Samothraki: Land of the Great Gods


My friends and family were rather surprised when I said I was spending a week of my summer holidays at the island of Samothraki this year. Indeed, it is one of the lesser known islands, the contrary of cosmopolitan and fancy and not very easily accessible.

We arrived at Kamariotissa (the island’ s port) with a group of friends, first flying to Alexandroupolis and then a 2-hour trip by boat.

Samothraki is a very special place…it is the island for the explorers and the adventure lovers. The energy of it, either welcomes you and encourages you to do some soul-searching, or it kicks you out! (people have been known to arrive and depart the same day by the same boat…). I guess one has to be ready and open to the experience to enjoy it!

On the first night of our arrival, I was overwhelmed by the starry sky…like a dark peplum full of fairy lights…

I can assure you I have never enjoyed so much waking up early in the morning, to watch the sun rise, overtaken by the colours of the dawn and the peacefulness all around…

The nature

It rains a lot on the island, plane trees and all sorts of greenery are everywhere, reaching the beach and covering the roads and pathways. Hundreds of crystal water streams flow from mount Saos (the highest mountain on the Aegean islands) to rush through the forests all the way to the sea. On their way, they form waterfalls and stone basins, the so-called “váthres”. As a matter of fact, the streams and the waterfalls are the landmarks of the island. A pair of the best of those are the stream of Foniás (=”killer”) and its tallest waterfall (Kleidwsi – 35m high).

Your sightseeing should begin with a trip around the island.The boat “Samothraki” makes all-day trips that include a brief history and some remarkable views you can’t see otherwise, as well as swimming stops at several beaches and a cookout.

Historical background

There is evidence of human activity on the rich with archaeological treasures island since the Neolithic times. But it’s the Kaviria Mysteries – religious event of great importance, equal to that of the Eleusinian Mysteries – that brought the island’s fame to the top. The grandeur of the archaeological prominence of Samothrace stretches over the 50-square-kilometres site of Palaiópolis, at 6,5km from the port of Kamariótissa.

A unique feature of the Samothracean mystery cult was its openness: as compared to the Eleusinian mysteries, the initiation had no prerequisites for age, gender, status or nationality. Everyone, men and women, adults and children, Greeks and non-Greeks, the free, the indentured, or the enslaved could participate. The first stage of the initiation was the myèsis (μύησις). The initiate was given the assurance of certain privileges: Hope for a better life, and more particularly protection at sea, and possibly, as at Eleusis, the promise of a happy afterlife.

This is the place of discovery of one of the most famous statues of the Hellenic period by French Consul Charles Champoisea, known as the Victory of Samothrace, or Nike of Samothrace, this statue with its missing arms and head became a source of inspiration for succeeding generations and is a symbol of victory and success. Today the famous statue stands at the head of the Daru staircase in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Recommendations…

(Food is excellent at most tavernas and at very reasonable prices…Goat dishes are a must try…)

  • Accommodation at Agnanti rooms at Therma! Clean, calm, superb view!
  • Delicious food at Karydies! Specializes in goat dishes!
  • Rotisserie Paradise at Profitis Elias for meat lovers!
  • Fish tavern Waves (Kymmata) at Katsabas for fresh fish!
  • “The bridge of the killer” (I gefyra tou fonia)! All day taverna near vathres.
  • Traditional coffee shop at Therma, under the shade of plane trees of vibrant green!
  • Bougatses (pies with cheese, spinach, cream…) for breakfast, from the local bakery at Therma.
  • Take a bath at the healing sources of the village of Therma
  • Visit Chora, the capital of the island, concealed in a natural amphitheatre to hide from pirates. Very well maintained and with lots of small cafes, tavernas and shops.
  • Axierosblog  – History, sites and traditions of the island (edited by 2 local brothers, in Greek).

One thing is for sure…you will leave this island a different person than the one you came as…

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