Some 120km southeast of Xánthi, the modern city of ALEXANDHROÚPOLI (Dedeagaç in Turkish) was designed by Russian military architects during the Russo-Turkish war of 1878. The town only became Greek in 1920, when it was renamed after a visit from Greece’s King Alexander. It does not, on first acquaintance, have much to recommend it: a border town and military garrison with Greek holiday-makers competing in summer for limited space in the few hotels and the campsite. There is, however, an excellent museum and a lively seafront promenade. The town also provides access to two excellent birdwatching sites, the nearby Évros Delta and further north the Dhadhiá Forest Reserve. No village nearby is complete without its stork’s nest, dominating the landscape like a watchtower.
Ethnological Museum of Thrace
The excellent Ethnological Museum of Thrace is one of the best of its kind in the country and can easily fill an hour or so. Housed in a tastefully restored Neoclassical mansion, its eye-catching modern displays cover almost every aspect of traditional life in Thrace. For once every ethnic group is covered: Pomaks, Turks, Armenians, Jews and Roma as well as Greeks. Professionally produced videos, with commentaries in Greek only, complement the beautifully lit cabinets. A delightful café, serving local specialities, and a good museum shop complete the picture.
Alexandhroúpoli’s seafront is dominated by the 1880 lighthouse, the town’s symbol; it comes alive at dusk when the locals begin their evening promenade. In summer, café tables spill out onto the road and around the lighthouse; makeshift stalls on the pavements sell pumpkin seeds and grilled sweetcorn as well as pirate DVDs and the like. Looking south, you can usually see the dramatic silhouette of the island of Samothráki, over 40km off the coast.