KAVALA – In a country that promises myriad delightful experiences, picturesque Kavala, the second historic port of the Macedonia region, seizes visitors as soon as they arrive. Eyes are immediately drawn from the seashore promenade up the hill dotted with charming houses and delicious tavernas to the Kastro, where on the evening of August 20 there was a feast for the ears: a concert by talented local musicians.
Alas, the ‘Amerikanakia’ who were sadly absent this year would have enjoyed the Hot Dixie Society’s offerings most of all – but the locals loved the group, showering them with applause.
With a lovely crescent moon hovering above, the audience – properly socially-distanced within the Byzantine castle walls that crown the Old Town – were thrilled by American standards including Sweet Georgia Brown, As Time Goes By, Summertime (yay), Autumn Leaves (not yet!), and the poignant Let My People Go.
The group especially loves to play and play with jazz compositions and features Vaso Risou on cello, pianist Paris Tsirtis, and violinist Yannis Keramidis, who established the group as a tribute to his favorite musician, French-Italian violinist Stéphane Grappelli.
The event was part of the Cosmopolis Festival Kavala which was established by the municipality in 2000 to present a variety of events and activities that appealed to all age groups in Northern Greece.
Alkis Zopoglou, a proud ‘Kavalioti’ and musician who this year was appointed the Festival’s first Artistic Director, called it “a celebration of art and music, mutual respect, and participation that brings together artists and citizens.” His mission is to expand the Festival from the four-day event it had been until now to a three-part cultural endeavor throughout the summer and fall.
“The events are held throughout the Old Town that is named Panagia,” named for the church that dominates the area, “in the alleys and narrow streets, yards and crossroads, in other words, we wanted to put on display the beautiful character of the Old Town.”
Consisting of a series of small concerts and activities like an amateur photography contest, the Festival also aims to give boosts to the careers of young artists.
The Festival’s venues include Kavala’s famous tobacco warehouses, some of which have been restored and where many refugees from Thrace and Asia Minor found employment before World War WII.
In a town where history follows you from one end to another like its dazzling Roman-style (but Ottoman-built) aqueduct, there is much to see, learn and ponder, especially the must-see museum of Hellenic Refugees that presents the lives and the plight of families expelled from Asia Minor. And the Diaspora can still come and enjoy it in 2020: The Festival continues in November and early December with classical music presentations. For information, visit: www.cosmopolisfestival.gr.
Less than a half hour away and worth a visit is Philippi, famous for the showdown between Julius Caesar’s assassins, Brutus and Cassius, and his allies, Octavian (later the Emperor Augustus) and Mark Antony. Next to the Roman Forum are the impressive remains of Byzantine churches.