Traditional settlements of Thrace
The area of mountainous Xanthi is perceived through its natural beauty along with its special traditional settlements. The inhabitants of the traditional settlements shaped the everyday way of life strongly connected to the surrounding space, its restrictions and depending also on their habits, customs and traditions. Everywhere in Xanthi’s Prefecture you can find traditional houses, other well preserved other taken down. But the characteristics of traditional architecture can be found concentrated in the small settlements of mountainous Xanthi. We notice five such areas with interesting settlements:
Á. The Kimeria Area with settlements like Anthiro, Askira, Gialistero, Eranos, Livadi, Plagia, Porta, Prioni, Rimi and Hidrohori. All these settlements which are close to the city of Xanthi, are inhabited by Pomaks during the summer. But during winter only bare cattlemen stay. Many of the stone houses of the settlements are preserved in perfect condition and stand harmonically to the natural environment.
Â. The Toxotes Area with settlements like Ageli, Semeli, Petroto, Imera, Livera and Kromniko. In this area there are many differences to the Pomaks’ architecture. Houses are usually bigger and higher and we also meet impressive mansions.
C. The Stavroupoli Area with settlements like Kalithea, Kalo Nero, Kastanitis, Margariti, Kaliva, Kastanoto, Livaditis, Likovouni,, Mirtousa, Palia Paschalia and Sidiropetra and Halepi The Stavroupoli Area enchants the visitor with its combination of the mountainous landscape with the hydro biotope of the Nestos river and the archeological monuments (Macedonian grave, Kaliva and Aeriko towers). So this area has the potential for the development of ecotourism.
D. The Satres Area with settlements like Akreos, Gianohorio, Dourgouti, Theotoko, Kalotiho, Korifi, Korfovounio, Kotani, Koundouros, Likotopos, Poliskio, Rematia and Tsalapetinos. Maybe it is the most “virgin” area of the Prefecture, since you can approach many traditional settlements only by walking.
E. The Miki Area with settlements like Vasilohori, Theotokos, Krios, Orestini, Stasina, Livas, Paneri and Stamatio. These are some of the many Pomak settlements that are around Sminthi, which is the gate to enter if you wish to explore the mountainous area.
The main architectural element of the small settlements of the mountainous Xanthi is the rare building and the development of satellite settlements which communication with each other. Many of them are unfolding along the waterfall of a flow, conditioned to the ground morphology and the needs of every family. Regarding the construction, we could point out that the houses of the mountainous settlements are simple and multifunctional while the phenomenon of longitudinal expansion is very common in order to host related families.
The characteristic house type is the rectangular bi-level one. The building materials that are used for the construction are taken from the surrounding place: wood from the forests, schist from the mountains and rocks from the rivers. Schist slates, tiles, branches or chaff can be used for the roof. The shell, the floors and the roof are made of wood. The gaps of the shell are filled with adobes, broken tiles and chaff. Then they are coated with lime mortar (tsatmas). The separating walls are made of laths with daub (bagdati). The air gap left between the laths has heat-insulating importance. The ground floor was usually used as a stable, while an esoteric stair was leading to the first floor. The stair is bluff and ends in a trapdoor. The semi-basement in south side of the house (hagiati) was a hallway for serving the needs for airing, but it was also used as a space for drying smoke and other rural activities with partial protection from bad weather phenomena. The sahnisi (wooden construction of a close balcony), with many windows, extends and squares the space ensuring more sun, air and view. The inhabitant can check better the front part of the house from the sahnisi.
Many member families lived together at the mountainous settlements of Xanthi’s Prefecture developing special bonds and habits. The everyday life wasn’t much different from one settlement to another. Habitants’ clothing, habits and way of thinking could not turn aside from tradition. The surrounding environment offered the essentials for living: water from the springs, milk and leather from goats, branches and woods for the fireplace. The main activities of the inhabitants were agriculture, cattle breading and woodcutting. The products that were mainly cultivated were: wheat, barley, corn, rye, legume and potatoes. There was low dependency from the economic life of the wider area, excepting a form of commercial contacts between the mountain and plain area. The economic activity was tense during the yearly celebrations and the religious fairs (panigiria).
Many of the traditional settlements of the mountainous Xanthi uncover special interest in visiting by car, foot or making educational visits with the cultural heritage, the mountainous flora and fauna. Because of the restricted passability of most of the forest roads, it is exhausting when using the car on such muddy, frozen or full of holes and rocks roads –especially during winter time. But the visitor is rewarded by the mountainous scape beauty.