Sunday, April 27, 2008


At the heart of the Montenegro Coast, just somewhat to the south of Sveti Stefan, Petrovac is nestled, an attractive resort of the Budva Riviera, basking in the sun with almost 300 sunny days a year. It is adorned by numerous natural, cultural and historic monuments, drawing multitudes of visitors. The remnants of times passed testify to the tumultuous history of the area, while picturesque nature reveals a primeval peace and mildness Petrovac exudes. Embraced in moderate Mediterranean climate, Petrovac is encircled with olive, orange, lemon, oleander, bay laurel trees… Woods springing from rocks, colored in all the shades of green, surround the bays and villages scattered along the southern slopes of nearby hills.
The landscape of Petrovac abounds in coves and beaches, larger and smaller, among the most beautiful at this part of Adriatic, the best known being: Petrovac, Lucice, Buljarica, Kraljicina plaza, Perazica do and Drobni pijesak.
Access to Petrovac is easy. There are nearby airports in Tivat and Podgorica, the international ports in Bar, Budva and Kotor. There are also roads leading to the hinterland of Montenegro and onwards. It takes you about an hour to reach Herceg Novi to the west, Ada Bojana at the extreme south, or the Old Royal Capital.
Petrovac as a tourism destination was discovered back in 1930s. In 1950s there was a harbor built for pleasure boats, sailing ships and yachts. Today Petrovac is fully committed to tourism and provision of amenities demanded by modern day holiday makers. Petrovac disposes of a number of hotels and restaurants. The gastro offer is based on traditional healthy Mediterranean cuisine, with local features. The table explodes with colors: seafood, fish, and home-grown vegetables from local gardens.

Historic sights

Petrovac is located 18 km to the south of Budva. On two sides it is encircled with hills entering the sea, and the town itself connects with the sea via two sandy beaches. It was founded back in the Roman times; it is presumed it was one of the stops on the Roman road along the Adriatic coast. Dating from these times there is a rich archaeological find with preserved mosaics in the site of Miriste.
The oldest known name for Petrovac was Lastva, mentioned for the first time in the Chronicles of the Priest of Doclea from 12th century. In 16th century the Venetians built there the fortress called Kastio (Castello), a sanitary building – a small hospital and a quarantine – Lazaret. The fortress also provided storage areas for storing oil, wine and other produce exported by ships from Petrovac. The mystery of the old fortress is still appealing to all those seeking to experience some of the Petrovac history, leaving no tourist or visitor indifferent. The establishment of today’s settlement began in late 18th and early 19th century. The name Lastva remained until the establishment of the common state for south Slavs, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918.
Just in front of Petrovac there are two islets, Katic and Holy Sunday, with a church bearing the same name, built, as one legend has it out of donations given by seafarers, or according to the other, by a Greek seafarer who was saved on this rock following a shipwreck. Former church of rustic appearance, of smaller dimensions and simple architecture, which was destroyed in the 1979 earthquake, has been replaced by a new one. In the old sources (Chronicle of the Priest of Doclea) the islet named Katic was known as Radoslav’s Rock, named after the Doclean king Radoslav, who, fleeing before the mutineers and conspirators, managed to swim from the shores of Lastva on to the rock. There he was spotted and recognized by the Italian town of Puglia, who extended to him assistance and provided refuge, as becoming of a king of an amicable state.
In a wider area of Petrovac, in the place called rezevici, there is a famous promontory Skocidjevojka, rising perpendicular to the surface of the sea. The legend and the story saved from oblivion by the renowned Montenegrin author originating from Budva, Stefan Mitrov Ljubisa, says that here a young girl scarified her life for love. She was waiting for her sweetheart who was far away, first in the war, than on a Venetian galley. Her stepmother promised her to another, but she wanted to remain faithful to her love. Thus she left home, hiding for years in monasteries. One day, on a rock by the sea, in the vicinity of Budva, she met her unmeant-to-be-husband. They wanted to take her away, but there was only one man in her heart, who was far away from her. Having nowhere to go, she jumped from the rock into the sea, since if it was not meant for her to be with anyone else. This gave rise to today’s name of the promontory Jumping Girl.
Bankada (Italian: banco – a table) is the common court for all members of the Pastrovici tribes. It was first mentioned in late 16th century. Bankada used to hear all civil disputes among the people and pronounce various punishments and penalties, most often fines. Thanks to Bankada, the Pastrovici tribes developed their indigenous common law to perfection. In the spirit of the tradition, Bankada was restored in 1999, together with launching the magazine called “Bastina (Heritage). Every year, on 28th June, the representatives of all 12 Pastrovici tribes meet at the magnificent Drobni pijesak beach, known as the “Place of Justice” to elect four judges, two dukes and 12 noblemen. The oldest judge chairs the Bankada. They review the work of the Bankada over the previous period, and its tasks involve: the restoration and preservation of tradition, customs and religion, economic development of the area, protection of cultural and natural heritage as well as individual property and rights. After the official part there is an interesting culture and art programme. Bankada has its saint patron’s day celebrated on 17th October, the day of St Stefan Stiljanovic, and its flag bearing the inscription:” Even if you are better and stronger, God is above all”.

