Sleepy, at four in the morning, I arrived by boat at the port of Mesta, the famous mastic village of Chios. I had to drive the distance to the capital, about forty minutes, and wait for the hotel I was staying to open. Autumn was coming to its end and a refreshing wind was blowing, so I had the window down. It was there that I was first struck by the smell of the island. The fragrant Chios. We tend to destroy words, degrading their meaning, in order to grab the reader's interest. What a pity; if that was not the case, then the adjective "fragrant" could describe this experience. Then, the smell of Chios would define the word and all the other smells of the world would be judged based on it.
The valley of Chios, hosts innumerable citrus trees, partly to blame for its smell. However, these Rutaceae are perhaps even unworthy of reference compared to the ancient mysterious resin, generously offered by the mastic trees in the southern part of the island. Tradition attributes the mastic to Saint Isidore, who, in 250 AD, chased and seriously injured by the Romans, took refuge in a place near Mesta. While he was helpless and his legs were no longer able to continue, a white horse appeared and carried him on its back to the southern villages. There he sat under a mastic tree to rest. The tree was so sorry for his sufferings, that finally, it bursted in tears. Its tears filled the place with fragrance. The whole southern part of the island, where the Saint martyred, was filled with tears.
Mastic may in fact have been known since ancient times, since the first reference can be found in the writings of Hippocrates, but how can the small human mind fit such a miracle. Mastic is the diamond of Chios; and it is not a rare mineral for the Chians, no. It drips and forms on logs on the road. You can stand, cut it, and put it in your mouth. But the rest of humanity can not find it anywhere. Only to ask some from the Chians.
This fact put Chios on the map. It gave it privileges in difficult times and so other qualities developed on the island, with the main one being trade. The Chians cultivated and processed silk and with the power of their trade, they even gained prestige in the courtyards of the palaces of Europe, supplying them with woven textiles.
I have not met any other place in my excursions with such a large concentration of variety of traditional costumes. Chios, with such a large production and the incomparable quality of fabrics, in combination with the wealth provided by the trade, managed to create this diversity of clothes. The inhabitants of the villages at such a close distance, wanting to show their wealth, tried to differentiate themselves from each other and so each village had its own clothes.
I managed to capture twenty-one different sections of clothing from the island. These are almost all that survive today, or have been made exact copies. The rest of us may never know what they looked like.