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SAMOTHRACE is essentially a mountain jutting out from the sea.

The island's landscape is almost brooding and dominated by Mount Fegari ("Moon"), which, at 1,600 meters (1 mile), is the highest summit in the Aegean. Samothrace is home to less than 300 people year round, swelling to more than 2,500 during the summer high season. It is part of the Northern Aegean archipelagos and is northeast of Lemnos and southeast of Thasos. According to Homer, it was from the island of Samothraki (as the island is called in Greek) that Poseidon watched the events of the Trojan War unfold. Scholars believe that the island was first inhabited during the early Bronze Age by settlers from the mainland to the north, which is called Thrace. It is believed that, circa 700 BC, Greek-speaking Aeolians, who came by way of Lesvos, colonized the island and built the city of Samothraki, which in ancient times was an important provincial city-state. The Greek colonists adopted the local religious beliefs of the original inhabitants, and built the impressive Sanctuary of the Great Gods, at the northeastern base of Mt. Fegari. The site became the center of religious worship for the people of ancient Aeolia, Thrace and Macedonia. The local religion was a mix of mysticism, female deities of the earth and verility, and religious traditions of the Thracean mainland. During the Byzantine era, at the height of the Crusades, Samothrace was controlled by the Genoese, who built several fortifications around the island. The island's modern history mirrors that of the rest of the eastern Aegean in that it was then conquered by the Ottomans who maintained tight-fisted control until early in the 20th century. Today Samothraki is a pleasant little island of dense forests and more than its share of medieval ruins and ancient sites. The capital of Samothraki, Chora, with its cobblestone streets and labyrinth-like, open-air bazaar, is located a short 5 km (3 miles) from the main port village of Kamariotissa and the beach community of Pahia Ammos is located 14 km (9 miles) southwest of Kamariotissa. The island is planted with hydrangeas, from top to bottom, and their purple color gives the landscape a pleasant hue. There are good, simple, inexpensive taverns everywhere, and the beaches never get crowded. Altogether, a pleasant, quiet destination.

Reaching Samothrace is a bit of a drag. From the northern port town of Alexandroupoli, there is a hydrofoil that reaches the island in an hour and a regular ferry that gets here in 2.5 hours. From Kavala, the ferry takes 3.5 hours. There is also a ferry from the port of Lavrion, 70 km south of Athens, that reaches Samothrace in 14 hours, after stops in Mytilene, Limnos.

 

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