Eastern Macedonia and Thrace is region in north-east Greece where you will be amazed by beautiful nature and beaches, ancient Greek cities, medieval monasteries and the most tastefull cousine of the mediterranean. But beside captivating natural and man-made wonders you will be seduced with its atmosphere, which is unique in Greece – mix of east and west with all flavours of Balkan peninsula and with most welcoming people.
From Kavala to Alexandroupolis there are dozens of places that you have to discover. If you are interested in unique combination of nature and man-made sites one of the most intreeging architectural wonders of northern Greece is Monastery of Saint Nicholas, on a floating islands connected with wooden bridges. The church of St. Nicholas is metochi of Athos Monastery in Vatopedi and currently works as a pilgrimage. Located on the island of the lagoon Vistonidas or Bourous, near the fishing village of Porto – Lagos. The great religious and historical value, the rich monastic heritage and the natural beauty that surrounds it in the biotope of Lake Vistonida make it attracts many pilgrims ratings. The Churches of St. Nicholas and Panagia Pantanassas are built in a prominent position and panoramic linked to the national road Xanthi – Komotini with a picturesque wooden bridge.
According to tradition, in the region of Porto Lagos, which the Turkish occupation belonged to a Bey, he was a monk a holy hermit. When the daughter of Bey sick, cured with the help of the ascetic. As a token of gratitude, Bey donated the area to Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos. According to another older tradition, the monastery of St. Nicholas was inaugurated by the Patriarch Nektarios in the presence of the Byzantine emperor Arcadius, who dedicated the area to thank the Virgin Mary saved him when shipwrecked at sea, while returning from Rome. There is a small monastic community, which comes from the Vatopedi Monastery and follow a daily program of sacred sequences
If you are lower of ancient history, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace will be heaven for you, as here, you can find one of the most important archeologigal sites in Greece – Philipi. Located 15 km from Kavala in Krinides , founded by the father of the Great Alexander. Includes, the ancient theater of Philippi, the Forum and the commercial market, the palaestra, the islands with private houses and early Christian churches. It was founded by Thassian settlers in 360 BC. Very soon, in 356 BC, Thassians, as to face the local Thracian tribes sought the help of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. Philip B. recognizing the prime location of the city, gave it his name.
The passing of the Egnatia Via through the Philippi area in the 1st century. BC gave the greater weight to the city, and turned it into a benchmark of the region. In 42 BC the Battle of Philippi in the two low hills outside the western city walls caused changes in local and global level. The win of Octavian and Antony, continuing of the policy of Julius Caesar marked the end of democracy , openind the Octavian way for the empire. The site of philippi became a Roman colony who flourished in the second century in 20 sentury AD. The 49/50 AD Apostole Paul visited the Philippi and founded the first Christian community in Europe. The memory of the visit and his imprisonment remained deeply in the memory and gave an ecumenical Christian pilgrimage character. The city is shrinking in the early of 7th century because of large earthquakes and Slavic raids. Survives in Byzantine times as a fortified castle, keeping its importance due to its location on the main East-West artery land. The complete abandonment occurred with the Turkish conquest in the late of 14th century.
Eastern Macedonia and Thrace is place where east meets west and there is no better place to withess this explosion of colors, tastes and smells then Xanthi. Xanthi, a town that perches at Rhodope”s arms, first on the road and railroad way that connects Thessaloniki with Evros and Constantinople. Capital of the prefecture, with ancient descent and contemporary presence. The contemporary city resembles a hive of activities twenty four hours a day. Its convention centers constitute a pole of attraction for Greek and foreign citizens. Streets and squares are full of motion and there are many choices for the visitor senses. Start your day at a city”s confectionery. Syrup pastry and “kariokes” -a traditional pastry- are pleasure for your smell and taste. Local flavors in tap rooms and restaurants, in noon and afternoon, are marvelous. Along these, there are bars for every taste, places that rembetiko music is performed and cinemas.
For nature lovers, especially for ornytologists and all admirers of the birds there is special place for you in the most eastern part of Thrace, on the delta of the river Evros. It is home of half of all bird species in Europe. The Evros Delta, is one of the most important ecosystems in Europe and it has been recognized as an international wetland. It is a protected area, where there live or hibernate many rare or endangered species. Delta, with a total area of 111,937 square kilometers, it was formed from the debris and the interaction of fresh water flowing from Evros with ocean currents. Similarly, in the double mouth of Evros in Thrace Sea there are formed small islets (Asanas, Asanas Xera, boats Xiradi), dunes, lagoons (Drana, Laki, Monolimni, Paloukia), freshwater lakes (Nymphs, Tsekouri, Skepi, Spitia, Gunaika) , marshes, and swamps of saltwater and brackish water. The favorable geographical position of Delta relative to the axes of bird migration and the relatively mild climate of the area and inaccessible to humans and isolated areas are the key factors that created the ideal conditions for the establishment of many species of fauna.
