The meeting was cordial and warm, it's like we know each other allready for years. We're waiting for my suitcase, his mother is waiting in the hall, and after the introduction we go to Komotini. It is a journey of over three quarters. On the way we talk as though we have years to catch up.
In Komotini we first eat at a local restaurant. The meal was delicious and plentiful, the table was filled with Greek cuisine. I wanted to pay, but Mehmet and his mother disagreed. And if that is clear, you'd better listen. My time would come.
We first brought his mother home and then we drive to his house. We have talked all night and I felt welcome and at home.
Komotini or Komotene, is a city in north-eastern Greece. it is the capital of the periphery of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace and te Rhodope Prefecture.
The Platia of Komotini! (square)
It is also the center of the Rhodope Evros super prefecture. Komotine is the home to the Democritus University of Thrace, founded in 1973. Komotini is home to a sizeable Turkish speaking minority, wich constitutes 50% of the city's population.
In the Ottoman Era, Komotini was known as Gumulcine. Its historical population has included Greeks, Turks, Jews, Armenians, Bulgarians and Pomaks. The city continued to be an important hub connecting the capital city of Constantinople with the European part of the Empire, and grew accordingly. Many monuments in the city today date to this era.
During the first Balkan war, Bulgarian forces captured the city, only to surrender it to the Greek army during the second Balkan war on July 14, 1913. The Treaty of Bucharest, however, handed the city back to Bulgaria. Despite various schemes by Greek inhabitants to avoid Bulgarian occupation, the city was part of Bulgaria until the end of World War 1.
The Platia of Komotini! (square)
In this period, a short-lived independent State, the Republic of Gumuljina, was established in Western Thrace. Komotini, was declared as capital City of that state. In 1919, in the Treaty of Neuilly, Komotini was handed back to Greece, along with the rest of Western Thrace.
The population is quite multilingual for a city of its size and it is made up of local Greeks, Greek refugees from Asia Minor and East Thrace, Muslims of Turkish, Pomak and Romani origins, descendants of refugees who survived the Armenian Genocide, and recent refugees, including Pontic Greeks, from the countries of the former Soviet Union (mainly Georgia, Armenia, ussia and Kazakhstan).
Komotini is, nowadays, a thriving commercial and administrative centre.
It is heavily centralised with the majority of commerce and services based around the historical core of the city. Getting around on foot is therefore very practical. However, traffic can be remarkably heavy due to the daily commute. In the past, a river used to divide Komotini into two parts. In the 1970s, after repeated flooding episodes it was eventually diverted and replaced by the main avenues of the city.
Heart of the City
At the heart of the city lie the evergreen Municipal Central Park and the 15 m-high WW2 Heroes' Memorial, locally known as 'The Sword'. The revamped Central square or Plateia Irinis (Square of Peace) is the focus of a vibrant nightlife boosted by the huge number of students living in the city. The Old commercial centre is very popular with tourists as it houses traditional shops and workshops that have long vanished from other Greek cities. In addition, in the northwestern outskirts of the city (Nea Mosinoupoli) locals and tourists alike flock into a modern shopping plaza: Kosmopolis Park, which houses department stores, shops, supermarkets, a cinema complex, cafés and restaurants.
The area stretching from Kosmopolis to Ifaistos is gradually becoming a retail destination in its own right. Komotini has a various nightlife and we enjoyed it the whole week.