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Soufli (approx. 5.000 inhabitants), is situated on the greek-turkish border (coordinates 41° 11' 31" N, 26° 17' 58" E). The town was founded by refugees, as many other towns all over Greece, by the end of the 18th century when the Balkans were under Ottoman domination. Unforunately, there hasn't been preserved a "city center" from those times, but only several buildings (some of them are presented in my homepage) scattered through the town. Most of them have been restored and nowadays are open to the public for several activities. For example, the Old Custom House, which was erected in 1905 by French architects to be used as a Custom House for goods exported to France, houses the Municipal Library.
The town boasts of two things: The first one is the silk production. Up to the 60's most of the houses were used as cocoon houses in a period of about 60 days for the silkworks. Their architecture was adapted for the sericulture needs. For example, the building that houses the Municipal Museum, was built in about 1880 by craftsmen from Adrianople (Edirne) district for sericulture purposes, since the silkworms simply have ...their special needs in temperature, fresh air and humidity. This building restored to house the Municipal Museum, nevertheless it is still closed to the public. If you are curious to learn what the second thing that the town boasts of is, you have to take a look in the chapter below by the title "Local Gastronomy".
Thanks to a young person's creative ideas and generous financing from the EU, this building was restored in detail to become the most visited place in Soufli and is located in down town area. The owner of the museum is engaged in sericulture and he is specialized in drawing on silk material. The entrance to the Silk Art Museum is free (indeed, that happens in an absolutely private museum), a guide in fluent English always welcomes the visitors and there is much of technology supporting the exhibition. Inside the museum there is a shop for the visitors where several silk fabrics are sold in big variety promising to satisfy any visitors' needs and willingness. All these silk materials are produced at the owner's handicraft, which is also open to the public for those who want to have a look on the weaving techniques and procedure. Photos from the exhibition of the museum you can find in my travel page under the title "Prefecture of Evros" (www.artofsilkmuseum.gr).
The owner of this mansion (Konstantine Kourtidis) was doctor, poet and politician. In 1922 after the liberation of Thrace he was appointed as the first governor of Thrace district. This building was his residence, and several years later his descendants donated it to the Municipality of Soufli. From the architectural aspect the building is a typical balkan style construction with stone and wood. This building, after the restoration, has been converted to Silk Museum that is supervised by Piraeus Bank Cultural Institution (www.piop.gr). In this museum the visitor can learn the history of the sericulture through the centuries, the silkworm breeding process, the variety of silk products and their implementation in everyday life as well as the sericulture development in Soufli and the area around it until the 60's. At last, but not least, in 2012 this museum has been awarded by "Europa Nostra" a "Dedicated Services" prize. Photos from the exhibition of the museum you can find in my travel page under the title "Prefecture of Evros".
Driving for about 38 km south of Soufli on E85 National Road you will reach at Feres. The name of the town comes from the Byzantine ”Viros”, that means “marsh”, because of its’ adjacency to the Delta of Evros. The Ottoman name of the town is “Ferecik”. At that times Feres was a resort place for the Byzantine Emperors and the other aristocratic members of their family. They used to come here for hunting and fishing in the grater area of the Delta of Evros. To that period dates back the church of Our Lady “Kosmosotira”, seen in this photo. The church was part of a fortified monastery complex that contained lodging for the visitors, a nursing home, a school and other charitable installations. Founder of the monastery was Isaac I from the Komnenos dynasty who came here in 1092 B.C. and became a monk. The church was converted to mosque during the Ottoman period and nowadays is a museum. More photos of the church of "Panagia Kosmosotira" you can find under a travelogue of my Alexandroupolis travel page.
Since almost nothing from the Ottoman period has been preserved and while in the 70’s the town was planned and “developed” through a catastrophic urban reconstruction whose consequences can be seen nowadays, there are only a few attractions of the town for the visitor to see. So, one day is enough to visit the Ethnological Museum of Thrace (www.emthrace.org), whose founder Mrs Agelliki Giannakidou is an inspired person and, if you are lucky, you can meet her in the museum and have a little discussion with her. Collections of every day peasant life, local Thracian costumes, liturgical objects and photos of ceremonies and customs of Pomaks (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomaks) are housed in the museum. Photos from the museum’s exhibitions you can find under a travelogue of my Alexandroupolis travel page. Beside this, the Ecclesiastical Museum by the Cathedral of Saint Nicolas, the Catholic Church, that unfortunately is open only during the Mass, the Armenian Orthodox Church dating back to 1818, the Museum of Natural History in the suburb of Maistros, worth a visit. At the end of this exhausting tour the visitor can enjoy a meal with fresh fish in one of the uncountable fish taverns at the waterfront of Alexandroupolis. Tourists who love the sun and swimming will find from June to September several clear watered beaches to swim or those ones who like clubbing will find all year round a bar for a drink and an opportunity to meet the locals.
A visit in Feres can be easily combined with a boat tour to the Delta of Evros for birdwatching purposes. There are two starting points (information centre) for such a boat tour. The first one is at Loutra (a suburb of Alexandroupolis), run by the Evros Regional Unit and the Ministry of Environment and the other one is at Feres, run by the Municipality of Alexandroupolis. In both of them, first you are informed watching a video about the river, the wildlife and the nature and then you get on a bus that transfers you to the “port” of the Delta. Mention that the road that your bus is moving, follows in parallel for a couple of kilometres the river and you are exactly on the Greek-Turkish border. This allows you to watch the Turkish bank of the river. Then you are embarked on a “plava” (fish boat with flat keel) and the “captain” sails you up to the point where the river meets the Aegean Archipelago. At the information centre you can hire a boat with its captain the whole year round. Recommended period of visiting the Delta is April-May, when birds come from Africa and the Middle East, or in September-October when they go back to Africa while others come from Ukraine and Black Sea to hibernate here. A brief, but detailed, text about the avifauna and photos from the Delta of Evros you can find under a travelogue of my Alexandroupolis travel page.
Because of the rural character of the district, local economy was based for several years in cattle breeding. Local gastronomy contains several suggestions of pork meat, beef meat and poultry. Pork meat is preferable during winter time and the poultry and the beef meat all year round. All these kinds of meat can be cooked in many different ways like barbecued chops and steaks, “souvlaki”, roasted in the oven and accompanied by potatoes or rice. What makes pork meat taste different and extraordinary is “babo”, a soup served on Christmas Day. Almost all over the northern part of the country sausages in different tastes from Soufli are very popular. Dehydrating fruits like plums, apricots and figs is a very well known technique by housewifes of Pomaks. Preserving vegetables, as well, like tomatoes, carrots, peppers, cabbage in salt water is another common technique used by them. The preserved vegetables of this technique are the best starters. Beside this, red wine produced by the local farmers in several varieties and tastes is an ideal drink to accompany such a meal. This locally produced wine accompanied for years all the events of the local social life. In almost every restaurant or tavern you can order local wine instead of the standard one.
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