Skala Maries and Maries settlement
Skala Maries is a cute little town positioned in the southwest of the island, about 35km from Limenas and 6km from Limenaria. With village Maries, fifteen kilometers into the interior of the island, Skala Maries makes a whole.
According to tradition, there are two versions of how the village and harbor Maries got their name. The first version is that these places are named after a particular type of mulberry, which is called "Mouries", which is particularly prevalent in the area. Another version is that the places are named after two women called Mary, and were the only ones of the entire population who survived the attack of pirates.
The village and harbor Maries are closely related to the Holy Mountain. Many monks from Mount Athos Many monks from Mount Athos originate from these places. Also, three Greek monasteries on Mount Athos (Stavronikita, Karakallou and Xiropotamou) are even today the owners of the land in this area.
Skala Maries is the only place on the coast that hasn't been affected by tourism. Houses have retained their authentic look, they're old, huddled together, and the streets are very narrow. Today, about 200 residents live here, mostly engaged in fishing, producing honey and olive oil. The accommodation capacity is not large, and among other facilities necessary for tourists there are a small supermarket, bakery, pharmacy, 5-6 taverns, internet club, playground and promenade.
Although Italians do not visit Thassos massively like before, they still visit Skala Maries, usually in August during their collective vacation (feragosto). They even leave their boats in the courtyards over the year, to use them during the summer.
At the entrance to Skala Maries, on the left, under the highway, there is Atspas beach (also called Sugar beach). This little beach is very beautiful if it's not crowded (in June and September). During July and August is crowded. Sea is crystal clear, and a shoal is very long. There are umbrellas and sunbeds for hire. Behind is a net for beach volley, and cars are parked right next to the beach. Since the vibe is somehow always nice on this beach, people easily come in contact with each other, and good company for volleyball is quickly found. The beach is characterized by the fact that octopuses live among the surrounding rocks, and starfish can be seen in water.
City beach is in the center of Skala Maries. It's small and pebbly beach with crystal clear water. It's never crowded. Near the beach there are several restaurants that with excellent fish specialties.
Platanas beach is at the end of the village. Sand on it is so fine, it looks like a sludge. That is why the water is not clear, but almost always blurred.
Large, old-fashioned lanterns with benches under are placed along the promenade in Skala Maries, making it very romantic place in the evening. At the beginning of the promenade, on a rock, there is a small statue of the Virgin Mary. People say that a few years ago an Italian child has drowned in this area, so before they returned to Italy, the parents placed the statue to take care of their deceased child.
At about 13 kilometers from Skala Maries, near the Maries village, there's monastery of the Dormition of the Virgin (Monastery Panagouda). The monastery is built on a beautiful site, in an olive grove, beside the mountain spring of water that have always been believed to have the power to heal. There's an interesting story about the construction of the monastery. During Turkish Empire, the local population were forbidden to build churches. However, in 1814 the people of this region have gathered and asked the Turks to allow them to build a place of worship. Turks gave them permission, but only if the work is completed in one day. The next day all the people from this area got together and built a church in one day. They called it Panagia (Virgin). Today it is a part of the monastery that keeps especially valuable icon of the Holy Mother of God, that got there, no one knows how. Thousands of pilgrims each year come to this place and pray to the Mother of God for the benefit of themselves and their families.
The monastery is open for visitors from 9:00-14:00 and from 17:00-20:00, local time. Since it is a male monastery, only father Epifanios lives here, and greets the faithful ones.
Village of Maries can be reached by road from Skala Maries and Limenaria. It's situated at 200 meters above sea level, and it has about 700 inhabitants mainly engaged in cattle breeding and beekeeping. Tourists visit this village in passing, during a visit to the Monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God or on their way to Jena (Genna) lake, located a few kilometers further.