I’m lost. I pass under one arched portico after another, down cobblestone streets into the old town of Hora. The port and capital of Naxos appears to be constantly dizzy, embroiled in its own explainable confusion. The streets have no rhyme or reason and a map is virtually useless. In Hora, you get lost.
The people of Hora live in this maze sprinkled with restaurants, art galleries and shops. While a Venetian stronghold in the 13th century, today Hora is decidedly more casual than noble. It is an ordinary Wednesday and the restaurants are preparing for the night. The business casual of Hora’s today no doubt would have shocked the nobility of Hora’s yesterday.
Hora is an act with two parts, divided into the Kastro and the Bourgos area. The Bourgos neighborhood snakes down the hill of the village. It was home to the Greeks when the Venetians ruled Naxos. If you follow the Bourgos’ streets up, you will eventually find the pinnacle of Hora, the Kastro where the Venetian nobles ruled the roost. Their mansions are still here, along with the Roman Catholic Church Marco Sanudo created in the 13th century.
While the church lies at the center of the Kastro, it is the Venetian Fortress that distinguishes itself from the rest of Hora. Its brown stone stands out amongst all of the white of Hora, perhaps only noticeable from a distance.
I must come back down to earth for I am neither Venetian nor noble. I begin the climb down from Hora’s Kastro, with the throbbing thighs to prove it. I pause to peek down alleys and streets that seem to dead end. Greece is always in on the table in some stereotypical image in Hora.
A few other tourists roam with me. We all have that same dizzied look on our faces. You can tell the locals from the visitors by this look. Locals have a face of direction. They know one twist from the other, one portico from the next. They don’t need much to get around, hence why bicycles are used as decoration in Hora rather than main modes of transport.
I might not look like a Venetian noble or even a seasoned local from Hora, but I can play the part when the sun starts to set. Everyone comes out of those porticoes and cave-like homes to where the boats dock for the night. All of the café chairs on the water face outward to take in the scene. The Greeks grab cold coffees and frothy beers for several hours before even entertaining the notion of dinner or scurrying back through those porticoes and disappearing for the night.
Just over from Hora’s early evening happy hour, its ancient gate, called the Temple of Apollo, starts to gain popularity. The 6th century B.C. temple is nothing more than a dramatic doorway today, one that was too heavy for the ancients to pillage and move. Like ants flocking to a large crumb, the tourists scurry up here around dusk for the temple enjoys the best sunset view.
Separated by a causeway, the Temple of Apollo is easily Hora’s most famous sight. Couples bask in the sunset, a scene that repeats tonight and the next night and the next. Temples and Venetian nobles may come and go, but Hora is still here, up high on a hill watching the sunset. I’m lost, as it should be. One needs no direction in Hora for Hora is the direction.
Have you been to Hora on the island of Naxos?