SAMOTHRAKI ISLAND

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As you approach the port of Samothraki (Samothrace), the row of rooms-to-let, the taverns and the tourist shops seem like children's toys compared to the mass of Fengari or Saos, looming in the background. In fact, the whole island looks like a mountain half-submerged in the Aegean Sea, while even today human settlements are mostly limited to the coastline.

Behind the dark clouds surrounding it even on some hot summer days, the peak of Fengari (Moon) truly resembles the lunar landscape. Its slopes, however, hide green gorges, perennial forests of maples and oaks, crystal-clear waterfalls and a wild beauty bearing no similarity to the picturesque scenery of the Aegean Islands.

 

During the summer months, a public bus carries passengers from the port- the only part of the island resembling a tourist destination- to the two popular public camping sites and the small forested village of Therma, with a stop at Palaiopoli (Old City) and the Temple of the Great Gods.

We wandered through the ruins of the ancient city on a July afternoon, with the maples offering shelter from the merciless summer sun. Where once crowds of believers gathered to take part in the legendary Kavirian Mysteries, now silence reigns, interrupted only on the rare occasions of guided group visits. Still, the scenery of abandonment, created by the scattered moss-clad marbles, the fallen pillars and the closing footpaths, is not a cause for despair; on the contrary, it soothes and pacifies the sole wanderer's mind.

A few kilometers to the east flows the renown waterfall of Fonias (Killer), the tallest on the island with a height of 83 meters. The stream, bearing the same name, is probably Samothraki's most popular destination, thanks to the small ponds- called “vathres” by the locals-, which are perfect for a refreshing dip.

To avoid the crowded ponds near the gorge's entrance, we walked for hours on the slippery footpath, passing by the photograph of a young boy, who paid for a careless moment with his life. However, the ascend until a certain point is not considered particularly dangerous.

On other days, we seeked shelter  near the quieter and more easily accessible Gria Vathra (Old Pond), near Therma, where the aged residents coexist peacefully with the “alternative” youth, which continues to frequent the island even though the once famous music festivals are not what they used to be.

The vibe is completely different in Chora, the island's capital. Built high on the mountain's slopes overlooking the port, the traditional settlement offered its residents protection in case of foreign invasion and pirate attacks, while the panoramic view from the ruined medieval castle ensured that nobody could approach unobserved.

A small, half-forgotten paradise, Samothraki is truly a unique land, despite the price it has paid for “development”- manifested in the absence of aquatic life in the islands multiple streams and the illegally cut woods in the perennial forests.

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Author: Christina Sanoudou
Photos: Panos Bampaloukas

Source: kathimerini.gr

 

 

 

 

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