President Sakellaropoulou Commemorates Chios Massacre

Chios Massacre
President Sakellaropoulou in Anavatos on the island of Chios. Credit: Presidency GR / Twitter

The President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited the Eastern Aegean island of Chios on Sunday to commemorate the Chios massacre.

The Chios massacre was one of the worst atrocities committed by the Ottoman Turks in the 19th century against the revolted Greek Christian population of the then Empire.

”Today, here in Anavatos of Chios, we honor the memory of the thousands of undefeated martyrs of the terrible massacre committed by the Turks in 1822. We praise the spirit of those who made the island to be reborn at the urging of their compatriot, Adamantios Korais, who said “You recovered and made the paternal land brighter”.

This was the message of President Sakellaropoulou in a Twitter post she uploaded on Sunday afternoon from the heroic island of Chios.

Anavatos was a prosperous village on Chios. It was established in the Byzantine era, probably by workers of the Nea Moni of Chios. The area has been abandoned since the Massacre of Chios in 1822 and subsequently the huge earthquake of 1881.

What was the Chios Massacre?

In March 1822 several hundred armed Greeks from the neighboring island of Samos landed on Chios, as the Greek War of Independence had already begun. They attacked the Ottomans, who retreated to the citadel. Many islanders then decided to join the Greek War of Independence.

However, the vast majority of the population had, by all accounts, not joined other Greeks in their revolt against the Ottoman Empire and had done absolutely nothing to provoke the hideous reprisals.

The Ottomans sent reinforcements to Chios on March 22. On March 31, orders were given to burn down the town, and over the next four months, another estimated 40,000 Turkish troops arrived on the island.

In addition to setting fires, the troops were ordered to kill all infants under three years old, all males 12 years and older, and all females 40 and older, except those willing to convert to Islam.

Tens of thousands of survivors dispersed throughout Europe and became part of what became known as the Chian Diaspora.

The European wave of support toward the Greeks

The massacre shocked the entire Europe and protesters brought attention to the atrocity, with many famous artists dedicating works to this heinous event. The Chios massacre was a turning point, after which the Greek cause for liberty was hailed by every free-thinking individual in the continent.

One of the greatest works of the great French painter Eugene Delacroix was a depiction of the Massacre of Chios, showing all Europeans the horrors and atrocities the Ottomans were responsible for on the island.

Victor Hugo wrote a poem about the massacre as well, while voluntary organizations collected money to support the Greek Revolution with arms and weapons, and many Westerners came to Greece to fight against the Ottomans.

On June 6th, 1822, Konstantinos Kanaris, a native of Chios, finally retaliated. Kanaris, who had somehow survived the massacre, set ablaze a Turkish fleet that had landed in the port of Chios, killing 2,000 Ottomans and destroying all the ships in the port.

Horta: The Many Benefits of These Magical Greek Greens

Horta Greece
Dandelion is one of the most popular Greek horta. Public Domain

Everyone — absolutely everyone — who has a friend or relative from Greece, has heard of the word ”horta.”

Literally translating into English as the humble ”weed,” the meaning of the word horta in the modern Greek language encompasses every green that one could possibly include in their diet.

Many have wondered what ancient Greeks might have thought about plant-based diets. Were they actually vegetarians? Did they even know about the many health benefits of a diet which includes a plethora of greens? Or were the dietary habits of these ancient people actually based more on meat than plants?

Horta as part of the Ancient Greek diet

The vast majority of ancient Greeks were by no means vegetarians or vegans, as people define these terms today.

However, they did appreciate the wide variety of plants and vegetables provided by nature, and they knew just how to take advantage of every single plant that grew in their gardens.

Of course, like every other major western civilization, Greeks not only ate meat but they enjoyed it, as we know from various written sources from that time. Several feasts which took place at different times of the year prominently featured meat, including lamb or pork.

However, one of the main characteristics of ancient Greek life was the concept of ”metron,” what we would describe today as moderation. As far back as the ninth century BC, the Greek historical Hesiod cautioned, “Observe due measure, moderation is best in all things” in his treatise called Works and Days.

In accordance with this precept, the diets of ancient Greeks did indeed include meat, but not as much as we might think, and almost certainly not as much as we consume today.