Cultural and Historic Monuments

Rezevici Monastery
It is located on a picturesque, green plateau above the sea, on the verge of Petrovac. As legend has it, there used to be pagan temples here and ancient graveyards of Greek and Roman families.
Serbian king Stefan the First-crowned built the church dedicated to Virgin’s Assumption, which was consecrated in 1223, and king Dusan the church of Archdeacon Stefan, consecrated in 1351, reconfirming to Pastrovici their traditional common law by the Code they used in hearings at Drobni pijesak and in adjudicating at Sudino brdo. The written mention of Rezevici monastery is found in an inscription on an icon from 1423.
A document dating from 1612, by which the people of the Soljaga tribe gave certain land to be farmed by the Monastery, mentions the church of Virgin’s Assumption and the monastery. Until mid 19th century there used to be, next to the road, a stone pillar with an indentation, where local villagers used to place a jug of wine as a sign of hospitality for travelers. The story goes that Raymond of Toulouse with his crusaders drank wine from the Pastrovici jug.
The monastery complex of Rezevici consists of three smaller churches. The first is the Church of Virgin’s Assumption, traditionally believed to be built in 13th century. There are preserved frescoes from early 17th century and some traces of 13th century layers. The iconostas was built in 1833. The frescoes are well preserved. The church is dominated by the iconic images of the Christ Pantocrator, of Our Lady, the composition depicting the Christ’s Passion from the New Testament, the hagiographic images of saint martyrs and warriors. The altar’s apse features images of holy fathers of liturgy, and the Eucharist composition, and the right-hand altar wall houses partly preserved Deisis – Our Saviour.
The Church of the Holy Archdeacon Stefan was consecrated in 1351. It was destroyed in 19th century. The remnants of walls have been preserved and some frescoes showing their extraordinary artistic value.
The Holy Trinity Church is the best preserved building within the monastery complex, built in 1770. The church has the form of a cross, with the altar apse and the right-hand rectangular apse for the choir. Architecturally, it belongs to the Virgin’s Assumption Church. At the entrance, above the main portal, there is a large white rosette. It has a rectangular 20 meter tall belfry. There is a preserved iconostas of a more recent date, with icons, made by the local artist Marko Gregovic (1867-1939). According to some documents, the lodgings were there as early as in 18th century. It was destroyed and restored on several occasions, together with other church buildings. Among the preserved cultural and historic values we single out the icon of Holy Mother of God from 1693, the Four Gospel from 1835, a large liturgical cross from 1850, Darohranilica from mid 19th century etc.
Due to its cultural and historic values and treasures, the Rezevici monastery complex was listed as a monument of culture and is under the protection of the state of Montenegro.

Gradiste Monastery
A very valuable monument with medieval frescoes. Located in Buljarica, two kilometers away from Petrovac, towards Bar, just above the highway. The legend has it what it was built in 11th century, mentioned for the first in 14th century documents, such as the King Milutin’s Charter from 1305. The monastery complex consists of three churches, the lodgings and a defense wall. St Nikola’s Church is the main monastery church. Just like the other two churches, Virgin’s Assumption and St Sava’s Church, it contains icons with motifs from the Old and the New Testament, and images depicting rulers from Nemanjic dynasty, made in 1620 during the rule of Montenegrin bishop – prince Ruvim.
St Sava’s Church was built in 19th century, in 1864. It is located outside the monastery walls with its main value being its fresco painting. One of the iconostases features an icon depicting a saint with a donkey’s head. There are several legends to explain this unusual image; one has it that St Christopher was so unusually handsome that he prayed to God to make him ugly and his plea was granted.
As was frequently the fate of monasteries, Gradiste was repeatedly destroyed and restored. It was plundered several times by the Turks, and during the World War Two it was burnt down and one of the chapels was damaged by grenades.
Just like Rezevici, monastery complex of Gradiste is enlisted as the cultural and historic monument of Montenegro.

Late Roman Mosaic
In 1902, a fragment of a well preserved mosaic floor of a Roman villa from 4th century was discovered at the olive grove in Petrovac. The main mosaic is the floor decoration of a rectangular room. The architectural remnants are rather modest. The mosaic of Petrovac, with geometric and floral ornamental items, was made by skilful masters showing full mastery of the craft in every detail of the mosaic. The aspiration towards the decorative, flamboyant even, is the main feature of the work, shown both in the drawing and in the selection of colors. The central motifs are done against the white background. All motifs are dominated by a cross-like rosette, with its central part consisting of four concentric circles. A fragment with a figure of three fish with one head is important for proper dating of the mosaic, since many see it as the symbol of Early Christianity, which was discovered at some point at the same site, but it soon disappeared. Having in mind the terrain conditions, most probably both mosaics belong to the same architectural unit and date back to the same time of origin. Judging b the data available, one could presume that the walls and mosaics in Mirista are remnants of a late Roman villa rustica. Peculiar resemblance of the three fish with later iconography of the “God’s Eye” is worthy of a separate research.


It is located 2 km southward from Petrovac towards Bar, some 2.400 meters in length. Several camping grounds and company-owned hotels are located there.

Drobni pijesak
A 240 m long beach on the stretch of the coast between Sveti Stefan and Rezevici, located in a hidden cove. The whole beach, as its name depicts (ground sand) is covered in fine, yellowish-whitish sand. There is a restaurant and a beach bar at the very beach and a fresh water spring.

It is located some 500m southward from Petrovac towards Bar. It has the shape of a little bay, 220 m in length, with a beach bar and bordered by cafes.

Perazica do
Located in the immediate vicinity of Rezevici Monastery. It is a small sandy beach nested between two rocky cliffs.

A public sandy beach some 600 m length, with the sand of reddish color, one of the most frequented beaches on the whole f Budva Riviera, with a number of amenities.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Belgrade – the charm of living

The white color symbolized the south, that is, the sun, or light. That is why the Slavs, when they came upon the first town on their way, gave it the name of “the white town”.

