Evros was a region that had the privilege during the Byzantine era to be located very close to the capital Constantinople. The great cities of the era, Didymoteicho and Pythio were strategically located on the routes that connected Balkans to the capital. Thus, the Byzantine emperors made sure to fortify them in the best way, building towering castles that stand firmly hundreds of years later.
A visit to the Evros castles is enough to convince you of the importance and majesty that they had during their prime. The old Byzantine castles with their churches, towers and towering walls accept visitors by thousands, as they still exude the glory of the past.
Kale Castle is in Didymoteicho, a region with many castles. In the Byzantine Empire, Didymoteicho was an important imilitary, administrative and trade center for many centuries. It is estimated that it was founded in the 6th century while at its peak it became the capital of the Empire twice, in the 14th century. Today, a kilometer long castle wall survives in a very good condition, and in many places its height reaches twelve meters. The 24 towers stand for more than 1000 years. They all carry monograms, inscriptions or symbols from the rulers who built them. Kale Castle is built on a hill and stands out from afar.
To visit it, you start from the central square of Didymoteicho and follow the stone paved road to the entrance. After the entrance you will find a small square and next is the metropolis of Agios Athanasios which was built in 1843. The path then leads you to the heart of the castle and a different era. A little base that looks like an altar has a marble icon of Saint Dimitrios with characteristics of a Thracian horseman as well as an inscription with the name Raul Asanis Palaiologos, a Byzantine prince.
The round tower, the “Koulas of Vasilopoula”, which we see, carries the monogram of Christ and is accompanied by a legend: When the Turks conquered the Castle of Kale, the king’s daughter fell from there and committed suicide, unable to stand it. According to another version, the princess was responsible for the fall of the impregnable castle, and then committed suicide by jumping from the tower onto her white horse.
The central tower is preserved to this day and is an important example of military architecture in Greece. Pythian Castle is built on a low hillside on the outskirts of the modern settlement, 14 kilometers from Didymoteicho. It was founded in the first half of the 14th century because of the internal disputes over the Byzantine throne: John VI Katakouzinos claimed the empire from the legal successor John III Palaiologos and proceeded to build the fortress at this point in order to control the valley of Evros.
When it was built, it consisted of two outbuildings, an exterior and an interior, with towers in each corner, while at the point of joining there were the two central towers that survive to this day. The largest of the towers was the residence of the aspiring emperor and his escort and is a three-story, almost square, with a side length of 15 meters. A built staircase on the east side leads to the floors and the roof. The second, smaller tower of the castle is also almost square, with a side length of about 7.5 meters, and is maintained at a height of 20 meters. The four floors that comprise it are topped by domes.
The castle is located outside the village of Avanta, ten kilometers from Alexandroupolis. The whole area has scattered castles on hills and rocks that allow for the monitoring of the valley and the passage from Rodopi and Komotini. Avanta Castle is also called Boz-Tepe, from the homonymous hill that it was built.
The ruins are not visible at all, unless you approach. Access is from the west side of the hill and lasts about 20 minutes. A grandiose gate is preserved, with two tall towers on both sides and the ramparts of the castle, with the steps leading up there. The view of the entire valley from the embrasures is a perfect justification for its construction at this point. The ruins seen by the visitor date back to the 13th century, although there are findings from the Mycenaean period.
It is also located on the road that connects Alexandroupolis with Avanta. From afar you can see the three impressive medieval towers, which are square and surrounded by a double wall. It is estimated to have been constructed by the Gatelouzos, the Genoese conquerors of the area in the 13th century, on ancient relics of the prehistoric period, followed by the archaic period and the first Byzantine period.