The Greeks knew that the more meat one eats, the more prone he will be to obesity — and therefore, illness — in the long term. For this reason, their diets tended to be predominantly based on plants.

Vegetables, fruits and legumes formed the basis of every ancient Greek dish, setting the foundations of what we know today as healthy Mediterranean cuisine.

Horta and the case of Pythagoras

However, health and wellbeing was not the only factor which shaped the diet of the ancient Greeks. A little-known fact is that the father of vegetarianism was actually the ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras.

Known across the academic world for his theorems, Pythagoras was also an strong advocate of a non-meat diet.

Rooted in his belief that all animals have souls, Pythagoras and his thousands of followers believed that eating meat is immoral, as this inflicts pain and misery on creatures that have this inner life of the spirit, just as humans do.

In fact, up until the mid-1800s, when the modern vegetarian movement was developed in England and the US, people who did not eat meat were called ”these who follow the Pythagorean diet.”

Some great Greek greens

One of the most prominent examples of a vegetarian dish which has been commonly eaten in Greece for several thousand years is the humble ”Radikia” salad.

This dandelion-green salad incorporates all the benefits that a simple, humble ingredient can offer — when cooked in the right way.

Alternatively known as ”Horta vrasta” (Boiled greens), Radikia salad is made with delicious dandelion greens, traditionally harvested from the backyard with a simple kitchen knife.

Horta Greece
Dandelions, which are rich in many nutrients, are found across Europe and the Americas. They are categorized as flowering plants and belong to the family of Asteraceae. Their scientific name is Taraxacum. Credit: Greg Hume, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia Commons

Seen most often today as a noxious weed, usually rooted out as soon as they rear their head because we want our grass to look immaculate, dandelions were a healthy everyday staple for the ancient Greeks.

Often combined with amaranth, chicory and other greens, ”radikia” greens are well-washed and then boiled before being eaten.

Generously drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice, these greens can serve as the ideal side dish for main courses, or can even be eaten as a healthy snack or dinner by themselves, for those who want to watch their caloric intake.

The many health benefits of horta

It is obvious to us today that a diet rich in greens cannot but benefit anyone who is trying to reduce or even eliminate the amount of meat he or she consumes.

Dishes such as spanakopita (spinach pie), bean stew with greens, spinach with eggs, spanakoriso (spinach risotto), and countless other options can offer nutritional benefits that are almost without number.

Horta Greece
Dandelion green salad, known in Greece as radikia, with its bright accompaniment of fresh lemons.

Take as an example dandelion green salad. Rich in calcium, if this Greek staple is eaten on a regular basis, it can help strengthen bones, reducing the chances of arthritis.

Rich in vitamin C, these humble greens can also protect our immune system, reduce the levels of toxins in our bodies and help us obtain a balance in hydration and electrolyte levels.

Due to their antioxidant elements, a diet based on ancient Greek vegetarian recipes can improve our skin as well.

If used as a remedy, greens such as the dandelion can also prove very helpful in reducing the symptoms of skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis and even acne.

With scores of additional studies proving a series of other amazing health benefits, the greens that Greeks have included in their diets for thousands of years clearly still have a lot of lessons to teach us today.

Regardless of if you are a meat lover, a “flexitarian,” a vegetarian or a vegan, your diet can include so many more healthy choices simply by adding just a few more greens to your plate every day.

So what are you waiting for? Grab some of those delicious greens, some lemons and some great olive oil and make yourself a salad! You won’t be sorry you did, and the benefits are nearly endless.

Coronavirus Death Toll Rises in Greece As Tourist Season Kicks Off

The seafront of Thessaloniki. Credit: Greek Reporter

EODY, Greece’s Public Health Organization announced on Sunday that a total of 50 new coronavirus deaths had been recorded in the country in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll of the pandemic in the country to 11,415.

Additionally, EODY announced that 1,262 new coronavirus infections had been reported in the last twenty-four-hour period.

This is a major decrease from the 1,957 on Saturday and 2,188 people who had been diagnosed on Friday. Since the pandemic began, Greece has confirmed a total of 377,093 infections.