Still standing Belgrade

“Happy is the people whose history is boring” said a great European philosopher. The citizens of Belgrade know that the history of their city was all but boring, and feel proud somehow – because their city has been coveted by many conquerors from times immemorial. Even today, the word “boring” is seldom heard in Belgrade.
The history of Belgrade has many layers: a layer of builders and a layer of destroyers, and again… The citizens of Belgrade keep a memory of the history of their home town, feeling proud somehow – because the builders won in the end and Belgrade gets larger and taller by the day.
Sometimes it appears that Belgrade is sprawling uncontrollably, but that is where its charm is: the mixture of styles, people and ideas has created a place where you could be surprised the moment your turn a corner. Both the builders and destroyers from the beginning of our story have left their marks, some of them insufficiently explored: don’t be surprised if you find a gold coin from the last century when walking along a path on Kalemegdan Fortress. That’s Belgrade for you.
There are many places where you can touch and smell history: the Belgrade Fortress on Kalemegdan has been added to for centuries. Everybody added something authentic, something of his own. Today it is a favorite promenade of the citizens of Belgrade and their guests: underground passages, old arches, Clock Tower, Nebojsa Tower, and the hidden, quiet Church of St Paraskewe on the way to the Lower Town. At the same time, from Kalemegdan, you can glance into the future. On top of one of the tallest towers there is an astronomical observatory open all day long and, immediately below it, Planetarium. The stars within your reach.
The streets around Kalemegdan had been cut a couple of centuries ago: King Peter’s Street – with the oldest café in Belgrade, with a funny name of “?”, and the cathedral – was built in the 11th century. A few yards farther, there is the Home of princess Ljubica from the 19th century. That’s Belgrade for you: centuries and eras placed side by side, in perfect harmony. Still, the history of Belgrade is not easy to follow. The city is still growing, changing its skyline and favorite colors: often, old beautiful facades are leaning onto modern buildings whose glass fronts mirror the caryatides. Even more often you’ll find fantastic, modern galleries and cafes inside old backyards. Not far from the National Theater, erected 150 years ago, you can see one of the most modern shopping centers, while the famous Victor monument looks at the Hyatt hotel across the river.
The history of Belgrade can be explored in many directions. No matter what direction you take, you will enjoy it. And you will come again, to hear and see some more of it. To add a line of your town.

Where people play for fun

Do you know how many gold medals, trophies and cups are to be found in Belgrade? Do you know how many champions and record-breakers there are in Belgrade? We haven’t managed to count them all.
In their everyday lives the citizens of Belgrade are real sportsmen: they observe fair play, cheer noisily and protest even more noisily. They are good at team work, but they like to win alone as well. They are not the most disciplined of trainees, but they are always in top physical form. At the same time, they are more knowledgeable about every sport than the national selectors of many a country in the world. Some of them have proved it.
This is a sports city – the host of many world, European and Balkan championships in many sports, the city of the winners, but the city that salutes the losers as well.
The first basketball match in Belgrade was played in 1923. The largest number of basketball champions, but also the volleyball champions (the gold medal in the Olympic games of 2000), water-polo champions (European champions in 2001) and handball champions are walking the streets of Belgrade at this moment.
Belgrade was an official candidate for the venue of the 1992 Olympic Games. At that time, many sports facilities for football, basketball, volleyball and handball, but also for water-polo, tennis and gymnastics, were either reconstructed or built from scratch. Not to forget table-tennis, shooting, athletics and martial arts facilities. At the same time, the city has gone “down to the river” by the construction of a number of extended bicycle tracks and by a “tidying over” of Ada Ciganlija, the large river island that has been connected with the mainland. Ada has been specially prepared: basketball courts, football and handball fields, beach-ball courts, rowing, bicycle tracks, free climbing, rollercoaster, bungee jump. They have even a couple of rugby teams. With the winning of the Olympic medals the sports activities in Belgrade you will find (at least) an Olympic size swimming pool, indoor or outdoor tennis court, miniature football fields, basketball and handball court or a modern gym. The citizens of Belgrade will tell you, jokingly, that every city blocks in Belgrade has a sports hall or at least a stadium seating all the citizens of the block. The largest stadium in Belgrade seats 60.000. The Pionir sports hall, the venue of many a fantastic and dramatic finals, offers 7.000 seats.
Belgrade is the host of many sports festivals: every year there is the traditional Belgrade marathon there, and the children marathon. Belgrade is included in the world’s challenge day drive.
Here you can, easily, almost at every corner, come across a group of children who will beat you in street ball, football, beach ball. They will certainly give you an opportunity for revenge, or at least a point of advantage. The citizens of Belgrade love challenge.

Where people live for fun

History tells us that during the Austrian reign there was a law in Belgrade forcing the citizens of Belgrade to attend balls and other festivities under the penalty of a fine. But, that’s history.
In the first half of the 80s, one of the favorite souvenirs that the citizens of Belgrade presented to their guests was a completely black picture postcard, with the letters Belgrade by Night written on it. That’s Belgrade sense of humor. But, that’s history. Belgrade is awake. The friends and the guests of Belgrade often say that Belgrade by night is unlike its daily edition: some of the citizens of Belgrade are only to be seen at night.
The night life begins, in fact, already in the afternoon: every evening an exhibition is opened in downtown Belgrade, or a promotion is held. You will meet all those people, always ready for new trends and streams, at least once again during the evening. Not because Belgrade is a small town, but because an average citizen of Belgrade, who wants to see everything he wants to see in a single evening, spends no more than twenty minutes at a given place. Then he moves on. That’s rhythm for you.
Start toward Skadarlija first, the old bohemian part of the city still jealous of its charm. The Skadarlija Street is the place where some of the most beautiful verses of their poetry were composed. Many world-famous writers grew up there; many a great story was first told there.
They are proud of their cuisine: in the last couple of centuries, from each guest or conqueror they took best he had and built it into their menus. You can’t say you’ve been to Belgrade unless you have tried “pljeskavica”, “kajmak”, “riblja cobra” or “pecenje”.
Belgrade has been fostering the tradition of the good classical jazz for almost forty years now. Jazz clubs are still numerous and most of them offer live music every evening. At the same time, their DJs are always in the know: everything you could hear in a London club or at a concert in Paris last night you hear in Belgrade tonight.
Every place has a feature and a charm of its own, and you can never know which one will be “in” tomorrow. So, book your seat in time.

