The journey from
airport to Kavala is scenic and pretty, pink and white Oleander lining much of
the main road, and we pass through olive groves and coniferous woodlands. There
are election posters everywhere and the inevitable roadside litter, although it
has to be said that this seems far less of a problem here than, sad to say,
either in beautiful Caucasian Georgia or indeed in the UK where our
litter problem is shameful.
|The castle above the town|
We are heading out Eastwards on the main road which was supposed to have been finished for the 2004 Olympics. It was not: apparently rare local brown bears, archaeological treasures and the mountainous terrain all conspired against timely completion. We drive alongside two vast expanses of water, the freshwater
Lake Koronia and .
This is an important area for passage and overwintering birds. Water pollution is a
problem and the area has some protection status. Lake Volvi
We are told that the Greeks here grow a little of everything; a few chickens, a couple of cows, some sheep, goats, pigs - a sharp contrast to the supposed greater efficiency of large-scale single crop farming which is being promoted.
|the castle and port at night|
As we view the island of Mt Athos to our right, in the shimmering Aegean Sea, we learn about the monks here who inhabit this oldest surviving monastery in the world, where a wealth of unimaginable treasures is preserved for those who follow the monastic life here, other male workers and those few others who are privileged to be given permission to visit, for pilgrimage or study. Access is severely limited and women are never allowed, not, it seems, even cows or chickens! Boat trips can be taken to have a look at the monastery from a respectful distance.
Bright orange roofs on glistening white-washed houses tumble down to the shore at Vrasna. The road then climbs away from the sea again, through large areas of olive groves.
|castle and cruise liner|
Suitably refreshed at a service area where we sample the local almond cake delicacy, courtesy of Mara, we continue through a road tunnel and out again down to the lowlands approaching Kavala. The Island of Thasos is in front of us in the bay, famous for its snow white marble, mostly exported to the Emirates and Germany, and which claims to be even more translucent than the Italian white marble.
Kavala is charming - the old city sits on a peninsular topped by a castle and the acropolis. The Kamares, or "arches", are the trademark of Kavala. A listed monument, this is actually an aqueduct built in 1550 by the Sultan Suleiman II, the Magnificent. It was repaired in the 19th century by Mehmet Ali to serve the water supply needs of the City.
|fishermen mend their nets and share the day's gossip|
Brooding over the whole port today as we arrive is a massive Hellenic Seaways cruise liner - this is a popular tourist port of call for obvious reasons.
Kavala was also the birthplace of Muhammad Ali, founder of the dynasty which ruled
in the 19th and early 20th century, and his house can be seen in the square
just behind our waterfront hotel.
The town owes its prosperity to the tobacco industry, started here at the beginning of the 19th century, and there is a
which recalls the industry's rise
and subsequent decline in the area in the early 20th century. Tobacco used to be a big crop generally here in Tobacco Museum Macedonia - until the advice was given to start growing sunflowers for the oil.
|solar panels - many along the way|
Now a different style of farming is evident - Solar panel farms are cropping up everywhere.
|Kavala at night|
We arrive at our hotel in Kavala in the early evening. It is in the old town fronting the port and after a quick check in and unpacking of essentials there is time for a stroll around this delightful old town. There are tranquil scenes of fishermen sitting around mending their nets, while no doubt sharing the gossip of the day. A row of suntanned women, mostly dressed in black, sit on a bench in the shade, the sun still fierce in spite of the hour. Reflections ripple on the water as just below the surface small fish fry are taking advantage of the day's accumulated detritus from the returning fishing boats. Seagulls are also trying their luck. Houses scramble up the hillside to the citadel. After saying our evening devotional Compline with the group, I sit on my balcony looking down upon the busyness of the cafes and restaurants below which have suddenly come alive. It is lively in a restrained kind of way - and the air is pleasantly warm to sit out. Hard to imagine that winters here can be harsh.