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Island of Syros
Syros may be a barren, hilly island without particular natural beauty but it has offered hospitality to many peoples and became the meeting pot of many cultures. The first settlers were apparently Carians, a protohellenic tribe that built its fortified town at the islands' northeastern side on a hill presently called Kastri. Their civilization flourished for at least 500 years spanning the entire protocycladean period (2.800 - 2.300 B.C.). Circa 800 B.C. Phoenician traders from Tyre colonized the protected bay at the islands' southwestern end, and lent their name to the present day bay and resort village. They are also responsible for the islands' very name: Tyre - Sur -Syros. Then came Ionian colonizers, Persian conquerors, Romans and their successors, the Byzantines. From 1207 to 1567 A.D. Syros was under Venetian rule, followed by Ottoman Turkish occupation (1567 t0 1830), interrupted briefly by Russian take over (1770 - 1774). Of the numerous rulers and conquerors that landed on the island only the Venetians left an obvious trace on the native population, evidenced in the significant percentage of Catholics today.


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  The island's patron god, Hermes, is a guardian of both commerce and letters. Philosopher and Pythagoras' teacher Pherecydes (6th century B.C.), writers Emanuel Roidis (1836 - 1904) and Dimitrios Vikelas (1835 - 1908), and poet George Souris (1853 - 1919) are only a few of the men of intellect born in Syros.
The island's best beaches are found on the northwestern coast. The only one accessible by dirt road is Delfini beach, which features Mrs Pitsa's tavern offering excellent dishes, local goat's cheese and fresh vegetables from the gardens of nearby Kini. For perfect seclusion, rudism and free camping, try the beaches of Aetos, Lia and Grammata, accessible only by boat or footpath. The name of the last beach means "letters" and is justified by the graffiti carved on its rocks in Roman and Byzantine times by distressed sailors and fishermen thanking God for their deliverance.
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Map of Cyclades Islands
Map of Syros
  Upon entering the port of Syros you face a a genteel conurbation perched on two hills, each crowned by an imposing church. The hill on the left bears the mideval borough of Ano Syros, whose architecture (8th - 13th century) survives wonderfully, and its cappel by the catholic Cathedral of Saint George. The hill on the right all the way to the waterfront is where Ermoupoli lies, a veritable 19th century metropolis. Its foundations were laid in 1824 by refugees from Chios, Psara, Crete, Kasos and Smyrna, who found sanctuary in the French-ruled Syros when their homes were ravaged by the Turks. Named after its patron god Hermes, Ermoupoli soon became an important commercial and industrial centre. By the end of last century the city hosted dozens of textile factories, tanneries, machine-works, tile-works, shoemakers, food processing plants and, of course the famous shipyards (tarsanades) where thousands of wooden vessels were built, from small fishing caiques to grand multimasted ships. In Ermoupoli alone there were 30 Maritime insurance firms! The city's wealth of that era (it was the first Greek community to be electrified) is evident in the stately mansions still preserved today.  
  No stay in Syros is consummated until one tries the local "loukoumia", chewy morsels flavoured with a variety of exotic essences and buried in a cloud of powdered sugar, or the local "halvadopita". almond rich nougat cakes. Both sweets have been Syros trade-marks for over a century.
The numerous well preserved and stately neoclassic buildings of Syros have earned it the name of "Noble lady of the Aegean". In Ermoupoli one is impressed by the Town Hall (also housing the Archaelogical Museum), the Apollo Theatre (scaled down replica of la Scala di Milano), the Customs House at the harbours edge, the Ladopoulos Edifice, the Hellas Municipal club and cultural centre, as well as by dozens of other mansions housing museums, public offices, hotels, and bars. Luxurious neoclassic villas can be seen in the communities of Episcopio, Chroussa, Poseidonia, Phoinikas, Galissas and elsewhere.
"Fragosyriani", one of the most famous folk songs sung and danced to all over Greece is just an example of the 2.500 songs composed and sung by Markos Vamvakaris, the patriarch of Greek folk song. Syros honoured its native son in the form of a modest museum and a pronze bust adorning a small public square in Ano Syros where the bard was born in 1905. In "Lilis" tavern", where Vamvakaris used to sing, few things have changed.
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