The touch of Belgrade

The artist of Belgrade often leaves Belgrade, but for a short time only. They say there is so much inspiration here they have to escape it for a time, to let the impressions settle down. During their stay away from Belgrade, they conquer the world with their works and return home as if nothing has happened. They still sit in their favorite cafes; they still buy bread from the same baker and associate with the same friends.
Everyday, in Belgrade, a couple of new exhibitions are opened, or new books, journals or conceptualist artist promoted.
The local cultural scene has often been in the lead: Atelje 212 is the first theater in Eastern Europe that had Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot on its repertoire in 1956. In the 60s, it was there that BITEF (the Belgrade International Theater Festival) was born. It is still going strong. For decades now, the National Theater, one of the oldest theaters in these parts, has been staging quality and interesting classical plays, ballet and opera performances, in cooperation with the home and foreign directors, artists, singers. At the same time, the home writers have always had their chance on the stage of the Belgrade Drama Theater, the Center for Cultural Decontamination and the BITEF avant-garde theater. The local scene is the Great Mess where the world’s great names, such as Emir Kusturica, Dusan Kovacevic, Goran Paskaljevic, Biljana Srbljanovic, Vladimir Velickovic, as well as the names of some new, young artists that you will as yet hear about, are constantly circulating. This city is proud of having been the place where Ivo Andric, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961, as well as Borislav Pekic, Mica Popovic, Danilo Kis and Nadezda Petrovic, have lived for a time.
The Belgrade Film Archive, with a film showing theater of its own, is the largest film archive in Europe and the world. Also: the seats of the theater are very same seats used by film directors and actors whose works have changed the course of film history.
Belgrade is, at the same time, a festival city: International Short-Length and Animated Film Festival, FEST, BEMUS, the BITEF Festival of New Theatrical trends; the Low-Fi Film Festival, BRAMS. Each festival is an important event for the city.
The Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Applied Art, National Museum, Nikola Tesla museum, Ethnographic Museum, Automobile Museum, Railway Museum, Yugoslav Gallery, the Gallery of Science and Art, Theater Museum – these are the places you must pay a visit to. Don’t forget – entry into Belgrade galleries is free. Art can be accessed by everyone. One thing is certain: should Belgrade recognize an artist, you can be certain that very soon the whole world will recognize him. Here you have a unique chance of foreseeing the future.
Belgrade is one of the spiritual centers of the Balkans: the Temple of St Sava in Vracar is one of the largest Orthodox temples in the world and one of the largest projects Belgrade has recently undertaken and accomplished. At the same time, many small, sometimes even hidden churches, like the Church of St Paraskewe on Kalemegdan, beautiful painted with frescoes, give a complete picture of the spirituality and tradition of the people and of Belgrade. The Cathedral, one of the best known symbols of Belgrade, was built as early as 1837. On the other side of the street is the Serbian Patriarchate, the spiritual and religious center of Serbia. The Orthodox religion, known in the world as the Orthodox Christianity, is the dominant religion in these parts. The amalgamation of the Orthodox Christian thought, the Byzantine culture and the Slav soul can be experienced in the smallest of temples, gazing into the frescoes of rulers and saints, painted over the centuries.

Talk to Belgrade

One of the most often used phrases of the citizens of Belgrade is “No problem”. People with this attitude, although it may sound paradoxical, can really accomplish a lot.
In recent years, Belgrade has erected, established or renovated, a considerable number of congress halls, media centers, Internet cafes and the media meeting the world standards: Center Sava, Intercontinental and Hyatt Regency are some of the most often visited places in town.
Many of their business partners from abroad, many delegations, friends of Belgrade and Serbia, are convinced they are capable of organizing every meeting or gathering at the world level. That’s why they are in Belgrade now, investing into new business. Many world-famous companies have decided to place their representative offices for Eastern Europe in the true sense of the world. Great companies, like Microsoft, for instance, are the partners of their Government and governmental institutions, seated in Belgrade.
The Belgrade Fair is still one of the largest in the region. Every second or third week, managers, manufacturers and partners from all over the world gather there presenting achievements in the areas of technology, electronics, fashion, agriculture or publishing. During the winter these activities are arrested for a while and the Fair hands over its exhibition halls to the big, traditional Winter Fair and the laughter children.
The citizens of Belgrade don’t care much long-lasting meeting. They love challenge, problems, quick agreement and objectives setting. After that, they like to celebrate the agreed-upon deal. The way it’s done in Belgrade, of course. Don’t be surprised if the only answer you get is “No problem”. That’s the way it is, as each and every problem can be solved.
Business news spreads quickly: one always knows the best man for the particular job – and who to avoid having anything to do with. But the latter cannot survive in Belgrade for long; the city soon reject them, shakes them off and offers new, better quality people.
This is a university city of unbelievable potential: every year, thousands of students get their college diplomas. These young people are completely ready for work and cooperation with the world. At this very moment, many of them are winning awards at prestigious competitions as designers, programmers or scientist.
The ex students of Belgrade, the people of world today, who had spent several past years abroad, specializing in their fields of interest, are returning to their city, Belgrade, with the intention of showing the world how a modern city, the city with a soul, can do business and function. This is what they are showing you at the moment.

