The historic settlement of Chios Town (Chora) is the inhabited Medieval castle called Kastro. Originally the site of an ancient settlement, the castle was built by the Byzantines in the 10th century and expanded by the Genoese rulers in the 14th century. It became the Ottoman quarter of the city after they conquered the island in 1566, and there are several Ottoman structures that survive to this day. In the 1920s, the castle played host to refugees from Asia Minor during the population exchange between Turkey and Greece.
There are a lot of interesting things to see within the castle walls. Once across the bridge and after walking through the main gate of the castle, you are greeted by the Giustiniani Palace directly in front and the black iron doors of a prison to the right. The Giustiniani were the Genoese rulers of Chios for about 200 years. The palace doesn’t exactly look like a palace, but there are usually exhibitions inside.
A few steps around the corner is a small square containing a few cafes and an Ottoman cemetery. In the cemetery is the grave of Admiral Kara Ali, commander of the Ottoman Navy killed by Konstantinos Kanaris during the Greek Revolution.
Following the road on the way to the back of the castle, you will pass two former Ottoman mosques. One of them is the Bayraklı Camii.
The other is Eski Camii, which was once the Byzantine church of St. George. The original church was built in the 10th or 11th century. Ottoman admiral Piyale Paşa converted it into a mosque upon capture of the island. It was completely rebuilt after being destroyed in a devastating earthquake in 1881 and has since been converted into the modern Church of St. George. In the courtyard of the church, the Ottoman ablutions fountain still stands.
At the back of the castle is the recently reconstructed Turkish hamam. It was in ruins for several years until it was renovated and opened as a museum in 2012.
The renovation was done extremely well. Inside it’s possible to see original tiles, marble slabs, bricks, basins, and some artifacts on display. They even reconstructed the toilets!
Wander through the streets of Kastro to admire some of the architecture. Many buildings are crumbling but others have been redone. I had a chat with a lady who lives next to the Bayraklı Camii, and she told me some great stories about life in the castle. Her parents were refugees from Asia Minor and she was born and has spent her whole life there. She said it was a really disgusting and dirty area up until a few years ago, but life was good. She misses the days when men would walk through the streets playing instruments and serenading women at their windows.
If you pay close attention, you might even find some hidden things like an Ottoman fountain.