Chalkida is the capital city of Evia. It is located in the centre of the island, on its west coast and can be found approximately 80 kilometers northern of Athens. It is a modern city of 100.000 people and is among the 10 most populated cities of Greece. It is connected with continental Greece through two bridges, an older one which is contractile and a bigger and newer one which hangs on wires. The spot where the old bridge is coincides with the place where the Northern and Southern Evoikos gulf split and is called the Channel of Evripos. The city of Chalkida extends to both sides of the channel, giving the impression that it is ran by a river.
The name of the city has been maintained since the antique years. It originates from the Phoenician word “chalki” which means “laver”, which is something that was largely produced in the city from specific sea shells that the people used to pick up from the sea. However the city could have taken its name from the word “chalkos”, which is the Greek word for “copper”, a material that the inhabitants of Chalkida used to process in order to make weapons, tools and other objects. The oldest written mention of the city can be spotted in Homer’s Iliad, more than 4500 years ago, where it is mentioned that Chalkida participated in the Trojan War, offering 40 ships. In fact, Avlida, which is sort of a suburb of the city of Chalkida today, was the meeting point of all ships that had been sent from every Greek city, in order to gather and depart for Troy. According to the myth, the Greek ships had gathered to Avlida, however it was impossible to depart due to the complete lack of winds that kept the ships immobilized in the port. The Greeks then asked for oracle Kalhas’ advice, who revealed to them that the lack of winds was a result of Diana’s anger and that the only way the goddess would let the Greek fleet go would be if Iphigenia, commander-in-chief Agamemnon’s daughter, was sacrificed. Agamemnon decided to comply, however Diana intervened just in time to prevent Iphigenia’s sacrifice, carrying her over to the Land of the Bulls to become her priestess.
Chalkida, during the antique years, was a very powerful city-state of significant and cultural influence, with its own currency and alphabet which contributed later on to the formation of the Latin alphabet. Its first inhabitants, the Ionians, installed in the island around 2000 B.C. Chalkida was also among the first city-states to establish its own colonies, like Chalkidice, some cities in southern Italy, notably Messina, Katania, Syracuse and even some colonies in Cyprus and on the coasts of Syria. A significant part of the flourish of the city used to depend upon its relationship with the other powerful city-state of the area, Eretria. From time to time the relationships between the two cities were good and as a result they would both profit from commercial activities and sending out joint delegations in order to establish new colonies. Usually though, they were fighting each other, with their greatest conflict being the war for the possession of the fertile Lelantine Valley. Chalkida, after years of destructive battles managed to prevail, however the war took its tool on both cities. Soon after that, the Athenians invaded the island and conquered Chalkida, sharing the Lelantine Valley among them. In succession, the city was passed to the Macedonian Empire of Philip II and a hundred years later to the Romans.
Just after that Chalkida became a part of the Byzantine Empire. At this point, emperor Ioustinianos decided to protect the city from barbarian raids, by entrenching it. The subsequent conquerors, the Venetians and the Franks, continued the building of fortresses and walls, as the Turkish threat was getting even more visible. Despite all those entrenching efforts, however, Mohammed II besieged the city and conquered it, along with the rest of the Island of Evia in 1470. The Venetians tried unsuccessfully to regain control in 1688, but their efforts stumbled on the same impregnable entrenching facilities they had previously founded. In the years of the Revolution of 1821, Evia participated actively in the efforts of all Greeks to acquire their freedom from the Turks, however the island’s liberation will only come with a relative lag compared to the rest Greek cities, in 1833. During World War II, the Germans will enter the city and establish the “commandatur” headquarters in the emblematic Red House. After the end of the war, everyday life will come back to its norms and the economic and cultural development of the city will start over.
When touring the city’s numerous sights, it would be a good idea to start from the Archaeological Museum. It is located in the centre of the city and hosts important archaeological treasures from all over Evia. The Castle of Kara Baba displays all that remains of the famous fortification of the city, which lasted for hundreds of years, only to be destroyed in the name of a miscalculated beautification plan in the end of the 19th century. Outside the castle, there is the grave of the writer from Chalkida Giannis Skaribas, or Barba-Giannis as his fellow-citizens used to call him. Today, in Chalkida, there is a Museum of friends of Giannis Skaribas, with objects and books which remind of the great writer. Situated nearby there is the Folklore Museum of Chalkida, also built in the ruins of the castle walls.
Right below the castle there’s the historical old bridge of Euripus. The first joining of the two shores, took place in 411 BC. Since then, many alternations of this particular bridge were constructed. In 1854, the old bridges were replaced by a modern one, which was inaugurated by Otto. A new rotating bridge was constructed in 1890. The bridge took its present form and replaced the previous one in 1961. From the top of this bridge, for many centuries, people have been able to admire the world-known tidal phenomenon of Euripus.
Near the bridge of Euripus, in the centre of the old city of Chalkida, lies the church of Agia Paraskevi. It is a spacious Basilica, which is considered as the only unimpaired paleochristian monument in Greece (6th – 8th century).
On a sideway of Kotsou street, still stands the mosque. It is the only one that has been maintained in the city, though there used to be eleven. It is a mosque of certain archaeological significance, dating back to the early years of the Turkish domination. There are several scattered pieces of ancient columns and chapiters in its precinct.
The famous Arethousa used to stand in the area today known as Agios Stefanos, on the side of the road leading to Southern Evia. There are the ruins of a scale, consisting of four stages, carved on the rock, probably used to lead to an altar. When taking the nearby road leading to Northern Evia, we can see Kamares, which is basically a set of well-maintained ruins of an ancient Roman aqueduct.
By the seaside of Chalkida, we can take a look at some remarkable neoclassic buildings. The Red House, visible from most parts of the seaside stands at its end. Other buildings that are considered equally impressive include the Town-Hall and House of Statues.
Last but not least, we have to point out the existence of the Archaeological site of Manika (prehistoric Chalkida). It is only a few kilometers away, on the north-western side of the capital of Evia. Some important findings have been excavated from this site, confirming the fact that there used to be a big settlement in the place during the prehistoric period (2900 – 2300 BC).