Fam trips are the most marvelous way to get acquainted with a place, especially if the destination is completely new to the visitor.
That was exactly the case for me when Ι was invited to Kilkis and the wider Doirani area.
It was a place completely unknown and I was the lucky one among those Travel Bloggers & journalists who where invited for an amazing three-day trip organized by the Municipality of Kilkis for the cross border project of territorial collaboration between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 2007-2013.
THREE DAYS IN KILKIS
During those past three days Ι had the opportunity to meet fellow travel bloggers. Some of them Ι had not seen for quite a long time while others Ι met for the first time. A group of beautiful people who share the same precious qualities: interesting personalities, great sense of humor and passion for their work. A group sharing new experiences and knowledge. Accompanying us during all those three days was the vice-Mayor of Culture for the Municipality of Kilkis mr.Dimitris Tsantakis -who slowly became the heart of our group- and our guide, the archaeologist and museologist mr. Nick Zacharakis. Under their precious guidance we got acquainted with the area, it’s history, it’s culture, it’s everyday rhythm and the traditions of the locals.
KILKIS THROUGH THE YEARS
The city of Kilkis, as well as the whole wider area, was a place that received the refugees of the early 1900s who also finally stayed in the area. They were Greeks from neighboring countries that found themselves in the center of population exchanges and rooted in this place. They slowly unified with the locals and became a part of this land’s history. They are now living in harmony with the rest of the population but preserve their homeland traditions and pass them on to the next generations. Their associations are very lively and bursting with youngsters eager to learn and participate in the folk dancing groups. If you are lucky enough you will have the chance to enjoy them in one of the many festivals.
AKRITA’S BORDER POST “GREGORIS AFKSEDIOU”
Our first stop in the journey was in the border post of village Akrita, the place where the Cypriot hero Gregoris Afksediou served his military duty and is now used as a historical museum.
The Greek flag was raised on the post’s hight point and through one small opening we could see the mountains and even further away the neighboring country, Skopje.
Ιnside the museum the time stood still. Guns, canteens, uniforms and coins that were used a long time ago traveled us to the past and revived it in front of our eyes.
A bit further away the cemeteries of those who died in the war, Greek and British, stood next to each other.
We were appalled to read on some gravestones that here rested in peace soldiers whose names are known only unto God. People who left their last breath as foreigners in this land without having anyone to recognize them or utter some words of prayer for them. We stood devastated in silence uttering those few words of prayer for those glorious fighters.
“Here lay those who covered the earth in freedom with their bodies while fighting on their rattling tanks”
With these lyrics from D. Solomos, the famous Greek poet, carved on a marble pedestal stands the statue of goddess Niki (Victory). Accompanying the dead greek soldiers to the place of their eternal rest.
MONUMENT IN HONORING MEMORY OF THE DECEASED
About 300 meters west, on top of a hill that is overlooking the lake of Doirani you can find a marble column with two impressive lions, on each side of it. Both symbols of Great Britain. The one is standing calm while the other one appears to be roaring away from the enemy.
From that high point and despite the fog, the lake of Doirani is visible along with some of the Skopje villages.
The lake of Doirani is a very special wetland of unique beauty, rich in vegetation. It also constitutes a natural border line between Greece and Skopje. In this amazing landscape that looked so much like a movie set we slowly walked by the recently renovated museum of the lake. Our cameras – always ready at hand- captivated the amazing light reflected on the water along with the mirroring of the bare tree branches that leaned above them. A flock of birds that would rise to fly away was the only thing to interrupt the sound of silence. Even a beaver that we accidentally stumbled upon during our walk would refuse to interrupt his doings no matter how close we approached.
EATING BY THE LAKE
In the area around the lake are many families that make a living from fishing. Thus we would not pass the opportunity to try the lake’s most famous fish “grivadi” escorted with local wine in one of the restaurants of the area.
Here you can find proudly exhibited the findings of archaeological research that illustrate the cultural history of the area.
You can find the archaeological museum in Outskouni & Regkoukou street,
Tel. number 23410-22477.
Visiting hours 8pm – 3am.
On Mondays and National holidays the museum is closed.
THE HILL OF ST. GEORGE
If your road ever brings you this way do not pass the opportunity to drive up to the hill of St. George. The hill is overlooking the city of Kilkis and the view is astounding.
The Church of St. George is a symbol for the town and it is one of those rare churches in which you will find not one but three saints honored and celebrated: St. George, Saints Anargyri and St. Dimitrios. It was built somewhere between 1830 and 1840, with the use of tufa only and it was luckily rescued from fire in 1913.
THE CAVE OF ST. GEORGE
Inside the same hill you can find the cave of St. George. It extends in two levels that each covers more than 1000 sq. meters of area. It was discovered by accident, as is usually the case, in 1925 and it’s mapping started in 1960.
On the inside of the cave, there are stalagmites and stalactites in various formations and colours. But the most interesting part about this cave is that due to it’s precise humid and climate conditions, it is proven to have therapeutic qualities that can cure asthmatic patients.
Visiting hours: 9pm – 2am, tel. number 23410-20054
In about 2,5 kilometres away from the city centre on top of a hill filled with pines you can find the war museum. We enjoyed a guided tour inside it and had the opportunity to witness the representation of the historical battle of Kilkis – Lahana that took place somewhere in between 19-21 June 1913.
In the museum’s show cases you can find guns, bayonets and authentic soldiers’ uniforms. Among the exhibits, lying in a prominent place, we found the binoculars of Colonel Kampani marked by the very same bullet that killed him. His clock -also there- was stopped at 7 o’ clock.
Kilkis is not only about war, cemeteries, soldier posts and museums though. It is very rich in cultural events, and it also features a botanical park, a horse riding ranch, beautiful hotels and very interesting culinary experiences.
All of these you can read in full detail in this post.
PS. Special thanks to planO2 Consulting firm for planning and organising the fam trip on behalf of the Municipality of Kilkis.