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Monday, August 02, 2010

Exo Gonia – Mesa Gonia

Exo Gonia is a small, peaceful and traditional village lacking tourist infrastructure, built at the rear of Pyrgos. It is located 12km away from Fira. You should visit it and walk through its cobbled streets. Admire the neoclassic mansions and more than ten ruined wineries that were full of life before the earthquake of 1956. Don’t forget to visit “Art Space”, the Antonis Argyros visual art center, which since 1830 was operating as a winery and a distiller of raki, and had the first facilities for tomato processing. At the restored rooms of the museum you will find exceptional works of art.
Go to Mesa Gonia (7.5km away from Fira) once a great center of wine production. Follow the signs from the main road towards Kamari and then turn right. Your first stop is one of the oldest wineries of the island, Yiannis Roussos winery which operates since 1836. Taste famous local labels in the winery’s beautiful traditional yard under the shade of the trees. Not far from Roussos winery, you will find an older winery (since 1903) that belongs to Yiannis Argyros. Tour the canavas, seize the opportunity and discuss with the wine producer, and don’t forget to taste the famous Vinsanto he produces. Leave your car for a while and walk through the traditional settlement of Mesa Gonia. The deeper you go into the village, the more controversial the landscape becomes, combing images of dereliction and civilization. Beautiful picturesque churches and few traditional houses are among the ruins that the earthquake left behind. The cobbled streets are full of flowers with heady fragrances that give life to the ghosts of the past. Let the landscape travel you in times where the island was untouchable from the tourist intervention. As you go further up, the view of the village, of Mesa Vouno and the coast line becomes more beautiful, especially at nightfall. Go back to your car and follow the road towards the church of Episcopi of Gonia, which is quite close to the village. The church was built in the late 11th century by Emperor Alexios A’ Komninos and is an important Byzantine monument. Episcopi is one of the few churches with tiles and it offers a magnificent view of the eastern side of the island. The combination of the landscape, the tranquility and the scattered smell of basil in the entire place will definitely bring you peace of mind. If you ever are on the island on August 15th make sure to visit the festival that takes place there.

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