Find your Belgrade

The streets of Belgrade are full of people, day or night. The citizens of Belgrade are ready to work all night so they can start, from early in the morning, strolling around the city, seeing friends, taking and exchange ideas - “listen to the idea that will change the world” – and then implement the ideas.
You cannot explore Belgrade in a few days. It slips away, hiding a thing or two internationally. This is why people return to it, a number of times. Next time it will be different, larger, and taller. In the meantime, it’ll change some habits, perfect some others.
Find your own favorite place in Belgrade. Don’t be satisfied with a recommendation only – often the citizens of Belgrade are not even aware of their beautiful, quiet places, radiating warmth and harmony. They are not aware of them because they have become accustomed to them – they see them every day. So, make your own choice: the Kalemegdan Fortress, Skadarlija, Tasmajdan, Kosutnjak, Avala – the last one outside the city limits, an excellent place to relax – the Zoo, Ada Ciganlija, Senjak, the Sibinjanin Janko Tower in Zemun, Gardos – these are just few of the places, city blocks you must visit to get the feel of Belgrade. The Belgrade marketplaces; flower shops; bakers, wine cellars – all of them give each new day a special exotic fragrance. And a different fragrance every day.
The shopping centers; shopping malls where you will always find the latest in world fashion; bookstores; galleries; museums; theaters; antique-shops full of their, but also foreign, history; churches; temples; parks.
The Belgrade multiplex and regular cinemas are almost always full – the citizens of Belgrade gulp the movies, talk about them, see them several times, until the film repartees become a part of everyday slang. The success of a film is not measured by box-office return but by the number of repartees that remain after the film has been forgotten.
And don’t be surprised should a waiter or a salesgirl recognize you after a couple of years, or remember what it was you had ordered or bought last year, the last time you were in Belgrade: the citizens of Belgrade are good at remembering their guests, and even better at remembering their “usual”, and the best at remembering who it was you had come into café or a restaurant with last time.
And remember, the moment you master “hello, how are you? Feel like a cup of coffee” in Serbian, you have become a citizen of Belgrade.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Samothraki Island

From the harbor at Alexandroupolis visitors can board the ferry for Samothraki. After 2.5 hours at sea the boat arrives at Kamariotissa.
Hora (Samothraki) is 5km east of the harbor, built among hills providing protection from winds and the pirate raids which were a common feature of centuries past. At the edge of Hora the Byzantine castle looks down from its natural rocky elevation. It was begun in the 10th century and completed in 1430 by the Gattilusi, the Genoans who had taken possession of the island. In 1456 the island became a part of the Ottoman Empire. The houses – two-story buildings with tile roofs, and some with the old-style roofs of pocked earth – are so arranged as not to stand in one another’s light. Hora has a Folklore Museum, in a restored house next to the church. The village, of particular architectural interest, was declared a protected traditional community in 1978.
The history of the island is lost in the mists of time. The first inhabitants of Samothraki were Pelasgians, but in historical times the population was a mixture of Ionian and Aeolian elements. In the 7th century BC the people of Samothraki built a series of cities on the coast opposite – what Herodotus called the walls of Samothraki: Mesimvria, Drys, Zoni, Sali, etc.
The island was an important religious centre for the whole Mediterranean because of the fame of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods and the mysteries associated with their cult. The Great Gods were also known as the Kaveiroi, and their sanctuary has survived at the ancient city at the site known as Paliapolis, in the northern part of the island, a small distance from Kamariotissa.
The part of Samothraki has large hotels, many rented rooms, restaurants, fish taverns, grills serving the unique local kid roasted on the spit, cafés, night clubs and bars and whatever else the visitor could ask. To the west of the town is the island’s wind park and next to it the small lagoon of Agios Andreas, a resting place for migratory birds and of great ecological importance. The visitor can use the part of Kamariotissa as a base from which to explore the ancient civilization and unique natural beauties of the island.
The road from Kamariotissa to the north-east of the island leads to the Palaiopolis archeological site. The tour of the site begins at the small parking lot in front of the little Agia Paraskevi Church. A stone-paved walkway leads to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. To the east, high up on the slopes, we can see the walls (6th-3rd century BC) of the ancient city. In the eastern part of the ancient city harbor we can still see the remains of an early Christian basilica, built to commemorate the visit of the Apostle Paul (49-50 AD). Towering above the harbor and basilica are the city’s Mediterranean fortifications, dating from the period of the Gattilusi (1431-1433). The visitor to the archaeological site can make use of a specially laid path around the antiquities, inspecting the Palace (early palace period), the Tholos of Arsinoe II (288-270 BC), the Building of the Dancers (around 340 BC), the Sanctuary (325-150 BC), the Monument of Nike (1st half of 2nd century BC) etc. There is also a museum on the site where the visitor can see finds mainly from the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. Most striking among them are the cast of the Nike of Samothraki (the original is in Louvre, Paris), architectural reconstructions of the main sanctuary buildings, many vases, pieces of jewellery, figurines, etc.
Farther east, continuing along the coastal road, we come to the community of Kariotes and then, after a few kilometers to Therma. Here we find the thermal sulphureous springs which have made the spa renowned for its therapeutic qualities since Byzantine times. The village is in a marvelous area of outstanding natural beauty, densely planted with plane trees, chestnuts, arbutus and myrtle. The rich vegetation encountered all across the island is due to the many water courses and streams which descend the slopes of Mt Saos, whose summit, Fengari, is 1.664m above sea level. From the village there is a path to the summit; the climb takes about three-and-a-half hours and offers superb views of the mountain landscape. At Therma there are fine hotels, rented rooms and excellent food in the local taverns.
After Therma we come to the two municipal camping sites of the island: one an unsupervised site set in a lush natural setting with plane trees, the other an organized site with all modern facilities.
Driving on we come to the river Fonias, alongside which a natural path leads the visitor through beautiful riverside greenery. After walking 45 minutes we come to the imposing waterfall. As it rushes down the water has formed natural cavities in which we can enjoy a cooling bathe. Close to the mouth of the river are the remains of the Fonias Tower, built by the Gattilusi in 1431.
The road ends at the Kipos promontory, with the enchanting beach of the same name, one of the finest on the island with fine shingle and crystal-clear, tranquil waters.
The road from Kamariotissa to the south of the island brings us to the village of Alonia, from where it continues through hills covered in olive groves. This side of the island is excellent terrain for olive-growing with its mild climate and Mt Saos sheltering it from the cold winds.
At Mikro Vouni, at the mouth of the Polypoudi stream, south-west of the village of Alonia, the mound of a prehistoric settlement has been identified dating from the end of the 6th millennium – 1700 BC. The find of Minoan seals here caused a sensation, as well as some clay “documents” from a Minoan (perhaps Knossan) archive; this was the first time such finds had been unearthed so far from Crete. It seems that the Minoan presence on Samothraki was intended to secure commercial control of the broader region of the north-eastern Aegean.
After the village of Lakkoma we pass through the district of Koitada and Platydentro. A little farther down a turning leads off to the Chapel of Panayia Krimniotissa, perched on a high rock. The chapels of the island are a distinctive feature of the Samothraki landscape; local tradition claims that they are exactly 999 in number.
This superb route brings is finally to the beach of Pachia Ammos, an ideal place to swim and unwind, with a marvelous view of the island of Imbros.
The south-eastern coast of Samothraki is rugged and steep, with the slopes of Mt Saos coming down to the shoreline. It is an area of rare ecological importance and natural beauty, only accessible from the sea. The sea caves of the area are a refuge for one of Greece’s rarest mammals, the Mediterranean Monk Seal. At Kremasto, with its lofty rocks, there is a waterfall whose waters – winter or summer – rush foaming into the deep blue sea: a truly remarkable spectacle.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


