Far away of “Edipsos” spa-town, on the horizon the waterfront settlements of Central Greece appear: “Arkitsa,” “Agios Konstantinos” and “Kamena Vourla”. Right behind there is “Atalanti” and further behind there is “Kato Tithorea” located at the foot of “Parnassos” Mountain, the village in which my mother was born. There is a split in-between the mountain tops which end up in steep slope reaching the sea at the port of Arkitsa. The settlements are arranged into a narrow strip of land along the waterfront road at the sea level. This is the landscape of “Phthiotis” I can see.
“The horizontal distance between Tithorea and Kato Tithorea, on the map, equals to the vertical distance between Tithorea and Liakura, one of the tops of Parnassos mountain!…”
This is what the elderly in the village café used to say (1). “Faraway, So Close!…” a well known motto of Wim Wenders’ in his homonymous film, shows the capabilities of technology to bring people so close to one another… but at the same time… how far somebody’s real needs are from technology!… “The mountain-top is so close, but… it takes a lot of effort to reach it!” that is what the elderly of Parnassos used to say ironically, insisting on the relative as well as the global side of things…
Edipsos’ Spa Town is today “faraway, so close to us!”…
EDIPSPS Spa Town, already having a high profile during the period between the two wars, was developed as a spa town on European standards in the two decades following World War II. The town is now so faraway from the average, mainstream tourism, but so close to our human needs and bodily functions…
One cannot imagine how important is the well-being and the relaxation that a thermal bath offers to our bodies – the muscles, the joints and mostly the brain!
Nowadays many families visit thermal baths to relieve the work stress of the city. So, there has been a development in the old spa town. Many new hotels have been built, while some of the old ones still operate. Others hotels have closed and have been left deserted before and during the economic crisis.
The sea of the North Euboean Gulf unfolds in front of me like a pitcher’s spout. Mountains high volumes accompany peaceful seashores. I arrived to Edipsos with the ferry boat from the port of Arkitsa. By the boat, the approach of the area gives a fuller view of the amphitheatric Spa town (see sketch, photo). The next day I walked along the seashore from the port to the beach of Edipsos where the warm water of the thermal springs flows into the cold sea. The water is almost boiling as it springs out higher above from the naturally coloured rocks of sienna, ochre and carmine and gets colder as it flows free or in pipelines, ending up on the beach. The beach, already organized from the 1960 s, bears characteristic curved shapes in the rocks that look like small bathtubs.
At the point of the waterfront highway where the wharf extends up to the beach, we find preserving one of the oldest Edipsos’ hotels of interwar, the “Thermae Sulla”. This “tower-shape” building of the early 20th century consists of two wings forming a wide angle and a curved tower placed at the top. The hotel, built on the main road next to the wharf, highlights with its shape the actual landscape of the coast as formed by the slope of the wharf at this point, where a small stream-flow ends into the sea, the path of the waves, and the depth of the sea bottom at this part of the town.
A little higher on the hill we find the hot springs which are located next to the ancient baths of the Roman general Sulla.(2) The old buildings of the Thermal Spas of the 1960 s stand deserted next to the contemporary “Hydrotherapeutic Centre”, owned by “Greek National Tourism Organisation” (G. N. T. O.), which has been operating since 1986.
Two other “tower-shaped” buildings next to the Spas complete the total number of the public buildings in this part of the town. The one is the Town Hall and the other is the previously Post Office which now belongs to the neighbouring elementary school.
All these public places standing next to the natural hot springs, preserve the historic character of the centre of the old town. The two separate “tower-shape” buildings built with the same construction principles and morphology, stand in the old urban fabric next to the contemporary Hydrotherapeutic Centre owned by G.N.T.O., and in contrast to the modern, contemporary structure of the latter, they eventually highlight the historical attribute of the area. Along with the natural, high vegetation of the park, they complete the town flow from the Spas towards the beach.
By referring back to the old photographs of the hotel I noticed that the old building of “Thermae Sulla” had a tower at the point where the two wings meet, which had no conical-straw hat like- rooftop: a simple four pitched roof adorned the tower. But besides the later conversion of its rooftop -to “straw hat”-, the increase of the hotel’s needs through the years, led to the construction of additional buildings at the old wings, which thus form an inner atrium filled with flowers and vegetation. The morphology of the added independent built volumes, connected with the old one through shorter buildings, follow the “morphological rules” of the older hotel, since the new complex includes a second “tower” which, although shorter, imitates the old one located next to the wharf (4).
Thus the important historical attitude of the centre of the old town, that was well preserved in this spot of the Spas, becomes now distorted. The authenticity of the buildings over the years, gets now corrupted since the contemporary additions disrupt its historical cohesion. Furthermore the integration of the complex with the landscape of the coast becomes disrupted, as now there are two towers, instead of one, to mark with its elegance the change of the wharf’s slope at this part of the town.
