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Karlovassi, Samos Island

Karlovasi is a modern small town situated at the northwestern coast of the island, some 32 kilometers western to the town of Samos. The modern town developed after 1950 when the separate settlements joined together to form the Municipality of Karlovasi; today the town is extended from the plain down to the sea and the port; it is one of the less densely populated towns of Greece, counting some 5.700 permanent residents. The area was settled in 1600. There are three suggestions for the name of the town. Some suggest that it comes from a Turkish expression that means “snowy plain”, which is pretty implausible since snow is very rare in Samos, especially in the plains. According to others, the name is a false pronunciation of the toponym “Kariova”, meaning “a settlement of people from Ikaria”. The suggestion that prevails considers that the name of the town is owed to the owner of the area.

As its name states, Palio (“old”) Karlovasi was the first settlement of the town; it had been established far from the sea to ensure protection from invasions; later on some new settlements were added to form Mesaio (“middle”) Karlovasi, while the port and Ormos were established by the end of the 19th century and are called Neo (“new”) Karlovasi. It is thought that the first settlers of the town were people of Samian origin who returned to the island from Chios where they had found shelter; later on people from the Peloponnese, from Crete and from other parts of Greece came to settle at Karlovasi.

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The town is a considerable commercial and economic center of the island and the locals are living on agriculture, mainly viniculture and olive tree culture, on services and on tourism. Karlovasi is the seat of the Faculty of Mathematics of the University of Aegean. As raw materials for tanning are available on the island, many tanneries had been developed here in the past, which was a source of richness and prosperity. Most of these workshops closed during the World War II and the civil war that followed, whereas the last of them closed more recently due to the diffusion of chemical raw materials.

Karlovasi has a lot of tourist facilities and infrastructure to offer to the visitors. There are many alternatives for accommodation, both within the town and in the area around, offering high quality services. There are also many taverns and restaurants with various dishes. Also, there are many alternatives for entertainment and amusement: music bars and clubs, especially for younger people, play any kind of music, from the local and Greek music to the most updated foreign songs.

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There are many things worth seeing when in Karlovasi: old churches, factories and workshops, mansions and restored big houses, monuments of the past along with modern constructions. The visitor may also see the Folk Museum, housed in and old neoclassic building in Neo Karlovasi which has been renovated. The Museum has many collections of furniture , vessels , utensils, tools and costumes dated in the early 19th century.

The most important churches are the Cathedral, in honor of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, dated in late 19th century, the church of Osia Matrona , also of the 19 th century, with a nice wood carved icon screen and a throne; there are also the churches of Aghios Ioannis Chrysostomos, Aghios Nicolaos (St. Nicolas) and Aghios Spyridon at Neo (“new”) Karlovasi, as well as Timios Stavros (the Holy Cross), Aghia Pelagia, Aghia Marina and Aghios Athanasios at Messaio (“middle”) Karlovasi; finally, at Palaio (“old”) Karlovasi there are the churches of Aghios Ioannis (St. John) at the port, Aghia Triada (Holy Trinity) at the top of the hill, the church of Christos, the church of Eisodia, dedicated to the Presentation of Virgin Mary and the church of Aghios Nicolaos (St. Nicolas). Off the town, at a distance of 20 minutes walking, you will find the small church of Aghios Antonios (St. Anthony) constructed within a cave and the church of Aghios Nicolaos (St. Nicolas). The area has also several monasteries worth seeing: the Byzantine Monastery of Metamorfosis (Transfiguration of Jesus Christ) situated close to the beach of Potami, the Holy Monastery of Aghios Ioannis Theologos (St. John the Theologian) some 3,5 kilometers far from Mesaio Karlovasi to the Southeast and the Monastery of Profetes Ilias (Prophet Elijah), at a distance of 3,5 kilometers southeastern to Neo Karlovasi.

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Apart from the churches, there are several other buildings worth seeing in the town. Don’t miss to see the building of Porfyriadis’ School at Neo Karlovasi; today the building houses the Elementary School and in summer it also houses several cultural events. Several old buildings have been restored and renovated and today are housing various services of the University of Aegean: the Hantzigiannion building constructed in 1903 houses the Library of the Faculty of Mathematics, the ex-Commercial School has been renovated and today houses the Faculty of Mathematics, and the Governor’s Palace houses the offices of the professors. It is also worth visiting the old tanneries at Neo Karlovasi, nice samples of industrial buildings of the 19th century and the pottery workshops both at Neo and at Mesaio Karlovasi.

At the central square of Mesaio Karlovasi you will see the statue of bishop Kyrillos and at the port you may visit the old boat-yard. Don’t miss to take a walk at Old Karlovasi, built on the hill and still retaining the features of the traditional village. Above the Monastery of Metamorfosis you may visit the ruins of the Byzantine castle. Finally, it is certainly worth visiting the area near Potami, a place of breathtaking beauty with falls and current water, lush vegetation and two small lakes; and of course you may pop to the nearby scenic village of Kontakaeika.

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Swimming is possible at the beaches of Ormos and Piake and at the closer ones Megalo and Mikro Seitani.

Several cultural events take place in the town all year round. The Carnival of Samos is famous and takes place on February or March. In summer it is organized the Festival of Samos which bears the name of the famous Greek musician Manolis Kalomoiris whose origin was from the island. Three local religious feasts (“panighyri”) take place at Karlovasi on the feasts of Profetes Ilias, on the 20th of July, on the feast of Metamorfosis (Transfiguration of Jesus Christ) on the 6th of August and on the 15th of August in honor of the Assumption of Virgin Mary.

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In case of emergence a local Medical Center, a pharmacy, a Police Station and a Port Authorities’ Office are available in Karlovasi . There are also a Post Office and a Telecommunication Office.

Access to Karlovasi from the town of Samos is pretty easy by public buses running frequently, as well as by rented or private car and motorbikes. As in Karlovasi it is situated one of the two major ports of the island, the town is also connected with other islands and coastal of Greece.
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