Xanthi: Proudly Typifying Greece’s Wonderful Idiosyncrasies Since 879 AD

Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis, all international trains out of Greece have been canceled until further notice; and after a catastrophic evening of trying to somehow figure out how to take a bus to Skopje on Friday night (subsequently missing all the buses no one told us about, the only buses going to Skopje until Monday), we decided to wait to go to Skopje until the international travel situation had been straightened out.

So, as the result of a totally spontaneous decision, Carrie and I headed to Xanthi instead! Xanthi is a city in Thrace, the northeastern part of Greece. We have been wanting to go there for some time now, as we keep hearing great things about it; so, being unwilling to surrender our weekend of travel fun, we decided that we’d take this chance to go!

One of my very favorite things about Greece as a whole is how idiosyncratic it is. Not only is everyone you meet brimming with personality and character, but the towns themselves are too; and the huge geographical diversity of the country only adds to this vibe. I love this about Greece because, yes, it’s beautiful, and the food is great, and the people are nice, but it will also keep you guessing throughout the duration of your stay. Odd things tend to happen here. All around you on a daily basis, there are mini- or mega-spectacles: heated public arguments, totally bizarre Euro-outfits, loud noises of all kinds and quirky people abound.

As the home to the biggest celebration of Greek Carnival, which will take place in a couple weeks, we should perhaps have been able to guess that Xanthi would be a prime example of these idiosyncrasies. From what we saw, people in Xanthi dress more colorfully than people in Thessaloniki, the shopping ranges from unique-chic to what-other-unmentionables-would-you-like-with-your-boa,-dear-sir?, and many of the buildings seriously look like they are made out of candy.

There are green ones...

Blue-and-white ones...

And even periwinkle ones!

We liked the Old Town best, as it had more of these bizarre little buildings and was a great mixture of quaint and funky. Part of it seems so traditional and quiet.

Xanthi's seemingly normal side.

Like many Old Town sections of Greek towns, people still live in Xanthi's.

Churchgoers leaving the church on Sunday morning, bread in hand.

But other parts are so funky, and pop up out of nowhere! In addition to all the candy-like houses, strange characters and bizarre graffiti, we stumbled upon a city park that also housed several cages of peacocks, bunnies and parakeets. And as a whole, Xanthi’s Old Town is way more colorful than other old towns I have seen in other cities.

A small grocery store in the Old Town.

A classic red Vespa parked outside a home in Xanthi's Old Town.

Taken just outside the Folk Museum.

An Old Town roof, with the modern part of Xanthi distant in the background.

As in most other towns in Greece, stray cats are all over the place in Xanthi. Some are cute, some are scary, and some look like they would rip your face off for the pastry in your hand if you would come just a little closer…

Thank goodness I wasn't holding a pastry at this particular moment in time.

At least one cat is always watching you while you walk around a town in Greece.

Aww.

With Carnival coming up soon, preparations were in full swing! Shops selling costume pieces were everywhere, and had really entertaining displays in their front windows; I saw wigs and boas in more colors than I’ve ever seen in my life this weekend, and I was in a production of the Rocky Horror Show last year!

A store window on the main square of Xanthi.

We also chanced upon a, er, special TV program that was being aired to promote Carnival. Rather, it was so special we assumed it had to be for Carnival! Click here for a short video of said TV special.

Carrie and I had such a great time wandering around this delightfully bizarre little town. We also treated ourselves to a few (ok, more than a few!) culinary delights, in the name of sampling what Xanthi had to offer. Who wouldn’t?

Enjoying a couple hard ciders at a neat little beer house in the Old Town.

My first experience with WILD BOAR. The idea of eating WILD BOAR seems so exotic and exciting I can't help but put it in capitals. It came in a pomegranate sauce with wild rice, a wonderful complement to this utterly massive PILE O' WILD BOAR!

The window of a Turkish sweet shop at which we indulged in some absolutely delicious pastries!

The sweets I purchased: one has a walnut cream in the middle, and the other is pretty classic baklava with pistachios on top!

Even though we didn’t get to go to Skopje yet, we had such a lovely weekend relaxing and puzzling over Xanthi. It made me love this wonderfully quirky little country even more!

Cheers,

Kate

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About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
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