THE BOATS sail back and forth across the sea with their old, full of holes, shape. They remind me of the boats in Bosporus that sail constantly back and forth. The landscape in general, at sunset or in the morning light of the sunrise, gives me the illusion that I am in Bosporus. Maybe it is the sea stream of the north Euboean Gulf that changes direction along with the tide of Euripus (5), maybe it is the atmosphere of June that constantly changes, maybe the amphitheatric position of Edipsos and the desolation of the “Platania” area, that makes me feel like I am viewing view Bosporus. Huge letters fading on the old, ruined hotels surround me amphitheatrically.
The bells are ringing
One more ferry sails away
They do sound like birds.
UNDER THE GROUND the hot springs are boiling! It releases sulphurous vapour.
Underground heating vapour smell everywhere throughout the drive. There are more private hot springs with pools, baths and Jacuzzi, high up in “Platania” area.
THE BIG SKY UNFOLDS above us, coloured with the morning rosy colours, and cloudy with incredibly calm variations. The birds on the big trees wake up in the sunrise, fly around in the big public terrace and go back to the branches of the trees. The trucks disembark from the ferries early in the morning and drive furiously to the slope on the way to “Platania” area to reach the regional road that leads to the “Lake” of Euboea and “Rovies”.
Music is blaring
Trucks are driving uphill
Birds wake up at dawn.
BEHIND THE SPAS THE MODERN TOWN OF EDIPSPOS spreads in gentle slopes, organised in a “Hippodamian System” up to the port. New buildings fill previously empty lots of the urban fabric, which are often built after the demolition of old, interwar hotels. The permitted building volume is significantly higher around the port, in comparison with the areas of the town around the Spas. Hence there have been raised new, dramatically high buildings in the town center. So the roofs of the two-storey stone hotels have almost disappeared from the view.
Next to the wharf, in the waterfront urban fabric of Edipsos and near the main street, there are some old luxury hotels preserved until today, which introduce visitors to the historical background of the town. In contrast to the contemporary, heavy buildings of the modern town, the old wooden structures such as the old pier-cafe “TO ΚΥΜΑ” (The Wave) in the sea, that is now dilapidated, bring into mind the glory of the old Spa Town. On our way there is a magical feeling, whereby you can see side by side standing the old, cheap hotels or the luxury ones, carrying the memory of an “old good life”, in contrast to the contemporary hotels that promise a new, technologically organized, but rather isolated lifestyle. Today almost every hotel – both old and new- includes a swimming pool in their inner courtyard or even indoors. The traditional way of life of Edipsos, whereby elderly couples wearing their bathrobes used to walk on foot from the spas to their hotel, gradually disappears.
The town provides three major destinations: The port with its cosmopolitan life, the walk along the wharf and the luxury hotels; the Public Spas with the public old buildings, the beach and the open horizon; and higher up, the area of “Platania” with the springs, the plane trees, bearing the memory of a ruined past. The town still maintains an irresistible attraction for visitors to wander around the open public spaces which offer charm and variety for their temporary staying. After all, the town offers what one seeks after a spa treatment: relaxation, rejuvenation and rest.
Edipsos June 2008 and October 2013
PEPE ANASTASIA, architect
(Sketches, text and photographs)
(Published in www.greekarchitects.gr on 14-12-2013)
- A mountain path starting from “Tithorea” (or “Velitsa” ), known from the “cave of Odysseas Androutso”s, next to the gorge of Parnassos; it leads to “Liakura”, one of Parnassos’ tops. The distance between ‘Tithorea” and “Kato Tithorea”, which was built later near the train station, is just one kilometre.
- The actual spa baths of The Roman general Sulla are still preserved as cavities on the rocks of the thermal baths. It is reported that many Roman generals took baths in these thermal springs.
- The two old stately hotels, “Heraklio” and “Stadio”, appear in the background, deserted on the coast.
- In contrast to the “VENICE CHARTER” (1964) that Greece has approved as state member of EEC for the historical character of the monument and the maintenance of its authenticity over the years. Also in contrast to the later “CHARTER FOR THE PROTECTION/PRESERVATION OF HISTORIC TOWNS” of ICOMOS (1987) that suggests: “… each addition should respect the existing organization of space, especially the urban fabric, its scale, quality and value as these are dictated by the totality of the existing historic structures. The addition of contemporary buildings, while taking care of not disturbing its harmony as a whole, can contribute to the enrichment of the whole”. See “New towns over the old ones – The example of Sparta”. On the occasion of the above scientific conference in Sparta in 1994, ICOMOS published a volume with the International Principles for the Protection and Promotion of the Architectural Heritage which have been approved by Greece.
- The waves direction of the tide of Euripus changes every six hours. It reaches Euboea via “Karystos”, following the route from North Africa to the Aegean Sea. Then it reaches “Kymi”, turning from “Artemision” into the North Euboean Gulf, and ends up in Chalkida.
Translation: Irene Pepe
Senior in Epirus Institute of Technology
Department of Applied Foreign Languages in Management and Commerce