RODOPI - CULTURAL AURA
The prefecture of Rodopi borders Bulgaria, Xanthi, Evros and the Thracian Sea. The capital of the prefecture is Komotini, which is the seat of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Today it is a city that combines the European and Eastern elements in its architecture, tradition, culture and people. The natural wealth of the Rhodope region is incalculable with an invaluable ecosystem of the Balkan Peninsula and the most interesting regions of Europe. Komotini is a modern city, characterized as a city of contrasts with large squares, quite green and is a crossroads, where the past and the present coexist uniquely. The biggest advantage of Komotini is the intense nightlife because of the many students. It is a world that moves between the West and the East, since there the Muslim element has a strong presence.
A trademark of Komotini, the Clock Tower, which is a sample of Ottoman modernization. Behind the tower rises the minaret of the Yeni Mosque, from the balcony of which the muezzin invites the followers of Islam to prayer. Irini Square in Komotini is considered the soul of the city where one can find shops and nightclubs. The tower is adjacent to the mausoleum of Fatma Hanum, the wife of Vizier Hassan Pasha with neoclassical elements. Imaret is one of the oldest Ottoman monuments in Europe dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries with letters of the Cyrillic alphabet still preserved on the arch door. The Folklore Museum is housed in the mansion Peidi, since 1962 with exhibits consisting of traditional costumes, embroidery, construction, agricultural tools, tools of traditional professions and household items.
The archeological museum in the city center has exhibits from the Neolithic to the Byzantine period, the Iron Age, from Greek colonies, sanctuaries, Roman settlements and cemeteries. The city of ancient Maronia was founded by Chios in the 7th century BC. and its wall exceeded 10 km. Democritus University, one of the well-known universities in the country, has departments in Komotini, Xanthi, Alexandroupoli and Orestiada. The Basket Knitting Museum, the only museum of its kind, presents styles and baskets from the Aimos Peninsula, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Argentina, Syria and other countries. They are made with special ways of knitting and different materials and tools. In Nymfaia, north of Komotini, dominates the Forest accompanied by the homonymous Byzantine castle. It is a natural balcony, from where the visitor enjoys a rare view and beauty.
The traditional settlement of Maronia with attractions such as the Cave of the Cyclops, the wetland of Ismarida and Ancient Ergani is an important destination. Lake Ismarida takes its name from Mount Ismaros, and together with the complex of smaller lakes, they create a zone that hosts a significant number of bird species. A total of 190 species of birds find refuge in the lake. Apart from the rich fauna, it also has a rich flora as half of the lake is covered with water lilies and reeds. In the valley of the river Kompsatos near Iasmos, the wild horses of Astraia find shelter, a breed that is protected and their uniqueness lies in their very strong legs and in their height, which is a little smaller than usual. Kompsatos is the most important river in the prefecture whose sources are located in the prefecture. Its estuary is in Lake Vistonida where together they form one of the most important habitats in Greece, which is a breeding ground for several species of birds. Mount Frakto is a natural monument and the only virgin forest in the country as there,has been no human intervention for five centuries. Among the dense vegetation live 32 species of mammals and other rare protected species.
In the heart of the forest there are three impressive waterfalls of Achladorema where visitors can hike the trails, visit the abandoned settlements and walk in the plains, a geological phenomenon. On the border with Bulgaria, the Forest Drymos, also known as Haidos, is an impressive forest with age-old beeches that exceed 30 meters in height that has been designated a "Monument of Nature". Near the village of Arogi there is the lagoon of Xirolimni where a strip of sand separates the lagoon from the sea and is a habitat for many species of birds. Polyanthos is a picturesque but above all historical village with the bridge of Polyanthos over the river Kosinthos from the 17th century and the Byzantine Castle, which has a height of 250 meters built on a hill. Karydia is a traditional Thracian village with the characteristic church of the Transfiguration of the Savior built in 1868.
Papikio Oros, an important Byzantine monastic center, is suitable for mountaineering, hiking with unique routes and horseback riding with the help of instructors. The wetlands on Lake Vistonida and the lagoons of the prefecture are suitable for bird watching. The settlement of Fanari, has an organized beach where its shallow and clear waters make it ideal for young children. Arogi is a continuation of Fanari beach, and is organized with sunbeds and umbrellas. The beach of Profitis Ilias with the chapel on the hill overlooking the Thracian Sea is quiet and crowded. Synaxi 14 km from Maronia is a choice for those who want to enjoy a quiet and secluded bath. Plataniti beach 4 km from Maronia is paved with sand and pebbles. Imerou is two km long and at its borders begins a small forest that offers shade. Mesis has a sandy beach and crystal clear waters. Marmaritsa, almost hidden in the rocks, has an impressive natural beauty for those who love tranquility. Kageles beach is paved with quite thick pebbles and has a beach volleyball court.
The cuisine of Rodopi includes elements and recipes not only from Thrace, but also from Pontus, Eastern Romylia, Cappadocia, Armenia, Turkey, the Sarakatsani, the Pomaks and the Roma. Some of the most famous dishes are tas-kebab, grilled eggplant, pork with pickles, bamboo (Christmas food), manti and tanosour. The area is very rich in local products, many of which are perhaps unique such as kavourmas and pastourmas. From sweets saragli, hanum burek (with cream), kataifi, seker pare and kazan dipi. The unique accompaniment is the famous Maronite wines while everywhere there are Turkish delights of all flavors such as soutzouk Turkish delights with a coating of coconut or sesame, plain halva or with pistachio and candies. It is also worth trying the straws soft and fluffy as a dessert, all kinds of nuts and Greek freshly roasted coffee. Among others, products such as oil, olives, pasta, honey, legume jams, pomegranates, aromatic plants and traditional pie stand out.