Travel to Athens and the Island of Chios to Trace My Ancestors
Chios is a Greek island located in the Aegean Sea near Turkey
In Greece the New and the Ancient Co-Exist Beautifully
I remember sitting on my Grandfather's knee, listening to his stories about how he and two of his best friends had escaped from Marmaro - possibly Marmara -- during an uprising against the Ottomans. They had been members of the Greek underground. One of his friends was killed while they were fleeing in a small boat somewhere around 1908.
My grandfather was Adamandios Giorgio Diamantides. That's where the "Diamond" in my last name came from. The two men that survived settled in Detroit, after immigrating through Canada.
My grandfather and "George" were lifelong friends. I also remember going to George's restaurant with ten or so of our family members, having a great meal - wine included - and the bill was somewhere around twenty-dollars. That was obviously a big favor even in the late 1950s. That wouldn't even cover the tip today.
My grandparents both died while I was fairly young, before I could find out exactly where the town was.
Assuming the town to be Marmaro because the Island of Chios is only six miles off the coast of Turkey. Marmara is north of Athens near the biblical town of Thessalonica. I figured that Mamaro was the more likely of the two towns with similar names.
We flew to Athens. We toured the Parthenon and several Greek temples and other ancient sites of interest.
A few days later we flew in on Olympic Airways (Only one small carry on bag, please!) and arrived on Chios.
We spent the night in the very nice and reasonably priced Chandris Hotel. We rented a car in the morning, also from the enterprising Mr. Chandris, and headed for Marmaro.
This link has more information about the island and the Chios Chandris Hotel:
The Search for My Ancestors Begins
It took us almost two hours to find the small town on the northern coast of the island. I have a rudimentary understanding of Greek, but the road signs were not always easy to understand.
The Parthenon On the Acropolis
Winding Mountainous Roads
The ride was both exhilarating and terrifying. Every turn up and down the hilly road produced beautiful scenery. It was hard for me as the driver to enjoy the beauty because the winding road was so treacherous, like so many seaside roads can be. .A good example would be roads in the hilly part of coastal Maine.
At one point on the road we rounded a sharp turn only to find a bunch of sheep blocking the road. They were laying down. They wouldn't move until I got out of the car and started to approach them on foot. Somehow they seemed to perceive me as being more of a threat than the car was.
There has to be some biblical significance here someplace -- something about sheep knowing their master's voice, etc.
Helpful Village Elder
We stopped by the local police station. A young officer walked with us to the center of the village. He introduced us to a distinguished well-dressed older gentleman who seemed to know everyone.
He said that he knew two people with the same family name. He took us to the city hall. There were three or four ladies working there. When they found out why we had come, they went into a back room and came out with all kinds of old church, tax and property records.
Even though none of them spoke English or knew me, they acted as if it was the most important thing they could be doing. They could only come up with one direct relative, a lady who was not on the island at the time. No one knew when she would be back.
We were disappointed when we realized that we should have gone to Marmara, which was back on the mainland. We are already making plans for that trip.
Life on Chios
Now We Get to Go Back to Greece Again!
Considering all of the wonderful people that we met and all of the new experiences that we had, we could never say that it was in any way a disappointment.
The Island of Chios was exactly what you would expect it to be. There were sidewalk cafes, open fish, spice and flower markets. There was a huge old fort that guarded the harbor and there were signs of fishing and boating industries everywhere.
We were surprised at how much food the island produced. There were lemons, all types of vegetables, olives and flowers that would make any gardener proud. There is a naturally occurring local chewing gum called Mastica that is a product of trees that grow on Chios. Every square inch of dirt that could grow something was being used. There was a lot of terracing up and down hills that would be almost impossible to walk up or down without a severe struggle.
Everyone Needs A Good Cabby and A Good Wedding Planner
This is the only web site that I am going to personally recommend to you for travelling in Greece. Unless you are the most jaded and consummate world traveler, whenever you travel around Athens you must have a cabby who can also either be your guide or schedule one for you.
Matt Barrett can get you much more than a cabby. He can have you picked up when you need to be picked up; and, he can recommend and schedule your whole itinerary, if you either need or want him to.
His web site will prepare you and equip you for almost every traveling need while you are in Greece. Just take a look. Just to make it official, I don't have any kind of affiliation with him -- just admiration.
If this is your first trip, you probably want him or someone like him to smooth the way for you.
Several times I would walk up to someone with a question. It didn't matter if I was in a large shopping center in Athens or in a small shop on an island, if that person didn't understand English or my hesitant Greek, they would go find someone who could help us out. Incredible.
I hope this makes you want to go and spend time with some of the most hospitable people on the face of God's earth.
You'll find some more travel stuff on my blog: