The capital and port of the island, Pothia, as Chora of Kalymnos was called until 1951, is a built-up area located on the foothills and the slopes of two hills, as well as in the valley between them. The houses, white or yellow, two-storey and three-storey, mansions, villas and traditional ones with colorful doors and windows are in contrast with the grey stone. In the valley, the landscape is totally different with hedgerows on both sides of the street, pines and cypresses having whitewashed trunks. In the port, there is a divers’ school of divers that continues the island’s long tradition in sponge diving.
The colorful houses in Pothia constitute a magnificent picture. It’s worth going for a stroll in the small streets near the port, in order to see how people of Kalymnos invested the money coming from the sponge diving.
There are houses having sophisticated bars and statues in several neighborhoods. Towards the sea, all taverns and cafés are lined up along the port. Here you can feel the pulse of the settlement, not in the port, but in any small cafés while listening to the stories of the sponge divers and the captains –a real life experience.
Since the liberation struggle in 1821, the converse displacement of settlements began towards the coastline due to the new socioeconomic conditions. In the mid-nineteenth century, Kalymnos, being under Turkish domination, but in fact totally independent because of its privileges, started to equip a whole fleet of sponge diving ships that ensured a stable and high income. As the island’s future seemed to be inextricably linked with the sea, people of Kalymnos relocated near the sea in the necessary port, Pothia, the current capital of the island. The natural characteristics of the bay on the south-east side of the valley (size, meridian orientation) were suitable for the creation of the port. Therefore, the settlement was developed according to the nature of the terrain, having as a reference point the natural limits of the sea.
The gradual formation of Pothia contributed to the creation of areas with special characteristics in terms of building formation. As a result, the following elements are distinguished according to the chronological order of their creation:
– Marasia, underprivileged areas of residence on the slopes of Pothia.
– A zone in the flat part near the port, complying with the continuous building system, according to which properties remain basically small and many functions coexist.
– The area closer to the port, where the more advanced social classes used to live in bigger residences with big yards.
– Areas in the limits of Pothia, and more specifically in the streets leading to the Village, where there are sparse modern houses.