Sidirokastro (Greek: Σιδηρόκαστρο, Bulgarian: Валовища, Valovishta, Turkish: Demirhisar) is a town and a former municipality in the Serres peripheral unit, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Sintiki, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It is built near the fertile valley of the river Strymonas, on the bank of the Krousovitis River. Sidirokastro is situated on the European route E79 and the main road from northern Greece (Thessaloniki) to Bulgaria. It has interesting sights, such as the medieval stone castle, Byzantine ruins, natural spas and beautiful nature.
Sidirokastro is located 25 km to the northwest of the town of Serres, between the Vrontou and Angistro mountains (to the north) and the river Strymonas (to the west). According to the 2001 census, the municipality's population is 10,598 and its total area is approximately 50,000 acres (197 km²). The town is crossed by the Krousovitis River, one of the Strymonas' tributaries, which divides the town into two sections. These sections are connected by two bridges: Stavrou and Kalkani. The landscape is made even prettier thanks to the Maimouda rivulet and its miniature bridges. Sidirokastro's population is a blend of indigenous people and descendants of the early 20th century waves of refugees from Asia Minor (people who sought asylum in Greece from the wars and conflicts of that period). Sidirokastro took in refugees from Melnik in 1913; from East Thrace (European Turkey) after the 1922 onslaught that followed the Greco-Turkish Wars in Asia Minor; from Pontus, Vlachs and people from all over Greece. The Kerkini, Angistro and Orvilos mountain ranges form natural boundaries of the greater area and of Greece with neighbouring Balkan countries. The area around Sidirokastro is rich in minerals (marble, lignite, manganese, copper, pyromorphite, iron, chromite, dolomite, uranium) and geothermal springs.
Sidirokastro's history reaches a long way back in time. There are Palaeolithic ruins here, and references to the area are found in Homer and Herodotus. Its ancient inhabitants migrated to Sidirokastro from the island of Limnos. The area's first inhabitants were of the Sintian tribe, after which Sintiki Province is named. Sintiki is one of the provinces of the Serres Prefecture, of which Sidirokastro is the capital.
On September 20, 1383, Sidirokastro was overtaken by Ottoman forces and remained under their rule for 529 years. Its name was changed to "Demir Hisar" (Also called "Timurhisar"). Demirhisar was kaza centre in Serez sanjak of Selanik Province before Balkan Wars. In 1912, Sidirokastro was captured by the Bulgarians under general Georgi Todorov, but some months latter it came under Greek control when the Balkan Wars ended. In 1915, during World War I, it came under the control of the Central Powers, but it remained part of the Greek state when the war ended (1918). In April 1941, after the surrender of the Roupel stronghold and the German army's invasion of Greece, the Bulgarian army occupied Sidirokastro, as part of the triple Axis occupation of Greece. The Bulgarians left in 1944 with the rest of the retreating Axis powers.
There are quite interesting sights to be found in Sidirokastro, such as the ruins of the Byzantine castle, the Agios Dimitrios church that is carved in rock, and the quaint bridges over the Krousovitis River.
The Issari Fort, built by Emperor Basil II. Standing 155 metres tall, it towers over the town's northwest side. The town owes its name to this fort: "Sidirokastro" means "iron castle" in Greek, as does "Demir Issar" in Turkish.
The beautiful wetland habitat of the artificial lake Kerkini, created by a dam on the Strymonas River. This singular habitat, protected by the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands, is Greece's natural frontier with Bulgaria. It is one of the richest fowl habitats in Greece: home to more than 300 species.
The Sidirokastro Hot Springs have a temperature of 45°. They are just outside the town to the north, near the Strymonas River railway-bridge, on a hill that offers panoramic views of the area. Thousands of people go to these hot springs every year, both for recreation or therapy, especially since the recent renovation of the area's tourist facilities. There are more hot springs in Thermes and in Angistro.
Roupel Fort, which was a stronghold against the German-Bulgarian army in WWII.
The botanic forest-park and the aquarium at Vyronia.
The ski resort in Lailia, one of north Greece's finest, is open all year and can accommodate a large number of visitors. It is great for winter sports and a place of natural beauty.
The town's greatest annual festival is on 27 June, celebrating the area's liberation from Ottoman rule in 1913. It is an anniversary the locals celebrate with reverence, emotion and pride.
Municipality of Sidirokastro (Greek)
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^ Kallikratis law Greece Ministry of Interior (Greek)
Municipalities and communities of the Serres Prefecture
Achinos | Alistrati | Amfipoli | Emmanouil Pappas | Irakleia | Kapetan Mitrousi | Kerkini | Kormista | Lefkonas | Nea Zichni | Nigrita | Petritsi | Proti | Rodolivos | Serres | Sidirokastro | Skotousa | Skoutari | Strymonas | Strymoniko | Tragilos |Visaltia
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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