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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Stop on Via Ignatia - Kavala

There is a place in Northern Greece which I think is largely underestimated: Kavala. For the last 20 years Bulgarians visit regularly Greece and I haven't heard anyone say any words of praise for this cute little town.

For the first time I went to Kavala in 1989 with my parents as a part of a fantastic two-week tour of Greece. This was only two months before the Berlin wall came down and it was my first trip to the 'West'. All I remember from Kavala are lots of tears from a dramatic dispute with my parents whose cause I have totally forgotten. I remember it was very dramatic though. I have a nice fhoto with my father in front of the Turkish (and not Roman) aquaduct which I would have scanned if I had access to it.

Old Town

I hadn't been to Kavala ever since as somehow my international travels did not involve Greece. However, this summer I went there twice within a month and I liked it a lot. This is the main town in Aegean Thrace or Eastern Greek Macedonia - a 50-60 km band of land that is squeezed between the Bulgarian mountains and the sea. The famous Roman Via Ignatia linking Istanbul to the Adriatic and then Italy runs there. It was the main road linking the Western and the Eastern Roman Empires and later Constantinople and the rest of the Eastern Roman Empire (nowadays Greece).

Sunny Street

After driving along the road from Thessaloniki east along a totally empty motorway (built with EU Structural Funds) one descends for several kilometres across the city neighbourhoods to the port.

Town seen from ferry terminal

Kavala streets are full of life as, obviously, having lost their jobs, many Greeks spend time in cafes. The streets are busy but still the Thessaloniki hustle and bustle is missing which is nice. I feel that many young people just go down from their homes on the hills to the port to mix and enjoy the sea. It must be a bit harder to go back home after several ouzos. In the evening families walk along the sea and kids eat grilled corn and sugar cotton.

Street behind the port

In the past Kavala was Roman and then a part of Byzantium of course but the current flavour obviously comes from the Ottoman times. The Ottomans even constructed the aqueduct so all was not black and white at that time.

Kavala was also a target of Bulgarian appetites as it was occupied both during the WWI and WWII for three years. Because of love for Goethe and Shiller Bulgaria was always on the wrong side of the combatting alliances so they were the bad guys. This time I came upon a sign on a building explaining how the Bulgarian fascist occupiers tortured Greek resistants there. I can believe it.

I am sure there were tactical reasons for this occupation but maybe it also symbolized the longing for the Southern Sea. Hungarians have the same thing for the Adriatic: they find it really unfair that even a small part of it does not belong to them.

Street in the old town

Unfortunately we could not explore properly the old town because of the heat and the ferry to Thassos which was leaving soon.

After Bulgaria and Greece opened a new crossing point in Zlatograd, Kavala becomes easily accessible, even for a day trip or a weekend, for those who live in Central Southern Bulgaria. The road is indeed winding but it crosses the Southern Rhodope mountain which is equally beautiful on the Greek side.

Ferry's going away to Thassos

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