Friday, 21 October 2011

Thessaloniki - a mixture of ancient and modern history

Thessaloniki is a big city situated in a narrow strip along the Aegean coast. It is really crowded with huge traffic. But this doesn’t make it unpleasant, on contrary – I loved to see all those people, locals and tourists, running through the streets. Arriving at the bus station we only had to inform ourselves about the bus schedule and we were ready to explore it.

Easlily my favourite place in Thessaloniki became Aristotel Square
The Arch and the Rotunda

I was impatient to go for a historical walk around the city. Our walk started form the St. Demetrius Church. St. Demetrius is the patron Saint of Thessaloniki and his relics are kept in the church. The church’s Crypt is the place where St. Demetrius was imprisoned and tortured and now it’s turned into museum. There are candles left and everybody who wants could drop a coin and light a candle for health. We went on walking and our next aim was to see the Rotunda and the Arch.  Both were built by Emperor Galerius. He constructed the Arch in honor of the victory over the Persians in 305 and a year later he built the Rotunda with the wish to be entombed there. The Rotunda has later been turned into a mosque and now is church St. George. Our way continued through the Roman remains of Galerius Palace on boulevard Dimitrios Gounari until we reached the symbol of Thessaloniki – The White Tower. It is situated at the coast of the bay. It has been used by Ottomans as a prison and fortress. Now it is a Byzantium museum. Its colour is not white but in 1890 it was whitewashed and still carries that name. There is a park around the tower with lovely flowers and trees and also the monument of Alexander the Great is situated nearby. Maybe here is the place to tell you that the city was established in 315 year B.C by the Macedonian King Cassander who named it after his wife Thessaloniki that was Alexander’s sister.

Panagia Chalkeon Church
Leoforos Nikis Boulevard and the White Tower

I guess it is enough with the history. It was already afternoon so we just sat at the quay watching the blue sea. After a little break we moved on along the coastal boulevard Leoforos Nikis. There were cafes and bars on every corner. I was impressed that on the tables outside they put a bottle of whiskey. Maybe if you sit you have to order a bottle of liqueur? It was strange because it was only 4-5pm and there wasn’t anybody at those places, it was too hot.

You want some Johny?
The clock at the main street
One of the main squares and the heart of Thessaloniki is Aristotel square. Why it’s called Aristotel? Because he has been a teacher of Alexander the Great. It is interesting that now Greek are so fond of Alexander the Macedonian having on mind that ancient Greeks even didn’t recognize him as Greek and didn’t like him! But anyway, the square is amazing – wide, specious, full with people, bars and restaurants. It’s impossible not to sit here and have a glass of ouzo. Doesn’t matter if you come here day time or night you’d love it. We passed few times for walk along the square and the titled Aristotel Boulevard. Shops and little stores are everywhere. You can buy books, clothes, shoes, jewelry. It’s not very cheap but in August they do great sales. Along the whole pedestrian zone there are benches to sit, flowers to admire and architecture that raises admiration. A great decision to get some energy in the middle of the walk is to have a gyro, roasted meat served like a sandwich, that could be found on every corner around the center. There is actually so many things you have to try in Greece but I'll talk more about their food in my next post.
buying souvenirs
my delicios gyro
Mihaniona beach
Thessaloniki is located by the coast but there is no city beach. I couldn’t believe it in the beginning but it definitely turned out to be true. The closest beach is about 20km far from the city- Mihaniona. It is a small town and perfect place for taking a sunbath and rest out of the noisy and crowded Thessaloniki. It could be reached by the city transport bus. I’m not so sure if it was 71 or 72, but when you go on the main station (it's on the railway station), just ask somebody for the beach and they will let you know (here there is some nformation about buses in Thessaloniki)
The suburbs of Thessaloniki are less busy and even could be more beautiful than the center with the houses of maximum 3-4 floor. We stayed at my uncle’s place in Diavata village– a nice small living area northwest of the city. We discovered that area and found out that it has everything – parks and markets, cafes, restaurants and shops. Some people even haven’t been in the center for months. There is a regular bus connection to Thessaloniki so transport is not a problem.
Thessaloniki became one of my favorite places for holiday, tourism and vacation all together. It is a historical city, it has its ancient and modern sightseeing. On the other hand you can stay in a hotel in the crowded center or choose a villa in the suburbs. And not on the last place – the great calm beaches that are far from the noisy city but also so close that you won’t miss the nightlife.

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