Journey through Ancient Greece



Kavála is a lively, bustling town and fishing port nestling between the Aegean Sea and the hills of Mandra Karia; a typically Greek mixture of dreary 60's blocks of flats and picturesque Ottoman quarter.

There are no literary sources for the foundation of Kavala but it is thought that in the 7th century BC it became a colony of Thasos, which is a short distance off the coast. It then became the port for Philíppi when it was known as Neapolis; by the 9th century it was known as Christoupolis (Christ's city). The name Kavala was first recorded in the 15th century and probably comes from the town's role as a staging post for changing horseson the Via Egnatia.

Saint Paul landed here on his way to Philíppi in AD 49/50 and Saint Ignatius came here in AD103.

Kavála was occupied by the Byzantines, the Normans, who burnt the town, the Franks, the Venetians, and from 1430 to 1920, the Ottomans.

Because of its position on the highway between west and east Kavála established trading links with Marseilles.

During both World Wars the region was occupied by the Bulgarians and the inhabitants, particularly the Jews and Muslims, suffered much cruelty and hardship.

Kavála was an important centre of the tobacco industry, the old tobacco warehouses still stand in Venizelou. Today the economy of the town is based on clothing, grapes and honey

The spectacular aqueduct or Kamares which spans the road in Plateia Nikotsára and dominates the area at the foot of the old town was built in 1550 during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-66) to supply the kastro with water.

The Imaret, on Th. Poulídou, is probably the most striking building in Kavala, its eighteen beautiful lead covered domes and pink washed walls visible from most vantage points. It was founded in 1827 by Mehmet Ali as an almshouse or seminary for 300 theological students or softas, after Kavala had rejected the offer of having a harbour built. The softas were entitled to free pilaf and exempt from military service, causing locals to refer to the Tembel-Haneh or 'lazy man's home'. The Imaret, said to be the largest Islamic building in Europe. fell into disrepair but was rescued recently by the Egyptian government and has been lovingly restored. It is now a Heritage Hotel, restaurant and a wonderful place to have a coffeeimmaculately served in silver pots with the most wonderful view. The restaurant is very expensive and we haven't tried it yet!

At the end of Th. Poulídou, next to a large church (well worth visiting) is the House of Mehmet Ali and a fine bronze statue of Mehmet Ali on a horse and wielding a huge sword. Mehmet Ali was born in this house in 1769. The house now belongs to the Egyptian government and last year was closed for restoration. Even if it is still closed it is well worth visiting for the rather lovely wooden balconies and the superb view right across to Thasos.

From here you can continue winding up past traditional houses and an old mosque through narrow cobble stoned lanes to the Kastro, (open till 20.00; the route is well signed). The walk around the battlements is very pleasant; there is a large vaulted underground armoury and food storage built c1530 and converted to a prison in the 18th century. There are good information boards. There is a café but it was closed last year.

There is a pleasant sandy beach, about 10 mins walk from the museum beyond the park. I believe the rocks to the east side of the peninsula are also a good place to swim.

The Archaeological Museum The museum is in the Párko Falírou (turn right along Erithou Stavrou and take the first left to the park entrance, the museum is on your right). Open 8.30-1500 2/1. There are loos downstairs.

The building is modern but the display is terrible and labelling almost non existent, however there are some very interesting exhibits from the region of Thrace dating mainly from the 6th century BC to Roman times. Many of the exhibits are unique to the region and quite different from those we see elsewhere.

Room 1 The Neapolis Room Here is a fine Ionic capital and other pieces of architecture from the C5th Sanctuary of Parthenos, and fragments of some very nice black figure pottery from the 6th century BC. Also some coins including a gold one of Philip II and a silver coin of Alexander.

There are a number of of terra cotta figurines, votive offerings from the temple of Parthenos (the virgin goddess) the patron of Neapolis.

Room 2 The Amphipolis Room In the first case on the left is a nice silver mirror and a pyxis containing remains of cosmetics. There are also some Macedonian gold wreaths from the 3rd century, and some gold jewellery.

The five terracotta busts of females painted white and red, with one hand raised to a breast, are votive offerings representing goddesses from the Underworld, probably Persephone or Demeter. Other charming terracotta objects are a lovely cockerel with a red comb, a little basket and two geese with riders.

The unusual terracotta plaque with six masks from the New Comedy period on it is probably from the grave of an actor.

On the right hand side of the room is more jewellery made and some nice blue glass bottles.

Go up the spiral stairs to lots more unlabelled stuff from various places! If the 'guard' on duty speaks English you may be able to find out what things are. There are several clay coffins including a child's from the 4th BC. Don't miss the one at the end of the room which is beautifully painted in polychrome with dancing girls on the lid. There are more coins of Philip and Alexander and some silver pots.

Folk and Modern Art Museum Sat 0900-1300 Free Philippou 4 Has a collection of costumes and household utensils and works of the Thasos born sculptor Polygnotos Vayis. I haven't got there yet, so reports welcome.

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