Yesterday & Today
General / location / language / population The Chalkidiki or Halkidiki, as the locals call it, is located between the Thermaic and Strymonian Gulfs wich run out into the Aegean Sea in three like finger-shape headlands. The 3 headlands are called: Kassandra (Pallene), Sithonia (peninsula) and Athos (Agion Oros). Due to its geographical shape, the Chalkidiki is often known abroad as the "3-fingered hand". The Greek residents themselves hardly ever use the term "finger". The three peninsulas Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos are referred to as “feet” instead of “fingers”, with Kassandra being the first foot or finger, Athos the third finger or foot. In Greek mythology, Halkidiki is also known as "Poseidon's trident". Part of northen Greece, to the administrative region of Macedonia. The official language is Greek. The Chalkidiki is one of the 7 regional districts in the northern Greek region, Central Macedonia. The capital is called Polygyros (approx. 6,000 inhabitants). It is located in the middle of the Chalkidiki in the middle of a plateau. This district of Chalkidiki runs from the north to the lakes Volvi and Keronia. In the west, south and east the sea forms the border. The “third finger”, the Holy Mount Athos (2033 m, highest mountain in Chalkidikis) is not one of them. Holy Mount Athos is a Greek Orthodox monastic republic with autonomous status under Greek sovereignty in Greece. A so-called pilgrimage visa is required for the visit, women are generally not allowed in. The Kassandra and Sithonia peninsulas, on the other hand, are part of the Chalkidiki regional district. The district is divided into the municipalities of Aristotelis, Kassandra, Nea Propondida, Polygyros and Sithonia. The total area of Central Macedonia covers around 922 square kilometers and around 105,908 (as of 2011) inhabitants live on this area. In the middle of the district the Cholomondas Mountains rise with 1165 m at the highest point, towards the sea it flattens out. This part of the country is characterized by mixed forests, pine trees and pines. Furthermore there are many olive trees due to the mild Mediterranean climate. Olive trees, tobacco, cotton plants, fig and pomegranate trees there all around the area. Chalkidiki's olive oil is considered one of the best olive oils in Greece. The harvest time of the olive trees is between October and December. Then the whole family with many harvest workers helps to cope with the laborious and physically demanding work. Unfortunately, the hinterland is not as known by the tourists, but it is ideal place for hiking and find some quiet time and peace away from the busy touristic places. Kassandra and Sithonia, on the other hand, are the more popular holiday destinations for many, with Kassandra having the best tourist infrastructure and the most hotels. The coastal regions immediately catch the eye due to the extensive fine sandy beaches, which and the rocky sections of the coast. The "second finger", Sithonia, is mountainous in contrast to Kassandra and is largely characterized by cliffs, which can have many paradisiacal and secluded bays, even in the high season. Porto Koufo, a large natural harbor, is located on the southwestern tip of the island. History Mythology Halkidiki is mentioned in the Greek mythology. One of the most important episodes of the Greek Mythology it happened in the area, the Gigantomachy the great war between the Greek Giants and the Olympian Gods. According to the myth, Kassandra and Athos peninsulas creation are outcome of this historic Gigantomachy. The supreme size and strength of Gods and Giants made them quite capable of throwing boulders, mountains and even whole islands in the course of the combat. One of their leaders was Enceladus, the mighty Giant who made the earth tremble. In the end he was trapped under a mountain thrown at him by Kassandra and he was buried underneath alive. It is said that he has been trying to break free from his grave ever since. Even today in modern Greece every time there is a major earthquake it is reported that “Enceladus has Woken up”. According to the same myth, Athos was a Thracian Giant who during the battle threw a huge boulder against the God of the Sea, Poseidon. However he missed him as the boulder slipped from Athos' hand, fell into the sea and created Mount Athos. As for the Sithonia peninsula owes its name to Sithon, son of the sea god Poseidon. Early period Archaeological excavations in the Petralona Cave, which is located in the western north part of Chalkidiki, showen the presence of life in the area 700,000 years ago by the prehistoric man "Archanthropos" (Archanthropus Europaeus Petraloniensis). The oldest human skull found included in the findings was estimated, by forensic examinations, to be over 200,000 years old. Antiquity Chalkidiki name comes from the numerous cities (polis) that were inhibited the by the people of the Greek Islands, Euboea and Andros under the the leadership of “Chalkis” (8th century BC) The oldest Organized Societies in Chalkidii were founded around the 4th century BC. They were created by Thracian and Pelagic colonies. The city of Olynthos was the most important city of that time. Settlers from southern Hellenic regions set up their settlements by the coast. The polis (city-states) achieved great prosperity by a brisk trade with the neighboring regions. They built magnificent temples in Polis of Afitis, wealthy private properties in Olynthos, commercial centers in Mykivernas, castles and harbors in Toroni, evidence of their