Panagia

Panagia

Panagia

Named after the Virgin Mary who is also the patron saint of the village, Panagia is one of the most picturesque and photogenic villages on the island of Thassos. Located only 10 km from the capital of the island, it is built into the side of the mountain, giving spectacular views to the sea, across the bay, and to the mountains beyond. Natural springs provide this village with pure, clear, ice cold water, they bubble up on the outskirts of the village, run down alongside the narrow streets where one can actually walk and follow the route of the water down. This is a particularly attractive, traditional island community, still maintaining many of the old customs and ways of life.

The village has attracted many visitors both for day trips and as a place to stay on their vacations for many, many years now, and, because it is a year-round community, it is attracting an increasing number of people to live there permanently. The village square is the focal point of the entire village, morning, afternoon and evening, summer and winter, where the locals and visitors gather in the cafés and bars around the fountains, drinking the locally produced ouzo, called tsipouro, passing the time of day, sometimes with important discussions and sometimes with just small talk, teasing each other and creating an atmosphere, a sense of belonging, which is unique to the mountain villages on the island.

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Panagia is the centre of celebrations for the carnival of Dionysos, the God of wine, women and general carousing, which is prepared for many, many weeks in advance, as soon as Epiphany ends. The carnival parades and performances are presented to the local people and to tourists alike on the last Monday before Lent begins. For some first-time visitors the parades, the dances, the performances, and the way that they act them out, can seem inappropriate and shocking, but in the end everybody has fun and participates in the spectacles together with the local people, singing and dancing in the village square and the streets all around. It doesn't really need to be pointed out that many of the participants have already been merry on the local wine for a number of days leading up to carnival! On the day of the carnival itself, wine is made available by the village to all the visitors, and the wine runs freely as the restaurants offer the very tastiest meat dishes to the hundreds of visitors who arrive to take part in this famous and festive occasion.

Historically, Panagia became the capital of the island immediately following the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule in 1821. Most of the village is still the same and retains the old Macedonian model of that period, with narrow streets, turns and twists, and with the balconies of adjacent houses almost touching, so that the inhabitants could escape easily from one house to the other if pirates were to raid the village. These same escape routes were developed also from fear of invasion by the Ottoman Turks, who for many generations had control of the island. This was one of the main reasons why the residents of the original capital of the island, Thassos Town, had abandoned their homes down by the sea, and gone to live in the hills in order to have more security. Alas, the twisting narrow streets prove to make it difficult for cars - although they were absolutely perfect for mules and donkeys! This is why Panagia is a village to be explored on foot.

The patronage of the village saint brings out a marvelous and historically rich culture that is celebrated every summer during the peak of the summer tourist season. Panagia, the Greek name for the Virgin Mary and mother of God, is cheerfully celebrated with a festival and great feast on the 15th of August. Across Greece, this day is know as The Feast of the Assumption, and is the second most important day of the year, second only to Easter. In the village there is a huge celebration, so big that the ring road of Thassos is closed off around the village and you can only make it into Panagia by foot, sometimes having to park up to a kilometre away. People fill the village's main church that is named after the patron saint while numerous visitors, Greeks and foreigners alike, come to the church to pay their respects and to receive the saint's benediction.

Another important feast day celebrated in the village is the festival of St. Panton. She became a saint who was renowned for having restored to life, for a reason as yet unknown, a roasted lamb, and not only that, gave it the most beautiful shades of wool ever known to man. On this day, the women of the village prepare the traditional "koyrbani" from ground wheat and cooked meat in the courtyard of the church, and the faithful offer her this food after the liturgy to her. This very day is also All-Saints Sunday, which commemorates all the Saints of the church who have remained anonymous. This feast day is celebrated on the Sunday following Pentecost.

Panagia, apart from her associations with these important saints from the Orthodox Church, is a very beautiful, very traditional village, with stone houses, their roofs and pathways clad in the local grey slate, narrow winding streets, and the spring waters which cascade down in and amongst the houses - between the pine and the fig trees - tumbling into the fountains in the square, or even lower down the mountainside, where the holidaymakers can quench their thirst. The village square is really picturesque, with a huge plane tree at its centre, and it is here where visitors from all over the world assemble to sit, sip a Greek coffee or a cold beer and to relax and enjoy the most wonderful of Greek pastimes, watching the world go by.

It is from here that one can commence one's walk up to the summit of the Mount of Ipsarion, the tallest peak on Thassos island, and its underground caves, or walk or drive down to the beautiful bay of Golden Beach, which is spread out like a beautiful painting across the whole bay just below the village. The village and its location, nestled into the hills is breathtaking. Panagia village has a unique beauty, and has attracted many Greek and foreign visitors to buy summer or permanent homes here, and it will continue to do so for many years to come.


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