Halki

HalkiThis is one of the smaller Dodecanese islands, a virgin territory with the cleanest of beaches, an ideal destination for all who want to really get away.
In recent years Halki has been taken over by the international peacenik set as a place to let off youthful pacifist steam in the summers. More seriously, in the summer of 2007, 46 members of the Greek Cultural Club of Fyli spent a week opening between 800 and 1,000 footpaths and clearing more than 2 miles of walking road. This starts at Halki town, climbs to Horio and ends up at the Panormitis monastery at Plagia. Chalki has been inhabited since antiquity, when it must have been very prosperous, judging from the coins found by archaeologists. Its name most probably reflects the copper ore (halkos) once mined there.

Things to Do:
There are several places of interest in Halki. If you have the chance, you should try and pay a visit to the charming castle and the ruins of the ancient Acropolis.
From Niborio, the nearest beach for swimming is that of Pondamos. However, from the harbour, there are small boats that can take you to every beach around the island, offering a wonderful opportunity for exploring the simple yet elegant beauty of Halki.
All destinations around Halki are very short, and you will never exceed a distance of 10km before you reach another part of the island. This makes Halki an ideal island for trekking, where you can wander around and soak up the natural beauty and lovely landscapes that you will find on every corner.
There is a great selection of traditional cafes and tavernas where you can enjoy a refreshing drink or meal. Fresh fish and sea food is one of the specialities of Halki, though you should also try to sample some of the tasty local cuisine.

Accommodation:
Scattered around the island you will find a choice of accommodation such as traditional hotels, rooms, studios and apartments for rent. However, due to the small number of accommodation on the island, it is best to make your reservations before arriving.

Getting There:
Halki has boat connections with Athens, via the port of Pireaus, as well as the nearby islands of Rhodes, Kasos, Karpathos, and the famous island of Crete, where you can head to via Sitia and Agios Nikolaos.

A Long and Important History
In ancient times, the water situation was a little better than now, the higher water table allowing some wells. The island supported up to 7,000 people, and grew 2 crops of wheat a year, in small stone-enclosed fields. Halki was also a producer of copper, which is supposed to account for its name – from the Greek ‘halkos’ for ‘copper’. Halki was then much allied with Rhodes, eg in the Peloponnesian War of 412BC.
Later centuries saw occupation by successive imperial powers, notably the Arabs in the 7th Century AD and later the Venetians in 1204, which led to the building of the medieval fortresses on the ancient acropolis site in Halki, and on Alimnia. Turkish control began in 1523, lasting until the Greek War of Independence in 1821.
In Medieval and later times, the threat of pirates forced the inhabitants to live far from the sea, up in the mountains at Chorio (a feature repeated on many of the islands throughout Greece). The inconvenience of carrying on a fishing industry while living up the the mountains can only be imagined, though one expects the goat herds found it more congenial…
By the early 19th Century, when the piracy problem had receded, most people had moved down to build their houses in the lovely amphitheatre of Emborio which we know today, leaving the old houses of Chorio to fall into ruin.
However, difficulties with the local industry of sponge fishing, eg high taxes and disease, meant loss of livelihood for many of the 3,000 inhabitants and 50 boats, and led to successive waves of emigration, the greatest in 1911-2 to Tarpon Springs in Florida, where sponge fishing could be continued. It is likely that another imposition of imperial control had something to do with this also. The Italians had assumed control of the Dodecanese in 1911, and later Mussolini in particular had grandiose plans. Halki owes its Post Office and Police Station to the Italian building programme which had such an impact on Rhodes Town. The imposition of Italian schooling also produced many bilingual Greeks…
Further losses, mainly of young people, in the 1950s (usually to the USA) meant that the community was dying – from 3,000 people in the 19th Century to a couple of hundred at most. So, as the population dwindled, the beautiful houses in their special large-windowed Venetian style – influenced by the architecture the sponge fishermen saw in their travels around the Mediterrannean – began to decay.
And of course, it is well to remember that a number of the stone shells are not ruins, but simply unfinished properties which had to abandoned when the owner had to move elsewhere for his livelihood. Their ownership had passed to generations whose lives were based in another country, and the sharing of property among siblings often meant that no one could agree on the fate of their crumbling asset far away. However, no Greek ever forgets his roots. The residents of Tarpon Springs endowed Halki first with money for its stone clock tower, and, more lately, with the money to build the road to the Monastery far up in the mountains – the Boulevard Tarpon Springs, which took about 6 years, being finished in 1995.

Useful Info
Municipality Tel: 0030 22460 45207
Medical Center Tel: 0030 22460 45206
Police Tel: 0030 22460 45213
Port Authority Tel: 0030 2460 45220

Sources: www.aroundgreece.com, www.dodekanissaweb.gr