prosperity. With the outbreak of the Greek-Persian war in the 5th century BC, the “King Xerxes I” led this bitter war with the intention of conquer the Greek city- states. Cities-states of Chalkidiki were on the line of approach of the King Xerxes I and his army besieged Olynthos and killed many inhabitants of the city. Around 480 BC. the Greeks managed to defeat the Persians at Salmamina. Then the inhabitants of the two big cities Olynthos and Potidea revolted against the Persians and managed to drive them out with their resistance. After the end of the Persian wars, around 478 BC, the cities of Chalkidiki joined the Athens Alliance under the leadership of Athens. This was to protect Greek territories and trade routes from new attacks. However, they left the alliance shortly before the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) and formed an alliance with the city of Potidea. In 348 BC, Chalkidiki became part of the Macedonian kingdom of Philpp II. Aristotle and Alexander the Great Aristotle was born in 384 BC. In ancient Stageira, a village near the east coast of Chalkidiki. At the age of 17 he went to Athens and became a student of the great philosopher Plato, one of the most famous and influential philosophers of all time. After Plato's death, Aristotle influenced many existing and established, but also numerous new teachings and disciplines. Aristotle is considered by many scholars to be the first real scientist in history. He then became the teacher of his son, Alexander the Great, at the request of Philip II. This gave Aristotle almost unlimited resources, which he used to create a library in the Lyceum. Many of his most important books were written there. Many new cities were founded in Chalkidiki under Alexander the Great. The three largest cities of this period include Kassandria (315 BC), Ouranoupolis (315 BC) and Antigoneia (280 BC). Thessaloniki founded that period as well. In 168 BC with the invasion by the Romans led to the decline of the cities. Greece was annexed to the Roman Empire and the large cities went under the control of the Roman merchants. With the division of the empire into western and eastern provinces, the Chalkidiki was part of the eastern province, the later know as Byzantine empire. Modern times In 50 AD this region converted to Christianity. This period was the beginning of a long-lasting disintegration and decline of Greece. Over the next few centuries there were many ruthless and devastating attacks and invasions by the Huns, Goths and Catalans. Large parts of Chalkidiki were under the rule of the Serbs and for a short period of time also under the rules of the Venetians. In 1430 AD the Turks came to the country and replaced the rule of the Venetians. In a few decades they managed to occupied the entire Greek national territory and expand the Ottoman Empire. The freedom of the Greeks was thus a long way off for many centuries. The Turkish occupation lasted for almost 400 years. Despite the massive oppression and enslavement, the region achieved considerable prosperity within the coastal cities through the exploitation of natural resources and wide agriculture. But it was also increased the number of pirate attacks and raids in the area. Wars of Independence It was not until 1821 that the Greeks began to revolt and fight against the occupation with the Greeka revolution under the leadership of Emmanuel Pappas. It was a cruel and merciless war for freedom, in which many residents of Chalkidiki lost their belongings and their lives. It was not until 1912 after the Macedonian War that Chalkidiki was completely liberated from the Turks and was then finally incorporated into the Greek kingdom. At the beginning of the 20th century, Chalkidiki was drawn into the Balkan War. In October 1912 the region was liberated from the occupation. Greece achieved the long-awaited freedom and independence in 1912/1913.. In 1922, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks tried to liberated further Greek from the region in Asia Minor (Anatolia). However, the attempt remained. Unfortunately, the mission was unsuccessful. Turkey did not abandon the attack and responded by conquering the Greek quarter of the city of Smirni (today: Izmir). Over 40,000 residents were murdered in the first few days of the attack and the city was burned to the ground. In Greek history this defeat is referred to as the "Asia Minor Catastrophe". As a result, there was a big wave of Greeks, survived the catastrophe, from this area. Thus the end of Hellenism in Asia Minor had dawned. Many of the survivors ended up in the regions of Chalkidikis and settled there in order to build a new life. In Chalkidiki, you can still identify the origins of the residents in the Asian Minor architecture of the old houses in the village of Nea Fokea. In the years to come, around 30 new villages and small towns such as Nea Moudania, Nea Skioni or Nea Plagia were founded and the region developed into a new boom in economic and cultural terms. Regions Chalkidiki is the second largest peninsula in Greece after the Peloponnese and is part of the Greek region of Macedonia. Chalkidiki is divided into 4 regions. These are The Kassandra region (most popular within the tourists), the Sithonia region (more traditional), the region of Athos (an autonomous monastic republic) and the hinterland (original nature) Kassandra - the first finger Kassandra is located in the west of Chalkidiki and is known as the "first finger" of the peninsula. In terms of landscape, it is the flattest finger of Chalkidikis. This region is the