Ouranoupolis is the threshold of Mount
Athos. It is the last village just a kilometre before the border of the Holy
Mountain and where a visitor who intends to visit the monastic state must go to.
Every day, from the small harbour under the shade of the Tower, you will see the
boats which take the pilgrims (after they have previously aquired the visa pass
they will need to enter) to the Monastic Republic.
Ouranoupolis took its name from the Alexandrian city that was founded
in 315 B.C. by Alexarhos, the son of Antipatros and brother of Kassandros. This
city was built on top of the ruins of Sanis
an Andrian colony, which Phillipos the 2nd had previously destroyed from its foundations.
Ancient coins found bring the sign "Ouranio Poleos" meaning city in the sky and
it also had the representation of Ouranio Afrodite seated on a ball on one side
and on the other the sun shining with eight beams.
The first monasteries were founded in the 10th century on the peninsula
of Athos. One of these was also the "Abbey of Zigou" or "Fraggokastro" which was
discovered near Ouranoupolis. In this monastery, Osios Athanassios the Athonite
and founder of Megistis Lavras
practised for some time. This Abbey is still at the stage of excavation from which
important discoveries have been revealed and it possesses the important privilege
of being uniquely positioned outside of the border of Mount Athos, so consequently
it can be visited by women.
In the beginning of 14th century the Abbey
of Vatopedi built the Byzantine Tower that dominates untill today the S.W
end of the village for the protection of the metohi (property). This tower is
the biggest and the best maintained (particularly after its recent restoration
by the 10th Inland Revenue of Byzantine antiquities) in Halkidiki. An earthquake
in the 19th century which completely destroyed the top floor made repairing necessary
and so it then took on its final form. During the same time its accompanying buildings
were built. One of them accomodates nowadays the local municipal office.
After the Asia Minor destruction, refugees from the Marmara
islands in Propontida reached this area and found shelter in the Tower, its accompanying
buildings and in tents. In 1926 a German company built the first houses of the
village, some of which still stand today. Later the residents built the Church,
the School and so began the organised community with the name Prosforion. Later
the village took on the name Pirgos meaning "Tower" and in around 1960, it took
on its final name "Ouranoupolis". In 1928 the Lock couple from Australia came
to the village and connected themselves to the life of the village. They lived
in the tower and in collaboration with the residents who knew the art of carpet
making used drawings copied from monastic codes and put the foundations of a local
manufacture which gave work and income to a lot of families.
The first tourists arrived in the 60th decade . At that time roads
were built, streets in the village were finally completed and last but most important
electricity came. Also the first hotel was built and named Xenia.
Today Ouranoupolis is considered to be one of the most important resorts
in northern Halkidiki. There are many restaurants and Hotels that offer the visitor
good food and a comfortable stay. During the summer months there are daily cruises
to Mount Athos from the harbour of the village. A must for those who choose this
unique and beautiful village and a chance for one to see all the monasteries on
the western side of Athos. One may also enjoy the sea and the beautiful and clean
coasts or go opposite to the islands called Drenia.
For those who love nature, there are lots of walkingpaths through
the olive and pine hills. One may also visit the "Serbian" region on the Northern
side of the peninsula and ofcourse the "Zigou Abbey" just a kilometre
away from the village.
In the village one can visit the exhibition in the Byzantine tower
with Byzantine antiquities and icons. In the souvenir shops you may find famous
hand made carpets with Byzantine drawings, goat hair rugs,Byzantine icons or jewels
made with natural raw materials. You may also find local products such as oil,
wine, honey, raki (tsipouro), oregano and various teas. In the evenings you may
dine in one of the picturesque taverns,taste the fresh fish and enjoy carefree
moments. One might also be lucky and be in the area when cultural events and religious
holidays take place.
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