The capital of Syros – Ermoupoli (Ερμούπολη) – is also the capital of the Cyclades Prefecture and of the entire South Aegean Region (the Cyclades and the Dodecanese islands). It is the largest town in the Cyclades, with a population of 13000.
Ermoupoli can be reached very easily from all over Syros, with regular bus services run by ΚΤΕΛ Σύρου running out of Ermoupoli and doing a circular route of the island twice each hour.
Several times while we were on Syros we took a bus from Galissas to Ermoupoli. Taking the short route (clockwise round the island), it takes 15 minutes. The long route (anticlockwise round the island) takes 45 minutes.
Ermoupoli is actually a very interesting city – and because it is the capital of the region, many hotels, bars and restaurants there are open all year round. Ian Swindale’s website sums up the town and the island nicely, while Harry Bucknall’s book In the Dolphin’s Wake explains just how important Ermoupoli once was in Greece:
It is not like other sleepy harbours in the Aegean; in the nineteenth century it eclipsed Piraeus in importance and was the centre of shipbuilding for the new Greek state. The neo-classical buildings are substantial and the grandest of them all is the magnificently colonnaded Hotel de Ville, designed by the German architect and master of the nineteenth century Athenian grandosity, Ernst Ziller. Loukoumia, the sumptuous buildings and the sweeping mansions all result from the Greek War of Independence.
Syros, on French advice, remained neutral throughout the War of Independence, the island having little issue with the Ottoman Empire, especially given France’s continued protection. Events however quickly overtook the Syriot prevarication and as the Ottoman Turks embarked on a series of massacres, so refugees began to seek sanctuary on the island. If you had arrived around 1826, you would have seen tents and shantytowns everywhere as the merchant classes from Chios and Psara fled the wholesale destruction of their islands. Indeed, another reason Ermoupoli got its name was because one of the ships that transported 40000 refugees to safety was called the Hermes.
Arriving in Ermoupoli on the bus, we walked towards the City Centre – finding a very narrow backstreet: Όδος Χίου (‘Chios Street’), almost a market street with many greengrocers, bakeries, fishmongers, butchers, tavernas and tourist shops.
Όδος Χίου leads up to the rather grand Miaouli Square (Πλατεία Μιαούλη) – pictured above. The square is home to a number of bars and cafés, kiosks, as well as the town hall (Δημαρχία). Our guidebook likens it to Syntagma Square in Athens, and from what I’ve seen of Syntagma, you can see why!
Vrontado and Anastasia Church
Returning to the port, we left Dad reading his book on a bench. Corrie went shopping for a bit, while Mum and I went for a walk around the city – we walked up the hill to the area known as Vrontado (Βροντάδο). Of the two big hills in Ermoupoli, Vrontado is the one on the right (looking from the sea) – and it is the Greek Orthodox quarter. The hill on the left is Ano Syros (Άνω Σύρος): the Roman Catholic quarter.
Do take plenty of bottled water if you’re doing this, especially in the heat of the day! There are a lot of steps and you’ll get very hot without refreshments every few minutes!
Just a few minutes up the hill from Miaouli Square, and we found the church Μεταμόρφωση του Σωτήρος. We stopped for some photos, and then continued on up to the top of the hill.
As you get further up you soon move away from the busy main town. The route up to the top through the back streets takes you through all the residential areas, which at this time of day were rather quiet.
There are one or two small mini-markets along the route, so you can always stop for a drink or an ice-cream on the way: they’ll be needed I’m sure!
On reaching the top, you arrive at the church Ανάστασης Χριστού (Ressurection of Christ). You can go in and have a look, take some photos of the very interesting exterior of the church, and take some photos of the view back down to the port.
As you can see – there is a lot to write about Ermoupoli. This particular trip was just one of the three we took there, and I will be writing more about the other places in Ermoupoli we visited a little later in the week.