95.2 percent of those who have died in Greece with the COVID-19 infection suffered from an underlying condition and/or were aged 70 or above.

A total of 656 coronavirus patients are now on ventilators in hospitals, down from a total of 661 on Saturday, 677 on Friday, and 707 the day prior. Their median age is 67 years and approximately 82.5 percent suffer from an underlying condition and/or are aged 70 or over. Sixty-two percent of these patients are male.

On a positive note, approximately 2,300 people have been discharged from ICUs in Greece since the pandemic began in the country in February 2020.

Greece hopes for a rebirth of Coronavirus-hit tourism in 2021

Greece’s tourism representatives expect the strengthening of the Greek “brand” during this year’s tourist season, Tourism Minister Harry Theoharis said on Saturday.

“As Greece won the ”health bet” last year, something that was internationally recognized, this year, Greece will once again bet on it,” Theoharis underlined in a statement he made to state-run AMNA news agency on Saturday.

“Greece’s brand,” the minister explained “is strengthened when someone can come to Greece with clear rules that do not change, and when he comes, he finds that everything works perfectly and he returns safely to his country.”

“We are re-opening tourism with safety, health protection but also with professionalism, optimism and will in order to welcome visitors,” Theoharis stressed adding that “Greece offers what people need. Moments of calm and carefree on the road to normalcy.”

Theoharis reiterated this year’s central motto of Greek tourism which is “All You Want is Greece” and referred to Greece’s international campaign accompanied by 5 videos that are already online.

Regarding the quantitative goals of this year, Theoharis pointed out that he will be happy, not with the numbers that Greece will achieve, but with maintaining the quality at all levels.

In any case, he estimated that this year can be significantly better than last year. In view of the increase in tourist flows compared to last year, the minister focused on the unprecedented, as he was characterized it, campaign of promoting Greece abroad, stressing that in England alone, there are 13 advertising campaigns in cooperation with airlines and tour operators.

It is noted that Greece has already opened up its tourism sector both for domestic and international visitors, who wish to visit the country’s thousands of seaside resorts.

With information from AMNA

Giannis Antetokounmpo Reveals Details About His Upcoming Movie

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Credit: NBA

Giannis Antetokounmpo gave a series of interviews to Jim Paschke recently, where he spoke about the upcoming film that is being produced about him and his life journey.

The Greek Freak said that the movie will not be just about his life, but also for his family.

”…about what they went through in order to raise us to become who we are. What they had to do in order for us to put us in a position to have the opportunity to be successful,” Giannis noted.

In the interview with Paschke, Antetokounmpo said a lot about his family, his brothers, and particularly his co-player Thanassis.

”He changes the game with his energy. He will give it his all and do it with a smile,” Antetokounmpo said proudly about his younger brother.

Regarding the upcoming film, the NBA MVP noted that he does not want the film to be about him, scoring points, and getting awards. ”I want them to see our lives,” Giannis said.

”Obviously, I had a great childhood, but it was tough,” the Milwaukee player said.  ”I had to do what I had to do, I had to help my family because we didn’t have money,” he added.

”But, the real heroes are my parents, because they had to do all that a thousand times more,” the Greek player noted emphatically in an emotional moment during this interview.

Talking about the movie, Giannis said that he was ”extremely involved” in the script and the production of the movie. Thus, ”this is authentic.”

”I’m a really authentic person and I want people to see exactly how I was, exactly how I was raised and exactly what we had to do to be in this position today.”

Antetokounmpo also mentioned that because of the fact that this movie ”will always be there” he wants his kids and his grandkids to understand the sacrifices that people had to do ”in order for us to be here.”

The movie about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s life

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Uche Agada will play the role of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Credit: Uche Agada / Instagram

According to recent information reported by the Variety website, newcomer artists will take leading roles in this major production that aims to portray the early years of one of the biggest basketball legends of our times.

Young new actor Uche Agada will most probably portray the role of Antetokounmpo and will walk us through his early years in Greece when the Greek Freak was nothing more than a teenage son of Nigerian immigrants who loved basketball.

This role will be Agada’s first-ever film. The young man went to the audition after seeing a post on Instagram that had an announcement about the open casting call, which was made by Antetokounmpo’s own Twitter profile.

