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Island of Kea - Tzia
In the middle of the 18th century there was a flourishing trade business in Tzia. Consuls of all big European states settled here. The nearly 3,000 inhabitants of the island produced huge quantities of excellent quality wine, barley and acorns (used as raw materials for leather dyes) and piled up riches from trade.
With a perimeter of 85 Km and an area of 131 Km squared, Tzia is the sixth largest Cycladic island but also one of the least populated, numbering less than 2000 permanent inhabitants. 600 of them live in Ioulida, which is the island's largest village, followed by Korisia, the island's port with 350 inhabitants. The rest live in rural settlements (about thirty) scattered all over the island. Most locals are farmers. They rear cattle, keep bee-hives, grow almond-trees, vines and some cereal crops and garden produce (for home consumption). Only recently did they start having some income from tourism.


  The bay of Aghios Nikolaos at the northern coast has always been a safe haven. It is here that one of the first settlements appeared on the island (known as the Aghia Irini settlement), named after the little peninsula near Vourkaki). Artefacts found here point to a Cycladic civilization as old as 2500 B.C., which reached its height at ca 1500 B.C.. It was here, too, that the Ionian settlement of Korrisia flourished in the archaic and classical eras. The bay offered a safe refuge for the fleets of the Byzantines, the Franks (1207-1278), the Venetians (1296-1537), the Turks (1537-1821) and for pirate ships as well in the troubled years of the Frankish rule. In 1789 Lambros Katsonis, a lone fighter against the Turks, was blocked here by the Turkish fleet, managed however to escape by dragging his boat at a very narrow tongue of land, known today as the "Katsonis passage".
The island is almost entirely composed of slate, which is the material used by the locals - most experienced stone-masons - to build their houses ("Kathikies"), the terraces which hold the scant soil ("ochtes"), the stone-paved paths which run across the whole island and pretty country churches, hidden jewels in every corner of the island.
A little northeast of Ioulida, reached by a ten-minute walk on a nice cobbled path, is the Lion of Kea, an archaic sculpture (600 B.C.) hewed out of the rock, depicting a lion lying down smiling! This may have been the way the ancient people of Kea chose to exorcise the mythical lion of Kea - a symbol of the calamities, which hit the island in the Mythical Era.
Map of Cyclades Islands
Map of Kea
  In spite of being so close to Attica (only 16 miles south of Laurium) and boasting some of the most beautiful beaches in the Cycladic islands, Tzia has yet been spared of touristical "development". You can still lie peacefully on marvellous sandy beaches, accessible only on foot or by boat, where the only human traces are a desolate country church, a fisherman's hut or the ruins of an ancient city. There are very few hotels on the island, but plenty of rooms to rent in the high season, as well as a comfortable camp site in Pisses.
The Ionian settlers who arrived on the island towards the end of the 12th century B.C. founded four cities, which formed the "Tetrapolis of Kea". An exemplary social organization was developed. Ioulis, built on a steep hill in the island, and therefore well protected from private raids, has always been (and still is) the centre of the island's life and has proved the most long-lived of all. Korisia, on the northern coast, was a convenient harbour for the maritime trade of the Ionians, as was Pilessa on the western coast. The most prosperous and grandest of all, however, may have been Karthea, built on the coastal rocky area around the quiet Poles bay. The impressive ruins of the temple of Apollo, the temple of Minerva, the city walls and the ancient theatre, all witness to the great prosperity Karthea once knew.
  During the last period of the Turkish rule and up until the beginning of this century, the main exported product of Tzia, which made many of its people rich, was acorns, used as a raw material in the tanneries of that time. Even today, many parts of the island are covered by dense clumps of oak trees offering shelter to a rich wild fauna.
If you have the chance to visit a country home in Tzia you will be amazed by the practicality and wisdom of traditional folk archiyecture. The "stegadi" (the main chamber of the house with its thick stone walls and a roof made from a single piece of slate and a thick layer of earth above it) is a cool oasis even in the hottest summer afternoons, while in winter it keeps out the icy northern winds and maintains a cozy warmth inside.
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