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To Avdira and the place of the real ascension

Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 08 June 2016

Wednesday 08 June, to Avdira and the place of the real ascension

Mosaic in the Baptistry of St. Lydia In the Baptistry of St LydiaToday we will try to find some cultural attractions and keep track of which signs are leading us somewhere and which are not. First we go to the Baptistry of St. Lydia where the village is named after. It is close to our place and we find it without a problem but where is that important font? In this place, the apostle Paul would have baptized the first Christian woman in Europe. Inside the church we see beautiful mosaics that tell stories from Paul's life and a marble baptismal font. But that will probably not be 2000 years old. This baptismal font is nowadays used for the baptism of children, but in the first centuries of Christianity people were completely immersed in a brook, river or lake as their baptism.
The baptistry of St Lydia Icon at the Bapistry of St LydiaOn the site around the church we see a stream, the Zigaktis river, above which pathways have been built. This was a place where the Jews gathered on Saturday, and here Paul held a sermon where women were attending for the first time. Including Lydia and her family who converted to christianity. Even now, adults are still being baptized here by immersion in the river. There is a wonderfully peaceful atmosphere, a nice place to walk around.
Then we look for a prehistoric settlement a little further towards Kavala, the first sign is clearly visible along the road. But after 5 kilometers we still do not see another sign and although we try several sideroads, we eventually give up.
Turret near Akontisma Building in AkontismaWe are now on a nicer route through the mountains than when we take the highway and at an information board about Archaia Akontisma we turn onto a steep road at a hotel complex. Teije gets out, I stay in the car because I have a sore back. We are parked between medieval looking houses and further on we see a temple ruin that looks very modern. When Teije returns, he is approached by a man. I also get out and we get to hear a fantastic story when we ask him after the white temple. He gets excited and begins to tell that a big party is being held tonight. Because, and we probably did not know that yet, because this is the real place where the ascension of Jesus took place and not at all in Israel.
Akontisma, place of the real ascension of Jesus Nets over the river at AkontismaEaster does not always fall on the same date in the Greek Orthodox faith as in Christianity and today or tomorrow, according to their calendar, it is exactly Ascension Day! The man also invites us for the party. But we still want to do a lot today and are probably not around tonight. On the other side of the road is the apostle Mardyris exhibition center, but it is unclear whether this is the apostle who distributes this world news. According to the man, perhaps the apostle himself, the fact about Jesus ascension taking place here has been known for centuries in the village and miracles regularly occur here and appearances of Jesus are seen. He is in any case very enthusiastic and convinced.
A little later he thinks of for what reason we also could be here, namely because of Akontisma. Indeed, we were looking for that. Ah, of course, you are looking for the ancient site, but that is a lot further, that is 3,000 years old and pagan. He wishes us a nice day and repeats his invitation for tonight. When we take a few more pictures and see that the nearby river is covered with nets, we can unfortunately no longer ask him what the reason is, he is nowhere to be seen anymore.
We see a next sign to Archaia Akontisma, but there is a fence around it and there is little to see. Then we follow the signs to the Nestos valley but after the first sign we never see another one. With the following 3 signs it goes the same way, leading nowhere. The reference to Ancient Pistyros does lead somewhere, but also here we only find a closed fence and some remnants behind it. Of the 8 signs we have followed, 5 do not lead anywhere, 2 to closed grounds and 1 to a real place that we could visit.
According to the navigation we have to go straight onNow I have proven that these signs are not to be trusted, don't I? But, Teije says, if we had not been searching for these, we would never have heard this great story about the ascension. Well, I can hardly win from such an incorrigible optimist. A hopeless case he is!
Exactly like he follows the navigation, that wants us to continue for another 1.4 kilometers on this road and then turn left. Well, I would not do it. Fortunately, he listens (this time, because how often we have not been to places where I thought the car would never survive?).
Finally, after about 80 km. We come to Archaia Avdira, the main goal of the day. An ancient Greek city where Demokritos was born, Xerxes and Hippokrates visited and where many beautiful things were found that we saw in the museum the day before yesterday. You can also call it Abdera because the Greeks write the place with a 'b' in it. But nowadays the beta is pronounced as a 'v'. More letters are now pronounced differently than in the past which makes it sometimes difficult to know how to pronounce place names.
Broken pieces of antique Avdira or Abdera Archaeological site Abdera-PolystylonBut just like a few days ago, the fences are closed and there is little to see except for an information board which states that the place is open daily. While we can drive onto the terrain of the Byzantine village of Abdera-Polystylon with our car, between the remnants of the old walls. But there is not much to see there either. In the museum we have received a lot of information about Avdira and the excavations, but it makes little sense to mention all of that without having nice pictures.
But well, it is dry, fairly sunny and nature is beautiful here. We drive to Xanthi to visit the city which we couldn't do the day before yesterday because of the rain. On the way we encounter a strange scene in a village, perhaps some old or modern ritual? A man crawls across the street with a painting or something similar on his back that is being held by a woman. Behind that, a car drives very slowly with a group of people. We drive past it but are very curious afterwards what this could mean. Would it have anything to do with Ascension Day or some pilgrimage?
Street in the old center of Xanthi Neglected houses in old XanthiaIn Xanthi we first take a break at a restaurant and then walk from the modern and busy center to the old center that is built against the mountain. Signs tell us more about the examples of architecture we see and it is a mix of Byzantine and Turkish influences, neoclassical and younger styles. Some houses are very well maintained, but we also see many decaying houses and even some closed and uninhabitable houses. I think it is a beautiful city to walk through.
Neglected houses in old Xanthia Memorial monument for Alexander the GreatThe ancient city of Xanthi is one of the best preserved architectural complexes in Greece, so it is at least promoted. It is true that houses in different styles are intertwined, but not everything has been restored, they should pay some attention to that. That is mainly on the north side of the center.
When we walk back to the car, we pass the Alexander the Great monument, the world conqueror who came from this area (Macedonia) and the people are still very proud of him.
When we drive out of town we come through all the same narrow streets where we just walked, up the mountain until we suddenly leave the highest street and are in the middle of a forest.
A boulder on a mountain roadWe drive from the north via Stavroupoli back to our house but on the way we want to see the Livatidis waterfall which should be very nice. The first sign shows no distance but on the second sign, 4 kilometers further, it says the waterfalls are 16 kilometers away. The road is steep with many hairpin bends but is of good quality, at least,for the first 10 kilometers. However, we suddenly encounter a huge rock in the middle of the road, you do not want to get that one on your car or drive into it in the dark. We try to push it to the side of the road but we cannot move it, the boulder is much too heavy.
Then the road gets worse and a sign indicates that it is still 9 kilometers to go while, according to our calculation, it should still be only 6 kilomteres. And 5 kilometers further we stand in front of a sandy path with the announcement that it is still 4 kilometers to the waterfall. Teije tries to use the Hyundai I10 as an off-road car but after half a kilometer he fortunately gives up. And because he has a very sore foot (walking in Xanthi was already very difficult) and I have sore legs, we give it up al together. Another 3.5 kilometers walk is really not going to work for us, it will be for another time.
If only those signs would be correct...


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