Monday, June 3, 2013

Road trip: Alexandroupolis to Thassos...

31st of May 2013

My partner and I were invited to an Greek-Bulgarian ecotourism forum on Thassos. This is the northernmost island in the Aegean. A last-minute booking got us to the nearest available airport, Alexandroupolis near the Turkish border. (No space on flights were available at the very small airport at Kavalla). Thassos is immediately opposite Kavalla, the most convinient crossing is from the small harbour of Keramoti.

So here was an opportunity for yet another road-trip this month: Alexandroupolis to Keramoti!!
We rented a small car for the day (cost: 60 Euros) and with 20 Euros of gasoline we easily and slowly rode the 165 kms from Alexandropoulis airport to Keramoti. We started the drive at 9:30 and took the 16:15 ferry across to the island.

First stop was a beach. One of the nicest is at Fanari. White sand with many scattered "sea balls"... These are egagropili - or Posidonia sea balls!. Egagropili  (a.k.a. Posidonia spheroids) is a technical term used to describe the spherical agglomerates generated by the progressive disintegration of the fibruous residue which surrounds the rhizome of Posidonia sea grass. Interpreting what these balls are baffled scientists for centuries - and it was discovered quite recently - I think in the 19th century - if I recall correctly. The reason they assume this oval form is due to the wave action along the shore. In the case of Fanari beach there were so many balls washed on the beach that they helped "lift" the low beach dune formations.

Then we visited the very threatened Lake Vistonis (a new dam on the Kompsatos River is in the planning stage...). Its an amazingly huge lake-like lagoon bordered by various saltmarshs and marine lagoons. In the lagoons, on islets, are a couple of churches - one known as Agios Nikolaos. They belong to a Mount Athos monastery. Walking out to this road-side attraction is usually a great birding experience. Not today. Only a few Mediterranean Gulls..But what a beautiful sky!

Lunch stop at Porto Lagos harbour. A Thracian sea-food treat! View to the lonely fishng boat in the harbour; no tourists here.... I know this place well. Back in 1986 and '87 I used to work as a birder volunteer in the pinewood across the harbour - many fond memories. Now the wooden watch tower that the Forestry Service built for us back then is rotted away and in disrepair - but the heron colony seems to be doing well. Porto Lagos is such a frontier village; the "far-off feeling" here is real.

We reached Kermati by the new Highway. This harbour village is right on the Nestos Delta and has a special character: Thassos looms just offshore. The place gives me the feeling of a harbour way to the north, not in the Aegean at all. After leaving the rent-a-car here we step on the ferry for an easy crossing to the emrald islnad. Great views from the ferry but few birds. Just one Mediterranean Shag this time; lots of Yellow-legged Gulls. Its summer in the northern Aegean.

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