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THASOS



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Thasos - The east and south coasts of the island - The ancient marble quarries

The ancient marble quarries
The eastern border of the headland, stretching from the basilicas to the southern point, is one huge *ancient quarry of fine, white, crystalline marble. Alyki’s marble is slightly less compact than the dolomitic white marble which was quarried in the north of the island and was generally preferred for sculpture; the marble here can sometimes tend towards an off-white or a very pale grey in colour, and as a consequence it was used more for building and decoration. When Seneca mockingly observes the fashion for using Thasian marble to line swimming-pools and baths in houses around Rome (Epistulae LXXXVI), it is the stone from here to which he is referring.
   It is worth persevering—up and down over artificial mounds of accumulated marble debris—to the southern tip of the promontory. The strange and unworldly landscape is testimony to the fact that 200m of the headland have simply vanished and been shipped away in craft to all points of the Greek world and, above all, to Ancient Rome to satisfy her latterly insatiable appetite for fine materials. Over a period of 1,200 years from shortly after 600 bc to after 600 ad, a quantity perhaps approaching one quarter of a million cubic metres of marble have been quarried here. The hill has been cut down to water level, leaving a low barrier of rock at the southern tip to act as breakwater: around the perimeter, loading bays and moorings for the barges are visible at certain points, as are carved slots for the fixing of winching machinery and pulleys. The surface of the whole area is covered with evidence of the stone-cutters’ tools—the striations of the pick and chisel, and the regular perforations of the running drill holes. Only a few column drums and bases have somehow been left behind by accident, everything else has been loaded and shipped. The sea scarcely floods the area and salt easily forms by evaporation of the sea water: the name ‘Alyki’ (related to ‘als’, meaning ‘salt’) probably derives from this.
   At Schi­dia (31km), 1km further west after Alyki, are the ruined remains of a large rectangular tower and ancient farm to the left of the road—further confirming the sense that this protected southern coast of the island saw a ferment of activity and production in ancient times. After a further 1.5km, a track leads 500m uphill to the largest of the preserved Hellenistic towers on the island, just above Thymonia Bay. This is an impressively wide construction, erected at the beginning of the 4th century bc, in carefully alternating bands of thicker and thinner ashlar masonry. It has a diameter of 15m and stands to a height of over 2m. Its purpose will probably have been manifold: protection and supervision of the quarries along this coast; signalling and look-out tower; and garrison post for a small military detachment, all in one.
   At 35km, on a rocky and waterless slope, perched above the sheerest point of the cliff is the monastery of the Archangelos. The original foundation, which was a dependency of the Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, was built in the 13th century over a tiny spring and dedicated to the Archangel Michael. Churches near to the sea with dedications to St Michael (an important protector of mariners) often evolve over the site of pre existing shrines to Poseidon, and it is not impossible that this may be the case here. The existing catholicon at the centre of the complex—whose tiny form seems almost overwhelmed by the modern monastery buildings—was rebuilt from a state of abandonment in 1834. There is now a living community of nuns, and it is possible to hear the offices chanted with particular beauty here.


Thasos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.


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access

Thasos Island, Greece.

Access to the island is by car-ferry from two harbours close to Kavala—(Nea) Péramos to the west, and Keramoti to the east—and from the port of Kavala itself.
   The service from Keramoti is now the most practical and reliable, and is the only one that serves Thasos town/Liménas itself with departures approximately every 90ms (crossing time, 40mins);
   The other connections are all to Prinos Skala which lies 16km to the west of the main town of Liménas. In the summer there are generally 6 car-ferry services (90mins), daily from Kavala to Prinos Skala. All these services are reduced in the winter. The service from Nea Péramos to Prinos Skala runs only April–end Sept and takes c. 75mins: its schedule is currently being renegotiated (2010).
All the above are operated by Thassos Ferries: T. 25930 24001/2, www.thassos-ferries.gr, from whom information on costs and schedules can be obtained. Kavala ("Megas Alexandros") Airport is served by three daily flights from Athens (Olympic Air and Aegean Air lines), and is close (c.10km) to Keramoti for the crossing to Thasos .
Taxi transfer from the airport to Keramoti costs in the region of €10.

Thasos Travel Guide

eating

Thasos Island, Greece.

In Limenas, the Taverna Mouses by the modern harbour has well-prepared local dishes and welcoming hospitality. The plateia of Kazavíti is one of the most picturesque places on the island to dine, though it has recently become popular with tour groups: the family-run Taverna Vassilis on the square takes appropriate care with both food and setting.
At Theologos, both Kleoniki and Stelios serve a variety of good dishes prepared with locally-raised meats. Nowhere especially recommends itself in Liménas but the Taverna Platanaki be side the "old harbour" provides a pleasant setting and a good selection of fish dishes.

 

Thasos Travel Guide

further reading

Thasos Island, Greece.

Yves Grandjean & François Salviat, Guide de Thasos (Paris/Athens 2000)—an exemplary account of the ancient city which will long remain unsuperseded.
Thasos Travel Guide

lodging

Thasos Island, Greece.

In spite of its size, Thasos still has no truly ‘simpatico’ places to stay and little that seems satisfactorily to combine comfort with tastefulness. In the main town of Liménas, the best and most genuine hospitality is offered by the Acropolis Hotel (T. 25930 22488, fax 58118, www.acropolis-hotel.com). At Panaghia is the pleasant Thassos Inn, in a traditional style building (T. 25930 61612, fax 61027); below, at Chrysi Ammoudiá, is the Hotel Dionysos (T. 25930 61822, fax 61823, email: dionyso1@ otenet.gr), an unpretentious and comfortable hotel just above the beaches of Potamiá Bay. All of the above are moderately characterful and of good value, in the medium price range.Thasos Travel Guide

practical info

Thasos Island, Greece.

640 04 Thasos: area 383 sq. km; perimeter 116km; population 13,447; max. altitude 1,206m. Port Authority: 25930 22106 Travel and Information: www.gothassos.comThasos Travel Guide

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