"Stunning Thrace" Xanthi by mikey_e
Xanthi Travel Guide: 38 reviews and 140 photos
I had been planning on coming to Xanthi before I actually got on the plane to come to Athens. I read about Thrace and wanted to see the only region of Greece not subject to the "population exchanges" of the 1920s. I didn't, unfortunately, plan the logistics of getting to the town. In a bit of a quandry, I finally decided, while standing in the parking lot of the Sofia bus station, to take the bus from Sofia to Xanthi. It wasn't that hard to make the decision (since most of the trains and busses that I could have taken went in the opposite direction to where I was headed or left at inconvenient times). In the end, it took over seven hours to make it from Sofia to Xanthi, through the sunbaked Macedonian plain and a number of small Greek towns. The trip itself wasn't all that impressive, but that just helped to make my first impression of Xanthi even more remarkable, as the town seemed to be a paradise at the end of a long and sweaty trip.
Xanthi was also a bit of an eye-opener for me. I knew that this was the only region of Greece with indigenous Turkish and Muslim (Pomak) populations, but I never imagined that the three communities would be living in such close quarters, nor mixing at the same cafés. Xanthi is a true testament to those who oppose xenophobes and racists and all the people who claim Muslims are incapable of integrating into European society. Xanthi had a veritable explosion of places of worship: Greek Orthodox Churches, Turkish Mosques, Pomak Mosques, Armenian Orthodox Churches... The city was a truly fascinating place to just sit at a café and observe life as it went by in front of my eyes. Of course, that's not to say there are no problems between the communities, or that everyone lives in equal comfort (there are areas that very much resemble slums and which are inhabited by Roma and Pomaks) but it is nevertheless quite interesting to see what happens when peoples allegedly at war with one another are left to live out of the spotlight of the media and politicians.
Xanthi's streets and buildings mirrored her people: both were pleasant and pretty, always accomodating and friendly for visitors and locals. The town isn't all that isolated, it just happens to be ignored, especially since most foreigners who happen onto it by train or bus are on their way from Thessaloniki or Athens to Istanbul. Even though the town has great restaurants, sweet shops, hotels and cafés, few people from outside of Greece bother to stop here, and that just means that the locals are extra friendly when it comes to foreigners, always willing to accomodate someone who might have a bit of difficulty reading a menu or instructions at the local internet café. Xanthi is by no means cut off from the modern world, though, as the streets near Plateia Kendriki are stuffed with internet cafés and your hotel room is likely to get foreign TV stations. Still, the town provides a nice balance, as you're never more than a few minutes' walk to an 18th century mosque or mystical Greek Orthodox church. Truly, a place to recharge your batteries and your soul, before heading off to hustle and bustle of Greece's largest cities.
Much of Greece is incredibly ethnically and religious homogenous: apart from some small reminders of Armenian or Jewish... more travel advice
The largest mosque in Xanthi is not exactly historic, but it is quite pretty and has a lovely garden on its grounds. It... more travel advice
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