Naxos – Chora

I am passing through the Cycladic island of Naxos on my way to visit Colin Renfrew’s excavations on Keros. 



The little airport defines one Naxian vision. Its Lilliput size beggars belief. It belongs to another era. Yet in the 11 years since I was last here, entrepreneurs have given the island’s tourism a facelift. New villas; new shops; new restaurants all with giant screens to transmit international football. This said, I love the Cycladic authentic.. and take the new with a pinch of salt, happy that local people are benefiting from the upsurge in Mediterranean tourism.

The Venetian kastro of Chora, Naxos

Naxos takes its past seriously. This is not lost on the throngs of cosmopolitan, late autumn visitors to the island capital of Chora on this windy day. One place is a bucket-list-must at sunset: Chora’s iconic Temple of Apollo. It draws a united nations of photographers as the sun dips over neighbouring Paros. Crowded with their iPhones aloft in front of the reconstructed, crystalline white Archaic Greek temple doorway, we are all bonding over the past and the fleeting quotidian sublime as the Aegean thrashes the rocky shore around us.

Sunset seekers at the Temple of Apollo

The temple on its islet forms part of Chora’s deep roots in antiquity. The covered excavations in the metropolitan square boast Neolithic remains, a fragment of the Mycenean city wall, and a palimpsest of Archaic Greek and Roman urban remains. You cannot fault the pride in the town’s genesis. Pity, then, that the archaeological museum sticks to trade union hours. Closed at 1500 hours hardly works for the tumult of early evening stroll to the temple. With a little planning the Apollo sanctuary, its sunset, and selfies might be prefaced by a visit to the Venetian kastro (with a donjon of 1207) and its (incomparable) museum of Cycladic marble figurines. As with the airport, there appears to be a resistance to the changes that are now the economic driver on Naxos.

The donjon of 1207, Chora

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