Paths of Excellence

Paths of Excellence

The Thrace – Greece

The mystic land of Dionysus and Orpheus

The cultural character of Thrace in mythology wants her as a sister to Europe, Libya and Asia. In ancient times, Thrace has been the homeland of prominent mythical and historic figures of the Hellenistic world, such as Dionysus, Orpheus and Aesop, but also Spartacus, Democritus, Diomedes, Protagoras, Leucippus, Eumolp and Oeagrus. Geographically, Thrace coincides with the Northeastern coast of the Mediterranean, and is blessed with a diversity of landscapes marked by noble mountains, legendary rivers, rich woodlands and ample wetlands. During the Ottoman period, Thrace demonstrated a rich cultural diversity, comprised of a colorful mosaic of Greeks, Bulgarians and Turks living side by side without any notable conflict.

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Agriculture has traditionally been the main economic activity in the region. From its mountain to the coast, rural populations engage themselves with diverse forms of agricultural production. This includes animal husbandry, cropping of cereals and vegetables, as wells as the cultivation of an ancient olive grove that extends along the Thracian coast. The exposure of the region to rich marine and river ecosystems has enabled the development of a distinct fishing culture as well. The diversity in altitudes, microclimates and landscapes combined with the high degree of intercultural exchange in a relatively small geographic region, have allowed the development of a unique gastronomic culture that combines Mediterranean, Balkan and Anatolian elements. Not to be missed a visit to the island of Samothrace, the homeland of the Winged Nike.

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The products of Thrace – Greece

Throughout the centuries, Thrace has been – and continues to be – a crossroads of flavors, colors and traditions. Today, the visitor has the chance to indulge into a variety of local delicacies, such as the “pitas” (pies) of the northern mountains, traditionally cured sausages, fragrant grape distillates and seafood that always comes fresh on the same day. Not to mention that the region produces a most valued single varietal extra virgin olive oil, coming from an ancient indigenous variety of olive.

Single varietal “Makri” or “Maronea” extra virgin olive oil

The olive variety of “Makri” or “Maronea” is indigenous to Thrace and represents one of the northest distributions of Olea europaea in the world. Around 400 families are cultivating the ancient olive grove with trees of more than 800 years of age using traditional harvesting and processing methods. The coastal olive grove of Thrace coexists with remnants of prehistoric and archaic sites – such as Maronea, Mesimvria and Makri – which have been cited by Homer in his epical works. What makes this olive grove so special is the fact that it enjoys to both salty and humid winds crossing the Aegean Sea, as well as northern cold winds.

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Olives are harvested from the beginning of December to the middle of January, later than in most areas of Greece and the Mediterranean. The extra virgin olive oil extracted from this special local variety has a very low acidity (usually 0.1 – 0.3%) and blessed with unique organoleptic and quality features. The oil is extracted from olives that are not fully ripe, therefore enjoying a unique emerald green color, high density and the particularly peppery aroma of the freshly crushed fruit, with hints of artichoke scent.

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Olives are pressed in the same day of collection and the oil extracted is mainly destined to the local market. The total output of olive oil of this variety is ca. 1,200 tons in the whole area of Thrace, enjoying a much better price than most extra virgin olive oils. In recent months, a few families are entering schemes for organic certification and opening to new and emerging markets outside Greece.

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