Between mainland and island
In the middle of the west coast of the long island of Euboea, at the narrowest point of the Euripus Strait that divides the Euboea Gulf into two, the city of Chalkis (Chalkida in Modern Greek) lies on both sides of the sea-side, united by a mobile bridge along the opposite coast of Boeotia in Central Greece. Another modern bridge in the south connects the two coasts above the sea, serving the traffic of the vehicles to the city and the interior of Euboea, and this is of increasing importance. The city is constantly growing – in the last census in 2011 it had nearly 60,000 inhabitants – but it’s also, as always for decades, one of the most favorite weekend destinations. The distance from Athens is 80 km, one hour driving, and in the nearby resorts, such as Lefkandi in the south, there are nice beaches and good food in taverns next to the sea.
In the heart of the city, around the bridge and the long coastal road, the end of the small streets that come from the main shopping street, the atmosphere is cosmopolitan all the time – especially in the evenings with the lights of hotels, patisseries and restaurants sparkling in the waters of Euripus that are constantly moving, a result of the tide that is presented here in a unique way: every six hours they change direction with a ten minute rest break.
The Euripus Strait, which at the time of Frankish rule in Greece was called Negroponte, is the narrowest area in the elongated Euboea Gulf between the peninsula of Chalkis and the north-eastern tip of Boeotia. The narrowest point 30 meters wide is where the mobile bridge is located. This is the southern entrance to the strait. The northern entrance has a width of 350 meters. The distance between the two entrances is 850 meters.
In this key geographic and strategic location since ancient times, Chalkis has always been at the forefront of history and has experienced periods of great prosperity. It had two harbors, fertile land and rich subsoil. It was one of the pioneers of the second major Greek colonization from the 8th century BC, establishing colonies in Chalcidice, the Northern Sporades, Italy and Sicily.
At that time, in the 7th and 6th centuries, it experienced its greatest prosperity in antiquity. Then it followed Athens and in 411 the first wooden bridge was built over the Euripus Strait. Following the victory of Philip the 2nd in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, the Macedonians fortified Kanithos Hill on the mainland coast. The fortification was strengthened during the Byzantine years by Emperor Justinian and after 1205, during the Frankish rule in Greece, the city flourished for three centuries under Venetian domination. In 1470 it was conquered by the Turks who built the castle of Karababa on the hill Kanithos, known from that time under that name.
The Ottoman castle and an early Christian basilica, the church of Saint Paraskevi, are almost what are left of this long history. Every new era wiped out what had been built in the past. Around the city traces of human installations from the Early Bronze Age have been identified. The ancient city was in the position of today's city or a little further south.
The first bridge was replaced four times until 1962, when the current mobile bridge was built. The new high bridge to the south of the city is 700 meters long and started operating in 1993. But there is also a train. The picturesque station of Chalkis on the mainland is the end of Line 1 of the Suburban Railway from Athens via Oinoi.
The two main roads of Euboea start from Chalkis: E77 towards Istiaea and E44 towards Aliveri and Kymi.