most touristically developed, with the most hotels and vacation rentals. The region is one of the most popular holiday destinations on the Chalkidiki peninsula and attracts thousands of tourists every summer. Crystal clear water and endless sandy beaches in combination with a variety of taverns, bars, shops and the nightlife that Halkidiki offers have made the first finger one of the most famous tourist destinations in Greece. Thats is why Kassandra is particularly recommended for package holidaymakers. The Kassandra region is suitable for a wide range of target groups and is especially loved by families with children. Most of the paradisiacal beaches of Kassandra have clear and gently sloping water and are mostly organized by beach bars or taverns, where loungers and umbrellas can be rented. However, there are still some wild beaches to be discovered on the coast of Kassandra. The regional capital and the airport of Thessaloniki are only approx. 40 km away. To get to Kassandra you have to cross a large bridge over a canal at Nea Potidea. You come across the largest place in Chalkidiki, Nea Moudania, which is at the entrance of the first finger. Sithonia - The second finger The Sithonia region is the middle finger in Halkidiki. It is located between the Kassandra and Athos peninsulas. The second finger is a little more hilly and wilder than the neighboring peninsula. Sithonia is not as developed for tourism like Kassandra is. It is rather wild and natural and is especially suitable for those seeking peace and quiet, nature lovers and hikers. In the middle of the region thee is a small mountain range (817 m) and a coniferous forest called Itamos, on the mountains you can find a small “ghost town” called Parthenonas. There are many wonderful sandy beaches and bays to be discovered in Sithonia. These beautiful bays are bordered by cliffs and mountain ranges, which also offer paradisiacal views. The natural harbor of Porto Koufo is also fascinating, as it is embedded in gigantic cliffs and rocks and attracts everyone's attention. The original and timeless fishing villages and the small charming harbor towns invite you to linger and enjoy. On the east coast of Sithonia, weather permitting, you can catch a wonderful view of the Holy Mount Athos on the third finger, called Athos. On the west side you can also see the Kassandra peninsula on the first finger. Sithonia is a popular destination for individual tourists. There are fewer hotels there. However, a large number of holiday apartments and holiday homes can be found there. It is the originality and naturalness of Sithonia that draws individual travelers there. Just because of the traditional and picturesque villages, their original nature and the mentality and the hospitable nature of the people, a relaxing holiday on Sithonia is worthwhile. Athos / The Monastic Republic - The third finger Athos is the third and last finger of the Chalkidiki and was named after the holy monk mountain Athos (2033 m). It is the highest mountain in Chalkidiki and can be seen from afar. Athos is an autonomous Orthodox monastic republic. Entry is only permitted to a small number of male tourists with advance notice and official approval. Women are not allowed to even enter the monastic republic. The only females allowed on the peninsula, are the chickens and that because the monks cannot do without the eggs. They use the egg yolk for painting, among other things. There are 20 large monasteries on the peninsula that have already been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Of these, 17 monasteries are Greek and the remaining 3 are inhabited by Russian, Bulgarian and Serbian monks. Over 2,000 monks live there together in the monastic state of Athos. Each Monastery is linked to a mother monastery. Even if you cannot enter Athos, you can always marvel at the impressive monasteries from the outside on a boat trip the coast for several hours. The trip then goes to Ouranoupolis, where you can take a break with food and drink. If you are lucky you will be able to see dolphins during the boat trip, depending on the season and the weather. Names of the monasteries on the Athos peninsula: Stavronikita Monastery Simonos Petras Monastery Iviron Monastery Agiou Pavlou Monastery Docheiariou Monastery Xenophontos Monastery Dionysiou Monastery Agiou Panteleimonos Monastery Osiou Grigoriou Monastery Zografou Monastery Koutloumousiou Monastery Great Lavra Monastery Xiropotamou Monastery Karakalou Monastery Pantokratoros Monastery Konstamonitou Monastery Filotheou Monastery Esphigmenou Monastery Helandariou Monastery Vatopedi Monastery The hinterland of Halkidiki The hinterland, the north of Chalkidiki, is also called the “green lung” of Greece, is characterized by large mixed forests of oak and pine trees, while the highest elevation is 1165 m. the Cholomondas Mountains. Towards the sea, the part of the country flattens out significantly. The breathtaking mountainous landscape alternates with agricultural valleys with olive groves and countless variations of local cultivars . At the eastern end of the peninsula there are two lakes (Volvi and Keronia), but they are silting up more and more and sometimes even disappear completely especially during dry years. In contrast to the first two fingers, the hinterland is not as developed for tourism. Nevertheless, with its picturesque nature, the original and enchanting mountain villages, it is a gem for explorers, hikers and those seeking peace and quiet. It is still a small gem of the original Greece. It is definitely worth a visit.