They have recorded 46 species of fish, 7 species of amphibians, 21 species of reptiles and more than 40 species of mammals. However, more important is the rich avifauna met in the area: 316 bird species of 422 in Greece. The ecosystem of the delta operates as natural nesting habitat and food for many species (herons, flamingos, cormorants, gulls, swans, Lesser White Fronted Goose, Red-, predators, etc.) and shelter for large numbers of aquatic birds from the northern regions of Central and Eastern Europe in the winter. Furthermore, it is a vital pool and rest large numbers of migratory birds during their journeys to the southern regions.
Religious tourism is very important in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace and there are numerous monasteries and churches that you have to visit. One of the most important religious sites is the monastery of Panagia Kosmosoteira (Our Lady, Saviour of the World) includes a fortress wall (with towers and a gate) and a catholicon (main church) in the type of the cross-in-square church with two columns and five domes. The iconographic decoration is a magnificent specimen of high quality painting of the School of Constantinople, dated to the 12th century. Built in the wall of the SE corner is a clay ornament representing an eagle. The narthex has been demolished, unknown when.
The central apse and the prothesis have undergone later repairs. Also later are the four pilasters outside. The monastery was founded in 1152 by the sevastokrator Isaakios Komnenos, the third son of Alexios I. Isaakios composed the typikon of the monastery, and was buried there. Two hundred years later, the catholikon was converted into the mosque of Suleyman, and five and a half centuries later was again converted into a Christian church.
The capital of the prefecture is a modern tourist town with many hotels, countless restaurants, cafés and a major trading center. The city was just 30 km away from the Greek-Turkish border, 310 km from Thessaloniki and is accessible by road, air, and rail. The major attractions are the Lighthouse beach, the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas and the building of Zarifeia Academy. Alexandroupolis is a modern city and can offer all the amenities to visitors and fulfill all their wishes, attracting the attention of those seeking emerging and cosmopolitan destinations, while it is also an ideal place for family holidays. On summer evenings the heart of the city beats on the road by the sea which sidewalks attract thousands of people.
Industrial tourism is also one of the aspects of this region of Greece. The Silk Museum details the phases of sericulture and silk industry. Operated by the Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation and is housed in a neoclassical building of 1886, the mansion Kourtidi, located in downtown Soufliou which was renovated and opened in September 2008. In the museum you have the opportunity to learn the history of natural silk route from China to Europe. It also shows all the phases and stages of the pre-industrial process of rearing silkworms (sericulture) and processing of silk (silk), in the socio-economic context that made the region an important center of silk in Greece (late 19th – mid 20th century). The documentary highlighted here help connect the sericulture and silk industry with specific spatial and temporal context. In the section “Costumes Soufli “will admire unique accessories of Soufli costumes.Young visitors have the opportunity to see reconstructions of all stages of silk processing. The Museum organizes educational programs with games and activities for schools and group visits, such as the “Come to weave”, where children are taught the cycle of sericulture, the process of weaving and dyeing of silk.
Komotini is one of the biger centers of this regions and it is located in the north central plains of Thrace and it has a population of approximately 70,000 residents, while daily, the city serves over 100,000. It is the capital of the Rhodope region, with the distance from the Greek-Turkish border is 94 km, 22 km from the Greek-Bulgarian borders, 242km of Thessaloniki.
Democritus University of Thrace, with Komotini as its administrative office, currently has approximately 10,000 students.
This city is ideal for walking and cycling, through the pedestrian streets, organized network of cycle paths. A city with a vibrant nightlife and friendly inhabitants, known for its variety of cuisine, the fragrant coffee, the syrupy sweets, donuts and the soutzouk of the chick peas.
Famous for its springs and film festival, Drama is one of the centers of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Below the peaks of Falakro, streams, towering trees covering sources and streams, calm pace of life in the neighborhoods and parks, hospitable and gracious people compose the image of the city which is located in the heart of the prefecture and is the starting point for most excursions in the countryside The oldest inhabitant is found to the middle of the 6th millennium. It has been selected as place of establishment of the Neolithic settlement of Arkadiko south of the park of Saint Barbara. This settlement remains a place of establishment until the early Bronze Age and sporadically in historical times. But in ancient times, the core of the settlement was located inside the precinct of the Byzantine walls of Drama. In Roman times, the present city was an important station of the road network, within the extensive colony of Philippi. The name of this was Daravescus. A basic component to the character of the area is the prevalence of the cult of Dionysus. The god of joy and wine was identified with the region, worshiped by the inhabitants as nowhere else in the world and there is a relationship that lasts until today.
By Ivan Andrejic