Walking Through History
22 September 2019 | Ormos Eleftheriou - 8,210NM
Lorraine Chapman | Warm and Calm
Just an hour and a half around to the north of the island is Thassos town, our next destination. We moored in the new port which is lots of concrete but secure and sheltered - apart from when the hydrofoil comes in a few times a day! Thassos was a bit late joining the Greek island tourist invasion but it has now caught up and has ferries going back and forth all day. It is full of the same tavernas, tripper boats and tacky souvenir shops selling the same as everywhere else. The crowds are different though - all Eastern Europeans as Thassos is a relatively short journey and only a few miles from the mainland for Bulgarians and the old Yugoslavian countries. The island is beautiful though, mountainous and very green and so we needed to get out of town.
We hired a car and set off to circumnavigate the island which is straightforward with just one road going all the way round and just a few roads leading up to mountain villages. We headed off in an anti-clockwise direction and discovered stunning scenery all the way around with rocky cliffs, turquoise sea and pale green olive groves. The seaside villages were all overdeveloped and so we gave them a miss but we found a couple of beautiful mountain villages with fresh air, forests, lovely views and stunning old houses with stone roofs. We stopped at Giola, a natural rock pool and as we were specifically told we couldn't take our car off tarmac roads, we had a very steep, rocky walk down to the pool which was very impressive in a lovely setting but more than a bit crowded. Our next stop was Alyki, our intended but abandoned anchorage the day before, which is a beautiful small cove blighted with end to end sun beds! There is however an archaeological site on a peninsula with ruins over several periods - a huge Roman sarcophagus, a temple to Apollo from 6C BC and a huge basilica from the first century AD. Very interesting, free and a lovely wander around a beautiful spot. The east coast of Thassos appears to be made entirely of marble which is scattered everywhere and used in very ordinary projects such as edging a road or for breakwaters. There are also huge quarries some of which are still working - we stopped to see one where the colossal face was solid blocks of white marble and huge cubes cut alongside. The mountains of chippings glow white in the sun and are used to gravel gardens! It was a lovely but full on day and we returned the car exhausted!
In started raining in the night! - A boat day mostly on board catching up with chores and a trip to the supermarket when it went off plus a diesel delivery by tanker. The sun was shining again next morning and our final day in Thassos was spent visiting the antiquities around town which were much more extensive than we'd imagined. We started with a visit to the museum and were greeted by an amazing 5m high marble statue in the foyer of a man holding a ram which dated to 600BC making it 2,600 years old! The rest of the museum was interesting and gave us clues as to where else to go. Right next to the museum is the roman agora which is a large area but not a lot left. Next was the ancient port which had a new port built over it but you could see the old port with the bases of round towers on the corners under water beside the new walls - possibly it had sunk in an earthquake. Out on the point we found the remains of a small fortification with an ancient light house in the corner and a new church built in the middle. There was a path going up hill, through pine forest to an amphitheater which was undergoing restoration but we could still see it, plus it had amazing views over town and the port. What an amazing place it must've been to watch a play.
On up the path which was getting steeper and we came to the ancient acropolis of Thassos. There was quite a lot left and it was very atmospheric as the forest was slowly taking over. On up again and we came to the Pytherion temple where the statue in the museum was found. What was left was a huge platform which presumably held an equally huge temple but what was amazing was the walls built with huge blocks around the hill to support it - and again the amazing views. Finally up again to the temple of Pan where little remained apart from a large carved alter and, of course, at the highest point the best views.
What an amazing walk through forests and ruins with fantastic views over turquoise sea, the mainland, islands and port. But it wasn't over. The official route back was back the way we came but that seemed a bit disappointing and we were sure there must be another way! We scrambled down a steep, overgrown, rocky hill and hoped we would find a path at the bottom - which thankfully we eventually did as we had no idea how we would get back up! It wound through an olive grove (in the wrong direction) until we came out onto a track (filled with marble chipping) which wound down the hill back to town where we found yet more ruins - a marble city gate with carvings, a temple to Hercules and a basilica. This had all taken a lot longer than expected as we had no idea there was so much to explore. We'd missed lunch and needless to say had no water with us and so when we reached the port we headed to a taverna for a drink and a yummy late lunch. A great day.