Travel to Western Thrace

Above: Vistonida Lake, Xanthi Prefecture, Thrace

The physical-geographical boundaries of Thrace: the Balkan Mountains, the Rhodope Mountains and the Bosporus. The Rhodope mountain range is highlighted.
Western Thrace in Northern Greece

Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east. The areas it comprises are southeastern Bulgaria (Northern Thrace), northeastern Greece (Western Thrace), and the European part of Turkey (Eastern Thrace). The biggest part of Thrace is part of present-day Bulgaria. In Turkey, it is also called Rumelia.

Here in my posts I will describe a tour through the Greek Western Thrace (from West to East) following somehow the footsteps of Alexander the Great on his way eastwards. I will as well describe some other towns not in Thrace but in Eastern Macedonia, since they will be on your way from Thessaalonica towards Turkey and Istanbul (Greek: Constantinopel).
You can choose to take this route either by train or car.

History of the Thracians

Thracian peltast, 5th–4th century BC
Thracian peltast, 5th–4th century BC

The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting areas including Thrace in Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family.

The first historical record about the Thracians is found in the Iliad, where they are described as allies of the Trojans in the Trojan War against the Greeks.

Archaic period: These Indo-European peoples, while considered barbarian and rural by their refined and urbanized Greek neighbors, had developed advanced forms of music, poetry, industry, and artistic crafts. Aligning themselves in kingdoms and tribes, they never achieved any form of national unity beyond short, dynastic rules at the height of the Greek classical period. Despite Greek colonization in such areas as Byzantium, Apollonia and other cities, the Thracians avoided urban life.

The first Greek colonies in Thrace were founded in the 8th century BC.

Agrianian peltast. This peltast holds three javelins, one in his throwing hand and two in his pelte hand as additional ammunition
Agrianian peltast

Classical period: By the 5th century BC, the Thracian presence was pervasive enough to have made Herodotus call them the second-most numerous people in the part of the world known by him (after the Indians), and potentially the most powerful, if not for their lack of unity. The Thracians in classical times were broken up into a large number of groups and tribes, though a number of powerful Thracian states were organized, such as the Odrysian kingdom of Thrace and the Dacian kingdom of Burebista. A type of soldier of this period called the Peltast probably originated in Thrace.

The ancient languages of these people had already become extinct and their cultural influence was highly reduced due to the repeated barbaric invasions of the Balkans by Celts, Huns, Goths, and Sarmatians, accompanied by hellenization, romanisation and later slavicisation. After they were subjugated by Alexander the Great and consecutively by the Roman Empire, most of the Thracians eventually became hellenized (in the provinces of Thrace) or romanised (in Moesia and Dacia). In the 6th century, some Thraco-Romans and hellenized Thracians (i.e. Byzantines) south of the Danube River made contacts with the invading Slavs and were later eventually slavicised.


The Ethnological Museum of Thrace in Alexandroupolis, Greece
The Ethnological Museum of Thrace in Alexandroupolis

The Ethnological Museum of Thrace was founded with the purpose of preserving historical memory in the wider region of Thrace and is a self-funded organization. Since 1899 it has been operating in Alexandroupolis in a leased, stone-built neoclassical building that dates from 1899.

The Museum is open for the public since October 2002. It was self financed project and at times sponsored by the Stauros Niarhos Foundation and the Ministry of Culture.
Τhe Ethnological Museum of Thrace is a living cell where people can learn about the folk culture and the customs of Thrace, a place that will connect tradition and the memory contained within it with the concerns of modern society.

Ethnological Museum of Thrace
14 Maiou 63, 68 100, Alexandroupolis, Greece
tel: (+30) 2551 036 663   email:
Opening Hours
October to February
Tuesday to Saturday 9:00 – 15:00
Sunday 10:00-15:00
Tuesday, Wednsday 9:00 – 15:00
Thursday, Friday 9:00 – 15:00 & 18:00 – 21:00
Saturday, Sunday 10:00 – 15:00

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