Additionally, the role of Vera, Antetokounmpo’s mother, will be played by 39-year old Nigerian-American actress Yetide Badaki.

Badaki is known for playing Bilquis on the Starz series American Gods.

As for the role of Charles, Antetokounmpo’s father, this will be portrayed by the 32-year old Nigerian actor Dayo Okeniyi, who has been known to the wider public by his roles of Thresh in The Hunger Games and Danny Dyson in Terminator Genisys.

Greece, USA Conduct Joint Military Exercises, Mull Further Cooperation

Greece USA

Greece and the United States of America (USA) have been conducting a joint military exercise since May 8 in Greece.

In the framework of the bilateral Military Cooperation of Greece and the USA, the Bilateral Exercise dubbed “STOLEN CERBERUS” is held, under the planning and control of the Special Warfare Command (DEP) of Greece’s National Defence General Staff GEETHA. The exercises include Free Flying and Jumping Static Belt, dumping supplies on land and sea, low altitude flights, Search – Rescue scenarios and air transport.

On Greece’s behalf, the Special Operations Forces of GEETHA / DEP and C-130 aircraft participate in the Exercise.

On the American side, the 37th Airlift Squadron of the 86th Airlift Wing, from the Ramstein Air Base of Germany with C-130J aircraft, as well as the 57th Rescue personnel Squadron (RQS) from the Aviano Air Base in Italy are taking part in the military exercises.

This Bilateral Co-Training between Greeks and Americans is conducted in the framework of the updated Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) of the two nations and is part of the network of international collaborations of the Greek Armed Forces with friends and allied countries, which are planned and implemented based on GEETHA’s strategic plans.

According to GEETHA, ”The above activity contributes to the increase of the level of operational readiness, combat capability, understanding, exchange of know-how and interoperability in the design and execution of Special Operations and highlights the long-standing cooperation between Greece and the USA in the field of Special Forces.’’

Greece and the USA enhance their alliance

Due to the strong historical, political, cultural, and religious ties between the two nations, Greece and the United States today enjoy excellent diplomatic relations and consider each other a strategic ally.

Modern diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in the 1830s after the Greek War of Independence and are today regarded as cordial.

Greece’s Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos told reporters recently that Athens and Washington will most likely update and enhance their bilateral security pact, something that will bring even more American troops in the region to conduct joint exercises with their Greek counterparts.

Earlier this year, joint military exercises took place between the Special Forces from Greece, Cyprus, and the United States. The exercises were focused on the Mediterranean off the coast of the Souda Bay base on Crete.

The trilateral exercise was just another in the long history of military cooperation between the three countries, which have strengthened their ties as of late.

During the past year, when Mediterranean tensions appeared to be at an all-time high due to the repeated incursions of Turkey into the territorial waters of both Greece and Cyprus, the three countries forged much closer ties than they ever enjoyed before.

Greece and the United States had reaffirmed their excellent bilateral relations and a mutual desire to further deepen cooperation in a series of areas last September in a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Dendias.
The areas discussed were wide-ranging, including defense and security as well as investment, energy, education, and culture, according to a joint statement released after the meeting in Thessaloniki.

Greece’s New Olympic Museum Opens Its Doors

Olympic Museum
The entrance of the Golden Hall complex, where the new Olympic Museum is housed in Athens. Credit: Golden Hall / Facebook

Greece’s newest museum, the Olympic Museum of Athens, opened to the public on Friday. The Museum is housed on the premises of the Golden Hall shopping center in the northern Athenian suburb of Maroussi.

It invites visitors to a unique time journey in the long and splendid history of the Olympic Games, through a chronological narrative, during which the three great main pillars of the Olympic Ideal are highlighted:

The birth of the Olympic games in ancient Olympia, in the Peloponnesian peninsula of ancient Greece; the revival of the contemporary games in Athens in 1896, and the return of the games to their homeland, with the Olympic Games of Athens in 2004.

“We believe that it will support Greece’s contribution in the modern Games. The Athens Olympic Museum is an international museum that showcases the history of the Games highlighting the Hellenic Influence in the formation of the Olympic Movement. There is a special space dedicated to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and of course the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. It will be really worth a visit” IOC member and Hellenic Olympic Committee President Spyros Capralos said recently on the occasion of the opening of the latest museum addition in Greece.

