Kavala: Star Of The North
For a country as hallowed as Greece, there’s still a fair few secrets out there. Take the city of Kavala for instance. Located in the north of Greece and close to the Evros natural border, Kavala is a singular oddity, in that it’s flown under the radar despite its obvious charm. What do we mean by charm? Well, if you can find us another town in Greece with a 30 meter high ancient aqueduct spanning 280 metres, we’ll gladly give you the etymology. As it stands (no pun intended), this 16th century structure is what the Acropolis is to Athens.
Funnily enough Kavala does in fact have an acropolis, although the fortification on top isn’t nearly as old as the Parthenon. Or so they say. It’s been rebuilt and destroyed several times along its millennia spanning existence, and even though the actual walls standing now where built by the last invaders sometime in 1425, evidence suggests that earlier iterations of the wall existed for quite some time.
And if its walls you’re into, head down to the pier, rent a bike and explore the coastal road that bends around the city. It’s lined with 7th century BC fortified errrr… walls.
The city is built amphitheatrically on the slopes of Mount Smylovo and the surrounding city is spread out like a fan, adding an extra layer of awesomeness. Divided into the Nea Poli and the Palia Poli, Kavala is something of an amalgam of architectural styles owing to its close proximity to Turkey and the Balkans. One of the most impressive sights is the Imaret hotel. Added during the Ottoman occupation it served as a mosque before it changed hands and served other purposes, finally becoming a boutique hotel.
In addition to the Kamares aqueduct and the Imaret minaret hotel, the city counts with another Ottoman era edifice; the Halil Bey mosque. Although not actually in use, it has been repurposed as an events venue and is a pretty cool spot to hang out.
Other architectural styles can be found in the Panagia district of the city, with many eastern influences and traditional manor houses built in stone, many of which are in renovation mode. These elegant colonial style and neo classical buildings are reminiscent of a by-gone era and a look into the Megali Leschi or the town hall will surely get those memberberries rolling.
Venture slightly out of the city, oh say to the nearby archaeological site of Philippi, and you’ll get a real sense of what the area might’ve looked a few thousand years ago. The city of Philippi was firstly inhabited in 360 BC by Thassian islanders only to be ‘liberated’ by Phillip of Macedon a few years later to claim its name. A fun factoid for those interested in history and the origins of Christianity is that the first ever Christian baptism of a woman in Europe took place right there, and the woman’s name was Lydia. So there’s that.
Kavala’s history can be outlined for you upon entering the ubiquitous museums that scatter this ancient land. If you thought you were getting away with it, think again. The archaeological museum of Kavala ought to help you get to grips with the city’s past.
If you want to get to grips with the city’s present, head down to the promenade and grab yourself a chair along the palm fringed, coast. The newly installed floating pier has invigorated the scene with people and fish. You could do far worse than spend an afternoon munching on the catch of the day and assorted mezes while people watching. I mean, mezes. Come on!