The city of Ankara lies in the center of Anatolia on the eastern edge of the great, high Anatolian Plateau, at an altitude of 850 meters. The province is a predominantly fertile wheat steppe land, with forested areas in the northeast. The region’s history goes back to the Bronze Age Hatti civilization, which was succeeded in the 2nd millennium BC by the Hitties, in the 10th century BC by the Phrygians, then by the Lydian’s and Persians. After this came the Galatians, a Celtic race who were the first to make Ankara their capital in the 3rd century BC. It was then known as Ancyra, meaning “anchor”, one of the oldest words in the language of the sea-loving Celts. The city subsequently fell to the Romans, and to the Byzantines. Seljuk Sultan Alparslan opened the door into Anatolia for the Turks at the victory of Malazgirt in 1071. Then in 1073, he annexed Ankara, an important location for military transportation and natural resources, to Turkish territory.
The city was an important cultural, trading, and arts center in Roman times, and an important trading center on the caravan route to the east in Ottoman times. It had declined in importance by the nineteenth century.
Ankara Citadel: The foundations of the citadel were laid by the Galatians on a prominent lava outcrop, and completed by the Romans. The Byzantines made restorations and additions. The area around and inside the citadel, being the oldest part of Ankara, contains many fine examples of traditional architecture. There are also lovely green areas in which to relax. It is well known that the Ankara region was the cradle of wine in Hatti and Hittie times around 2000 BC. Many restored traditional Turkish houses in the area of the citadel have found new life as restaurants, serving local and international dishes and wine.
Roman Theatre: The remains, including stage and backstage, can be seen outside the citadel. Roman statues that were found here are exhibited in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. The audience area is still under excavation.
Temple of Augustus: The temple was built by the Galatian King Pylamenes in 10 AD as a tribute to Augustus, and was reconstructed by the Romans on the ancient Ankara Acropolis in the 2nd century. It is important today for the “Political Ancyranum”, the sole surviving “Political Testament” of Augustus, detailing his achievements, inscribed on its walls in Latin and Greek. In the fifth century the temple was converted into a church by the Byzantine.
Roman bath: The bath has all the typical features: cold room, cool room and hot room. They were built in the time of Emperor Caracalla (3rd century AD) in honor of Asclepios, the god of medicine. Today only the basement and first floors remain.
Column of Julian: This column was erected in 362 AD, probably to commemorate a visit by the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate. It stands fifteen meters high and has a typical leaf decoration on the capital.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Cyprus, although a small country, has a rich cultural heritage which is evident from the vast number of ancient monuments and sites, castles and forts around the island. The antiquities of Pafos, the Neolithic Settlement of Choirokoitia, as well as ten Byzantine Churches from the Troodos region are included in the official World Cultural Heritage list, thereby endorsing their importance.
Unfortunately, since July 1974. a significant part of Cyprus cultural heritage is under Turkish occupation and as result acquaintance with it is impossible. This heritage has been suffering deliberate and serious destruction, since the Turkish forces systematically aim at changing the demographic and cultural structure of occupied Cyprus.
The cultural heritage of a people is its most important asset, its identity and a sense of continuation through time. Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean and standing as it does at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa it has had a tumultuous history. The Mycenaeans Achaeans brought their civilization here, establishing the first Greek roots 3.000 years ago. Many others passed through, including Phoenicians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Crusaders, Venetians, Ottomans and the British. The apostles of Christ walked this land. The splendor of Byzantium, founded by Constantine the Great at Constantinople, encompassed the island of Cyprus. Here are prehistoric settlements, ancient Greek temples, Roman theatres and villas, Early Christian Basilicas, Byzantine churches and monasteries, Crusader castles, Gothic churches and Venetian fortifications. In the villages, old custom and traditions are still kept alive. Young girls still engage in lace-making in the beautiful village of Lefkara just as their grandmothers did before them. Potters still create wondrous anthropomorphic shapes to decorate their earthenware vessels at picturesque Foini and the sound of handlooms can still be heard in Fyti, home of attractive hand-woven materials, whilst, men in traditional baggy trousers, still congregate at the shop for a game of backgammon.
In Cyprus the 21st century rubs shoulders with a civilization 10.000 years old. There are festivals whose origins stretch back into antiquity; like Carnival and Anthestiria organized in honor of God Dionysus; at Kouklia, where the Temple of Aphrodite once stood, a church was known until a few years ago as The Church of the Virgin Mary Aphrodite’s. The aura of the Great goddess of Cyprus is still present in Pafos, and all over “the Sweet Land of Cyprus” in the beauty of the landscape, the mildness of the climate and the charm of the people. The immortal words of Euripides and Sophocles ring out on warm summer evenings at the Ancient Kourion Theatre and the Pafos Odeon during performances of ancient Greek drama.
And in September wine flows free and the spirit of Dionysus, god of wine and merriment, is present throughout the Wine Festival. The Mediaeval folk songs are still sung in Cyprus keeping alive the legends of Digeni, the unconquerable border guard of Byzantium, and of his beautiful Queen, Rigaina. In the narrow streets of the walled city of Lefkosia the coppersmith works with the metal as did ancestors 5.000 years ago. In the shade of old houses with their overlooking balconies, the flavor of the past lingers among the old typical stone houses.
In Cyprus the past lives by side with the present in a unique tapestry of living history.