According to the International Society of Olympic Historians, the museum ”is within walking distance of the 2004 Olympic stadium which was named in honor of Louis. It occupies buildings used by television and radio broadcasters during Athens 2004 on a site known as the “Golden Hall”. This complex now also includes a shopping center and an aquarium.”

The museum was built after a government agreement with the Lamda development company, which operates the Golden Hall complex. The Olympic Museum of Athens now forms part of a renovation project of the Olympic Athletic Centre of Athens (OAKA) which formed the main Olympic park in 2004.

The Athens 2004 Summer Olympics

The Olympic Games of Athens in 2004 saw 10,625 athletes compete from 201 countries. There were 301 medal events in 28 different sports. Athens 2004 marked the first time since the 1996 Summer Olympics that all countries with a National Olympic Committee were in attendance and also saw the return of the Olympic Games to the city where they began.

Having previously hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896, Athens became one of only four cities at the time to have hosted the Summer Olympic Games on two occasions together with Paris, London, and Los Angeles.

The 2004 Olympic Games were hailed as “unforgettable dream games” by IOC President Jacques Rogge, and left Athens with a significantly improved infrastructure, including a new airport, ring road, and subway system.

There have been arguments regarding the cost of the 2004 Summer Games and their possible contribution to the 2010–18 Greek government-debt crisis, however, there is little or no evidence for such a correlation.

Gothic Warrior Found Buried in Greece’s Thessaloniki

Gothic Thessaloniki
The arched tombs found in the Christian basilica of Syntrivani in Thessaloniki. Credit: Erricos Maniotis, as seen in Archaeology news network.

A Gothic warrior, who was buried with his weaponry, was found recently in an early Christian basilica in Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Greece.

The extraordinary discovery was made by a group of archaeologists who are working on the three-aisled Christian basilica dating back to the 5th century AD near the Syntrivani station of Thessaloniki’s new metro system, which is under construction.

What is particularly interesting about this discovery is the fact that this is the first discovery of such a burial not only in Thessaloniki but also in the wider region of Roman Macedonia.

The skeleton of the male figure, dating back to the 5th century, was found in the southern part of the Christian church in downtown Thessaloniki, along which remains of weaponry was also found.

One of the most well-preserved of his weapons was an iron sword that was found bent, or ”folded” as described by archaeologist Melina Paisidou. The astonishing part of this discovery was the fact that despite the burial taking place in a Christian basilica, the folded sword is a sign of ancient pagan rituals.

This gives archaeologists evidence that this warrior, despite the fact that most probably embraced Christianity and the Roman customs of the time, did not forget his Gothic roots, as his burial included a custom embedded in pagan tradition.

Paisidou together with the Ph.D. candidate Erricos Maniotis, will soon present the findings of their extraordinary study during the 33rd Scientific Meeting on the Archaeological Project in Macedonia and Thrace (AEMTH). Their study is named “Soldier’s armament from a tomb of the basilica of Sidrivanios.”

The Basilica in Thessaloniki where Gothic warrior was found

According to the official website of the municipality of Thessaloniki, the three-aisled paleochristian basilica was discovered in the west part of the Sintrivani underground station of the city. It was built on the site of an older place of worship from the 4th century AD.

This building also housed a mosaic floor, part of which has been uncovered, showing a vine stalk with birds on its branches, including the mythical “Phoenix”. The mosaic was still visible during the initial phase of use of the basilica.

Thessaloniki grew to be an important trade hub located on the Via Egnatia, the Roman road connecting Byzantium (later Constantinople) with Dyrrhachium (now Durrës in Albania), which facilitated trade between Europe and Asia.

The city became the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia while it kept its privileges but was ruled by a praetor and had a Roman garrison.

Also for a short time in the 1st century BC, Thessaloniki (known in Roman times as Thessalonica) became the capital for all the Greek provinces that were under Roman rule. When the Roman Prefecture of Illyricum was divided between the East and West Roman Empires in 379, Thessaloniki became the capital of the new Prefecture of Illyricum.

