the most famous person of the city - remember that the writer Giannis Skaribas (1893-1984), was born Chalcis, who throughout his whole life resisted against the dogmas of the bourgeoisie and who is logically one of the first to introduce elements of surrealism in Greek prose.

Both parts of the city - the island and mainland are connected by two bridges. One was recently built near the industrial zone of Chalcis and cars that arrive or depart from the island drive on it, and extreme sports enthusiasts use it for bungee jumping. The other is the old swing bridge near the town center, which opens in the middle, when ships pass. Initially there was a mobile platform for transportation, which sunk under water when a ship passed by but later on they made a bridge. This bridge has been built for many years and it allows people to see the wonderful movement and change the tide.

The city offers different category hotels, on the shore and inside the neighborhoods, and many taverns and coffee shops, located mainly on the sea-shore street “Giardini”.

Hotels

Best Western Lucy Hotel (4*), 10 Voudouri Blvd, tel. 22210 23831-5 and 22210 22051

Paliria Hotel (3*), 2 El. Venizelos Street, tel. 22210 28001-6 and 22210 81959

Tags: Halkida Chalcis Greece islands seafood
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