Lefkosia (Nicosia) lies roughly at the centre of the island, with a rich history that can be traced back to the Bronze Age. It only became capital of the island in the 11th century AD. The Lusignans turned it into a magnificent city with a Royal Palace and over fifty churches. Today it blends its historic past brilliantly with the bustle of a modern city. The heart of the city, enclosed by 16th century Venetian walls, is dotted with museums, ancient churches and medieval buildings preserving the nostalgic atmosphere of years past. Yet this old heart is split in two, leaving Lefkosia the only capital city to remain divided by force. The new Lefkosia developed outside the walls, and became a contemporary and cosmopolitan business and cultural centre. Just a few miles away are enchanting places of interest such as Byzantine churches and monasteries, archaeological sites and charming villages.

Lemesos (Limassol) – Successor to two city-kingdoms and host to a Royal Wedding in the middle Ages, contemporary Lemesos stretches along the south coast. Proud of the spontaneous hospitality of its people, its archaeological sites, its mediaeval castles and its merry Carnival and Wine festivals, Lemesos is the island’s most important tourist and wine industry centre. Hotels, restaurants and night spots abound along the beach whilst close by lay the pine-clad southern slopes of Troodos with the picturesque wine producing villages, the idyllic mountain resorts and picturesque Pitsylia area.

Larnaka, a town with an easy-going pace, has strong links to the past. In the heart of modern Larnaka one finds remains of the ancient city-kingdom of Kition, reminiscent of its glorious days. The Mycenaean Greeks fortified the town with cyclopean walls in the 12th century while the Phoenicians founded a powerful kingdom here in the 9th century. Kition is the birthplace of the philosopher Zeno, founder of the Stoic School, and it is here that Saint Lazarus came to live after his resurrection. In the 18th century it became a commercial centre and the seat of the European consulates. The delightful Palm Trees Promenade, its fort, and its old quarters give Larnaka its unique character. The nearby salt lake is a favorite stop-over spot for thousands of migrant birds in winter, whilst on its edge in a tranquil setting stands a popular Muslim pilgrimage place.
The whole district of Larnaka has something special to offer the visitor, including Choirokoitia, the oldest Neolithic settlement on the island, Stavrovouni Monastery and the famous Church of Angeloktisti.

Pafos – the whole town is included in the official UNESCO list of cultural and natural treasures of the world heritage. Wherever one treads in Pafos one comes across its glorious history which dates back thousands of years, when the cult of goddess Aphrodite who emerged from its seas, flourished in this beautiful part of the world attracting many visitors from inland and abroad.
Today, it is a growing harbor town, but in Hellenistic and Roman times it was the capital of Cyprus. Still under the spell of her Beauty-goddess, the area retaining her magic has remained intact by time. It seduces its visitor with its majestic landscape, lovely coastline, historical treasures and delightful villages where tradition is still a way of life. Kept in harmony with nature are divine mediaeval monasteries which lie peacefully in the Pafos heartland.

Paralimni – The golden sandy beaches of the free (non-occupied) Ammochostos district gently embrace the eastern corner of island. The popular holiday resorts of Agia Napa and Paralimni have been called a veritable paradise for anyone who loves the sea and water sports. The charming scenery includes the tiny fishing harbor of Agia Napa, the mediaeval monastery at the heart of the village and the windmills and small churches in the surrounding villages which spread out to the areas of Paralimni and Protaras. This region is the main potato producing area on the island, and is known as “red soil villages”. The villages of this area are equally known for their folk poets, who are regarded as the best on the island.

Troodos – nine Byzantine churches in the Troodos Mountains are included in the official UNESCO list of the World Heritage. These are: Stavros tou Agiasmati, Panagia tou Araka, Timiou Stavrou at Pelendri, Agios Nikolaos tis Stegis, Panagia Podithou, Panagia tis Asinou, Agios Ioannis Lampadistis, Panagia tou Moutoulla and Archangelos Michail at Pedoulas.
The impressive Troodos mountain range with its idyllic forests stretches across most of the western side of Cyprus offering cool sanctuary in summer and opportunities for sports in winter. Famous Mountain resorts divine Byzantine monasteries and churches perched on mountain peaks or nestling in its valleys, as well as picturesque mountain villages clinging to terraced hill slopes make up the splendor of Troodos.
The area has been known since ancient times for its mines and in the Byzantine Period it became a prominent centre of Byzantine art, as churches and monasteries were built in the mountains, far away from the threatened coastline.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thassos Island