15-Year Old From Moscow Creates a Greek Matryoshka Doll

Greek Matryoshka
The Greek Matryoshka dolls. Credit: Katerina Dimidou, Natalia Nicolaou via AMNA

Katerina Dimidou, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives in Moscow, created recently a Matryoshka doll dressed in the colors of a traditional Greek woman.

The creation of this popular Russian doll will take part in the “Mission Matryoshka” exhibition of the Museum of Applied Arts in the Russian capital Moscow, from May 21 to August 1.

There, the Greek girl’s creation will compete alongside other Matryoshka dolls from all of Russia’s regions as well as countries such as Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, and Vietnam.

“Matrioska is a favorite toy and an unforgettable souvenir associated with the Russian tradition. “It is a wooden doll, which charms all people with its beauty” Dimidou told Greece’s AMNA news agency recently.

The Greek Matryoshka is dressed with a traditional female costume from Thessaly named ”Karaguna”. When asked why she chose to dress her Russian doll with a karaguna, the 15-year-old said: ‘I chose it because it is something humble and simple. That is why I chose Karagouna from central Greece; I believe it looks like other women in traditional costumes from Pontus, Crete, Thrace, and Epirus.

The base of her costume that was painted on the doll consists of a shirt decorated with embroidery on the cuffs, around the collar, on the hem, and on the sleeves

With a pleated skirt decorated with embroidery along the leg, the traditional Thessalian vest, a rectangular “lobe” and a belt with a large metal buckle tied around the waist.

On the head, the Greek Matryoshka appears to have a black handkerchief folded diagonally in half, so that the decorative corner hangs from the back. Gold pounds hang on the handkerchief, as well as from other parts of the costume.

What are Matryoshka Dolls?

Matryoshkas are a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. The name matryoshka, literally “little matron”, is a diminutive form of the Russian female first name “Matryona or “Matryosha’’.

A set of matryoshkas consists of a wooden figure, which separates at the middle, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same sort inside, which has, in turn, another figure inside of it, and so on.

The first Russian nested doll set was made in 1890 by woodturning craftsman and woodcarver Vasily Zvyozdochkin from a design by Sergey Malyutin, who was a folk crafts painter at Abramtsevo.

Traditionally the outer layer is a woman, dressed in a sarafan, a long and shapeless traditional Russian peasant jumper dress.

The figures inside may be of any gender; the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby turned from a single piece of wood.

Much of the artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be very elaborate. The dolls often follow a theme; the themes may vary, from fairy tale characters to Soviet leaders.

In the west, matryoshka dolls are often referred to as babushka dolls, babushka meaning “grandmother” or “old woman.”

With information from AMNA

The Spectacular Sandy Beaches of Greece’s Acheloos River

The Valley of the Acheloos River
The Valley of the Acheloos River. Credit:

When it comes to summer in Greece, everyone thinks of the turquoise waters and dazzling, sandy beaches of the Aegean or the Ionian Seas, right?

What would you think if we told you that a river in the very heart of the Greek mainland has its own beautiful, pristine sandy beaches which resemble exotic destinations and attract thousands of people every year?

As if Greece doesn’t have enough spectacular beaches on which to cavort during the summers, it also boasts one of the most beautiful river beaches to be found anywhere in the world. We’re talking about the sandy valley of the Acheloos River, in Western Greece.

The Valley of the Acheloos River

Surrounded by high mountain peaks, in an area which forms the natural border between four Greek counties, the Acheloos Valley creates an amazing and completely unique natural landscape which must be seen to be believed.

The current of the river there slows down as it enters the flat valley, and its waters also become shallow due to the lack of rain during the summer. This causes the sandy banks of the river to turn into proper beaches, where people can go and enjoy their holidays just as if they were on an island somewhere in the Aegean or the Ionian Sea.

A landscape with jaw-dropping white-sand beaches and light blue, crystal clear waters suddenly emerges after the Acheloos River descends from the higher land of the Agrafa, Baltos and Frousia mountains, where the regional units of Aetolia-Acarnania, Arta, Evrytania and Karditsa meet.

