With its strategic position, a crossroads of sea and land routes, Alexandroupolis connects Europe and Asia, East to the West. This beautiful seaside city, whose trademark is a Lighthouse, forms the centre of a truly fascinating region.
In the middle of the 19th century, fishermen from Maroneia and Makri established a small village, named “Dede-Agats”, meaning “the tree of the monk”. Tradition has it that it took its name from an oak tree, under the shade of which had preached and been buried a dervish.
In 1871 the little fishers’ village obtained a railway connection and the area became easily accessible by land. If we add the bustling port activity, we can easily understand why the area experienced such a great economic prosperity at that time. Traders and craftsmen settled in the city and consulates of various countries were established bestowing a unique cosmopolitan flair on the city.
In 1878, after the Russo-Turkish Wars, Russian troops settled in the town. The face of Alexandroupolis changed completely over the course of the two following years: the town was laid out; wide roads were constructed while the Lighthouse became its brand new trademark.
In 1855 the town was annexed to Bulgaria and many neoclassic buildings were built; in 1897 the legendary Orient-Express, connecting Thessaloniki to Constantinople, reached the city.
The town was finally liberated by the Bulgarians on May 14th, 1920 and it was given the name “Alexandroupolis” in honour of Alexander the Great, who once had crossed the city while leading Greek troops to Andrianoupolis.
The modern town of Alexandroupolis is the first Greek city to be encountered when crossing the Turkish and the Bulgarian borders. A part of its old fisher village charm evokes the memory of a distant past and the Lighthouse stands proudly casting uninterruptedly its light on the sea for over a century. Another experience not to be missed is the “fish auction” in the local fish market. You can also try go fishing with local fishermen and enjoy your favourite activity while taking in the view to the sea, particularly enchanting when the sun sets. Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll along the waterfront or visit the nearby situated towns of Traianoupoli and Feres, boasting gems like the “Hana” baths, the church of Panagia Kosmosoteira and the Evros Delta.
A tour around the coastal zone between the archaeological sites of Mesimvria Zone and Maroneia stretching out to the small port of Agios Charalambos, a visit to ancient Ismara , to the cave-church of Agioi Theodoroi, to the mines and to the famous villa of Kirki are also a must during your stay in the area.
This fascinating museum, housed in a beautiful neoclassical stone mansion dating from 1899, could be the reason itself for visiting Alexandroupolis. Through your visit you will be acquainted with the folk culture and customs of Thrace as its exhibits cover a period from the 18th century to the 1970’s. Purpose of the museum is to study, project, and promote the Thracian culture. On the Museum’s premises you will also find a sesame-oil pressure and dye-works (for wool, silk, flax, and cotton).
The Evros River is the natural border between Greece and Turkey and between Greece and Bulgaria. The river determined human destiny ever since ancient times. Ancient Greeks considered the Evros as the longest river of the world (as known at those times) although it proved to be the longest only in the Balkan Peninsula. It begins its journey from the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria, flows through mountains, valleys, and plains and debouches into the Thracian Sea. The Delta’s plain has a total surface of 200.000 m2, shared by Greece (150.000) and Turkey alike. The 80.000 m2 of those situated in the Greek territory consist the Ramsar Convention protected area.
The great value of the Evros Delta lies in its rich avifauna: 314 out of the 423 bird species in Greece have been here. The Delta, 11 km wide, is a biotope for nesting birds, large flocks of wintering aquatic birds from the northern regions of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as a gathering and resting place for large migratory bird populations. In addition to the rich avifauna, 46 fish species, 7 amphibian species, 21 reptile species, and over 40 mammal species are to be encountered at the Evros Delta, which also boasts two big lagoons: Drana with a surface of 6.000 m2 and Paloukia (or Kazikli) with a surface of 2.800 m2.
Text by Valy Vaimaki, journalist