Thassos, the most verdant of the northern Aegean islands, was colonized at a very early date – owing to its privileged position and rich deposits of gold and marble – by the Phoenicians (1600 – 1500 BC) and later by sailors from Paros (7th century BC). From the 6th to the 4th century BC Thassos enjoyed great prosperity, of which we see irrefutable evidence in the remains of ancient Thassos which are to be found to the east of the capital of the island, Limenas. The ancient city of Thassos had two harbors – one for fighting vessels and one for commerce. In front of the naval harbor lay the ancient agora, surrounded by three great porticoes to the north-west and south-east, while to the north-east lie the ruins of the courthouse, the Tholos, storehouses, a small, oblique portico and an early Christian basilica. To the east of the agora, walking towards the acropolis, we can make out the remains of the Sanctuary of Dionysus (5th century BC) and a little farther on the sanctuary of Poseidon (4th century BC). The specially laid ascending path leads to the ancient theatre (5th century BC), with a unique view of the sea, which was converted into an arena in Roman times. From the theatre the path leads to the remains of the acropolis and the temple of Athena, protector of the city (6th – 5th century BC). Finally, the visitor must call in at the recently renovated Thassos Archaeological Museum, containing the remarkable finds excavated at the ancient city: the statues of a young man bearing a ram, Aphrodite with a dolphin, the head of Dionysus, etc.
Thassos is now a beautiful tourist destination, with easy access from Kavala or Keramoti by hydrofoil or ferry boat, with excellent roads and superb amenities for all visitors.
Thassos has everything needed to offer a unique holiday experience: unrivalled beauty, roads winding along a magical coastline, opportunities for excursions to beach or mountain, a natural setting in which the visitor can unwind and surrender utterly to peace and tranquility.
The island people are hard-working. They fish and till the soil, but also produce ceramic ware, weave and engage in all sorts of other crafts.
The main town of the island, Limenas, is a small, picturesque location which is steadily developing into a tourist destination known throughout Greece and beyond. There are hotels and rented rooms in the town centre and on the outskirts. At specially selected points around the town, where there is a fine view of the sea, the visitor will find little taverns serving delicious appetizers, as well as tourist shops with every imaginable kind f souvenir. There are a fair number of organized beaches for swimming, such as those at Glyfada and Glyfoneri, as well as Makryammos just outside Limenas.
The coast road and the little streets of the town are perfect for an afternoon stroll. One of the most picturesque parts of the town is the old harbor with its fishing vessels, dominated by the “Kaloyeriko”, built by monks from the Vatopedi Monastery of Mt Athos in the late 19th century.
The road around the island offers an ideal drive for the tourist. Setting off eastwards from Limenas we pass the magnificent Makryammos beach, with its turquoise sea and immaculate sand. This is one of the oldest tourist’s spots on the island, with restaurants, bars, tennis courts, pools, etc. You can also get here by boat from Limenas and enjoy a beautiful sail along the coast.
Next we come to Panayia, one of the best-known traditional communities on the island. The village owes its name to the church of the Panayia on the central square, with its huge shady plane trees, running water and picturesque little cafés serving the traditional preserved walnuts for which Thassos is famous. A number of traditional houses have been preserved, with their characteristic slate roofs, lending the whole village a distinctive feel.
Just a short distance from Panayia is the most popular organized beach on the island, Chrysi Ammoudia. Bathers can enjoy the wonderful emerald water, reminiscent of a tropical island, or can take part in the many sports available on the beach. There are modern hotels and rented rooms, restaurants and taverns – everything the visitor needs for a comfortable stay.
To the south we come to the village of Potamia, built on the pine-clad slopes of Mt Ypsari. Inside the village, housed in a two-story stone building, is the Museum dedicated to the famous sculptor Polygnostos Vagis, a native of Thassos. The collection includes both sculptures and paintings by the artist. From Potamia one can climb up to the top of Ypsari, following an incredibly beautiful path, through the forest. Just a short distance from the village is Skala Potamias, an organized beach with tourist shops, taverns, etc.
One of the island’s finest beaches is to the south, on the little peninsula of Alyki. Here the enchanted visitor will find a stunning bay, a miniature paradise, with little taverns. On the high ground of the peninsula are the remains of two early Christian basilicas (5th century AD) and an ancient marble quarry. On the other side of the bay is a deserted beach for undisturbed bathing, and close to the shore are the remains of the Sanctuary of the Dioscuri (7th century BC).
Close to Astrida, in the south-eastern part of the island, stands the convent of the Archangel Michael, one of the best-known places of pilgrimage on the island. With its glorious climate and healthy water the area of Astrida is the perfect location for relaxing holidays, enjoying all the amenities of the modern hotels which have been built here.
Continuing our tour around the island we come to the village of Potos which, with its organized beach, is one of the island’s most important tourist resorts. From here there is a road turning inland to the traditional community of Theologos, which owes its name to an earlier settlement here of monks from Mt Athos. It is one of Thassos’ largest villages, old water-mills and dense vegetation.
The organized beach at Pefkari, in the south-western part of the island, is a stunningly beautiful location, with the characteristic landscape of pines stretching right down to the shore.
Limenaria, our next stop, is a large village which began to expand in the 19th century and is now a very pleasant tourist resort. It has a folklore Museum, housed in what were once the commune administrative offices in the centre of the village.
North of Limenaria we come to Skala Marion, from the road leads inland to the village of Maries, and then on to the unique Lake Yenna wetland.
The coast road takes us on to Skala Kallirachis and Skala Sotiros, where one can visit the Monastery of Agios Panteleimon.
To the north we pass through Prinos, one of the most important areas of the island, since oil was discovered just off-shore. From the harbor (Skala Prinou) next to the village, the boats leave for Kavala. The visitor will find luxury hotels and rented rooms, beautiful beaches and verdant landscapes with pine trees which make Prinos one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the island.
Taking the road out of Prinos we come to the village of Kazaviti, the most important of all the island’s traditional communities, with beautiful stone houses; the visitor will be delighted by the characteristic balconies and the painted ceilings. The village offers shade, excellent food and coffee, or one can take a stroll through the beautiful forest just outside the village.
Finally our drive brings us to the village of Rahoni, which, together with its harbor (Skala Rahoniou) and the tiny village og Agios Georgios, make up the commune of Rahoni. It is one of the quietest and most remote villages on the island. Formerly the inhabitants of Agios Georgios were more numerous than those of Rahoni, and lived at a distance from the coast because of frequent pirate raids; but later, when the danger had passed, they settled lower down. The founder of the Egyptian dynasty, Mehmet Ali, was raised in the village of Agios Georgios, later moving to Kavala. Skala Rahoniou, like the other skalas or fishing villages of the island, had been developed for tourism and offers visitors all the usual amenities.