Traditional villages, verdant forests, mountain paths, religious monuments and several white-cobbled river beaches offer a range of opportunities for exploration, adventure and relaxation for vacationers in the Acheloos area.

Some areas of the valley even have proper beach bars, water sports facilities, and other amenities, offering the unique opportunity to feel like you’re on the ocean, while you’re completely surrounded by high peaks and thick forests!

Acheloos river.
Acheloos river. Credti: Gwgwzelo/CC BY-SA 4.0

The Acheloos River, or as it is alternatively known, the Achelous, is an approximately 140-mile long river which empties into the Ionian Sea on the west coast of Greece.

The pristine river was even venerated by ancient Greeks as the river god “Achelous.”
The Acheloos crosses most of Western Greece, commencing its journey at magnificent Mount Pindus, 2,000 meters (1.2 miles) above sea level, and forming smaller and larger waterfalls along its meandering way to the Ionian Sea.

The river has its source in the Pindo mountain range, near Mount Lakmos, in Trikala prefecture, at an altitude of approximately 2,295 m. It is one of the longest rivers in Greece.

It is confused with the administrative border between the prefecture of Arta in Epirus and that of Trikala, and then that of Karditsa, in Thessaly. It empties into the Ionian Sea and partly into the Gulf of Patras, via the Messolonghi lagoon, west of the city of the same name.

Exploring the Magical River Cave of Maara in Drama, Greece

Cave of Maara
Aggitis Cave. Credit: Dimikis60/CC BY-SA 4.0

When you arrive at the entrance of the Cave of Maara you will be enchanted by ancient platanus trees lining the Aggitis River. The river cave is located at the southern foot of Mount Falakro, just 25 kilometers from the northern Greek city of Drama.

The cave, which it takes its name from the river which runs through it, is an elongated natural channel which serves as almost the only outlet for the waters collected in the enclosed basin of Kato Nevrokopi.

Angitis source inside the cave
The source of the Angitis, inside the cave. Credits: Neptuul/CC BY-SA 4.0

The riνer begins at the springs at Maara, then crosses the western side of the lowlands, and later, having the waters at Philippi added to it, the Aggitis then pours into the Strymon River. It spans a length of 21 kilometers, which ends at a narrow area, where visitors are able to experience the magic of this cave.

At the present time, more than 8 km (5 miles) of the cave have been explored, but only 2.5 miles of it is accessible to visitors. Visitors can enter the cave from the man-made entrance which has been created, and walk for about half a kilometer into it. Stalactites of various forms, sizes and colors hang above the cave, seeming to reach down to those walking along the bridge spanning the waters.

The magical exploration of the River Cave of Maara in Drama

Once you enter the cave, you will see the Aggitis River flowing through it, while multicolored stalactites in a variety of shapes can be seen creating a magical canopy over the underground waters of the river.

This unique cave is the largest river cave in the world and the only one of its kind in Greece.

Wall of the Aggitis River cave. Credtis: Kladema/CC BY-SA 4.0

Its roof is full of stalactites, some of which have a diameter of 2 meters (6.5 feet) and reach down to touch the surface of the water. Their colors are varied and lovely, with a special iridescence due to the existence of minerals such as manganese, iron and copper.
An area in the cave called the “Acropolis Hall” is especially impressive.

Maras Cave. Credits: DocWoKav/CC BY-SA 4.0

It is the largest single space ever discovered inside a Greek cave, at 120 meters (394 feet) long, 65 meters (213 feet) wide and 45 meters (148 feet) high. Its size, stalactite decorations and the river flowing along it, creating underground banks and rocky formations, making for a truly eerie atmosphere.

Water wheel in Aggitis cave
Water wheel in Aggitis Cave. Credtis: Dorin360/CC BY-SA 4.0

This ancient cave has only recently been explored. The first recorded exploration took place in 1952 by paleologists Yannis and Anna Petrocheilou from the Hellenic Speleological Society. In 1978, more scientific explorations were executed by a team of French speleologists in collaboration with the Hellenic Speleological Society.

Be sure to check out this breathtaking cave while visiting Greece. It is normally open daily, including weekends. Monday to Saturday from 10:30 am to 5 pm and Sundays and Holidays from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm.