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Thrace (Thraki) district, Greece

Thrace (Thraki) travel guide

The periphery of Thrace in Greece otherwise referred to as Greek Thrace (also written - Thraki) is often distinguished as Western Thrace by geographers to differentiate the Greek portion of the large ancient region that is now divided between Greece, Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the east.

The area of Greek Thrace is 8,578 square kilometres where its eastern border with Turkey is formed by the Maritsa River - so called by the Bulgarians which is also called the Evros by Greeks and the Meric by the Turks and which flows southward into the Aegean Sea after flowing eastward across the southern section of Bulgaria. The Nestos River flows from southern Bulgaria defining the regional border between Thrace and Macedonia (not to be confused with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia F.Y.R.O.M. which has made efforts to usurp the history of the area and has assumed the name) to the west however, no major rivers flow through the Greek periphery Thrace itself or Thrace as a whole.

For the most part, northern Thrace is dominated by the southern row of the Rodopi (Rhodopes) Mountains, the largest section of which lie in Bulgaria. Along the shore of the Aegean Sea and along the Maritsa Valley to the east runs the Thracian Plain. This very fertile plain is cut into three parts by natural plateaus extending southward from the Rhodopi mountain range to the Aegean Sea. These three plains of Thrace are the most agriculturally significant area and the region's three provinces Evros, Rodopi and Xanthi are defined by their location – one to each plateau.

The fourth province is actually the island of Smothrace which is about sixty kilometres offshore in the Aegean Sea, off the shores of the Xanthi province. This sparsely populated mountainous island is administered as part of the province of Evros.

The statue that became known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace also known as the Nike of Samothrace, in the 1863 was discovered on the island of Samothrace and constitutes one of the finest works of art ever sculpted in ancient Greece. Like many other national treasures of Greece, it was “removed” from its home by Charles Champoiseau, and is now at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Sadly, a plaster replica stands in the museum which is at the original location of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods.

The abundant water from the Maritsa and its tributaries feeds the plain in Evros, the eastern province, is a traditionally productive agricultural area, highly enriched by the fertile soil of the Maritsa Valley. Rodopi and Xanthi, located on the plains in the other two Thracian provinces, have a rich soil that is especially favorable for tobacco cultivation, a large amount of which is exported.

The only region of Greece in which Muslims were allowed to remain according to the population exchanges prescribed by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 was Thrace. Nowadays the Muslim population is concentrated in the provinces of Xanthi and Rodopi. However most of the region's residents are ethnically Greek and many are descendants of Greek refugees who were resettled in the area during the Greek expatriation phase of the Lausanne agreement.

For visitors to northern Greece, Thrace is a very popular destination and the prefectures of Evros, Xanthi and Rodopi each offer a superb setting for all types of vacations throughout the year whereas Samothrace gives one a taste of the Greek islands although it can hardly be describes as a “party” island. Paying a visit to the island of Samothraki is an excellent way to sample the magic and beauty of the numerous other Greek islands, so it is well worth visiting and provides an excellent chance for enjoying a truly unique day trip, if your time in Greece is subject to limitations.

The historic town of Alexandroupoli (named so by Alexander the Great after a victorious battle against the local tribes) is located in the Evros prefecture, and is today one of the most popular destinations for visitors to this region.

For those who seek holidays away from the congested tourist areas, the general region of Thrace provides a refreshing alternative to the stereotype offered by most. This is a region with strong traditions and natural beauty where your holidays can be precisely how you have been dreaming.

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