Page 1

experience culture, gastronomy & more

F I R S T e d iti o n


2015-2016 ISSUE

10 - 62

67 - 104

105 - 138

W e l c o me

Dis cove r

Ex pl ore

139 - 175 Taste

Thessaloniki never ceases to surprise and amaze with its endurance and vitality, offering unique experiences and giving birth to new ideas and success stories.

The birthplace of the mighty kings of Macedon and history’s quintessential enfant terrible, Alexander the Great, proudly embraces the influence of empires, religions and cultures.

Give your shoes a workout in a fascinating city with distinct districts that express every facet of its personality: graceful, Bohemian, fun-loving, extroverted.

The title of gastronomic capital is well deserved in a city where food is at the core of its identity, a reflection of different people and cultures that have coexisted here.


In a Class of its Own E v e n a s h o r t v i s i t t o T h e s s a l o n i k i f ee l s l i k e s t e p p i n g i n t o a d i f f e r e n t w o r l d

BY Giorgos Tsiros


E D I TO R - I N - C H I E F, G R E E C E I S

Ideally, you’re reading this magazine during a break from exploring Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city and one of Europe’s most exciting places. Even after spending just a few days here, visitors soon realize why Thessaloniki residents feel so proud and fortunate to be here. The port city and capital of the Central Macedonia region is a cauldron of gods and heroes, civilizations and religions; a place where the old and new cohabitate fruitfully You can sense it everywhere; during a stroll, at the markets and museums, in the architecture, food and music. It’s in the air! The Macedonia region is a hub linking East and West, and the bulk of the Balkan hinterland with Greece. Its privileged geographic location had profound influence on the course of its history and identity. It became a focal point for mass movements of peoples and a place of cultural exchange, a theater of military conflicts and a crossroads of trade routes. Thessaloniki also lays claim to one of the most glorious periods in Greek history, primarily due to the exploits of one its own, Alexander the Great. Once a major city of the Byzantine empire and second only to its capital Constantinople, Thessaloniki is situated in the heart of a region blessed with natural beauty, stretching from Mount Olympus, the abode of the Gods, to the golden beaches of Halkidiki and “heaven on earth” at Mount Athos.

Facing the Aegean Sea with its back to the European continent, the port city always managed to retain its vitality and thrive both financially and culturally. Its openness and tolerance remained intact even when faced with the challenge of national conflicts and the difficulties associated with the cohabitation of different ethnicities. This aspect of Thessaloniki is clearly visible to visitors whether walking on the coastal promenade, admiring the buildings on Vasilissis Olgas Avenue, getting lost in the narrow streets of the Upper Town or exploring the castles, the White Tower, the Arch of Galerius, the Byzantine churches and the Rotunda. Despite the country’s enduring financial crisis, Thessaloniki’s innate creativity and youthful vitality has kept its pulse beating strongly. Improvements in tourism and trade infrastructure have rendered it an increasingly attractive destination; an incubator of new trends in the arts, gastronomy and entertainment, inspiring other parts of Greece and beyond. Thessaloniki is placing itself on the map as a great destination, as well as a starting point for trips catering to archaeology buffs, nature lovers and religious tourists. This is how contemporary Thessaloniki presents itself; confident that visitors will take a piece of it with them when they leave. And the city will be there waiting to welcome them back again. GREECE IS

THESSALONIK I 2015 -2016


42 106



CONTENTS Greece Is - Thessaloniki, First Edition, 2015-2016 Issue WELCOME 10. The Art of Doing Nothing:

82. Alexander the Great: Macedonia’s

146. Sugar, Spice and All Things

brilliant native son

Nice: A mini guide to the city’s most

Thessaloniki for beginners

88. The Archaeological Museum:

famous desserts

18. The Best: Our pick of spots

Fresh views on ancient treasures.

150. Bougatsa from Scratch: How to

and experiences

90. An Ancient Greek Tomb Mystery:

enjoy the authentic local delicacy

32. Cultural Agenda 36. Film Buff City: A look at the film

Unearthing the secrets of Amphipolis

152. Keeping it Real: Six historic stores

94. Byzantine Heritage 100. The Jewish Community

that illustrate Thessaloniki’s food culture

and documentary festivals

38. Tapestry of Sounds: The city’s

156. Wine, Such a Family Affair: Thessaloniki’s vintners and their stories

explore 106. The Waterfront 114. Downtown 120. The Shopping Scene 122. Navarinou Square 126. Ladadika 132. Ano Poli

168. Guide: The best places to eat


Skabardonis, Thessaloniki’s leading

GASTRONOMY 140. Where Food is Religion:

modern chronicler, lays bare

From humble street snacks to endless

historian Thouli Mysirloglou, journalist

the city’s soul.

meze parades, Thessaloniki takes eating

Evi Karkiti and designer Vagelis Liakos,

74. Macedonia Through the Ages

out very seriously

take us on their favorite walks

pivotal role in Greece’s musical history

42. In Pictures 52. Made in Thessaloniki: Original ideas that became success stories

58. A Mayor Apart: An interview with Yannis Boutaris

discover 68. A City Becoming: Giorgos


and drink

Architect Prodromos Nikiforidis, art

132 156


150 greece is - thessaloniki first edition, 2015 - 2016 issue

Published by: Exerevnitis - Explorer SA, Ethnarchou Makariou & 2 Falireos St, Athens, 18547, Greece ISSN: 2459-2498 Editor-in-chief: Giorgos Tsiros ( Deputy editor: Natasha Blatsiou Editorial consultant: Vassilis Minakakis Creative director: Thodoris Lalangas / Creative consultant: Costas Coutayar Art director: Ria Staveri Atelier: Dimitris Stappas Translations: Christine Sturmey, Stephen Stafford, Damian Mac Con Uladh, George Kolyvas Proof-reading: Christine Sturmey Photo editors: Dimitris Tsoumplekas, Maria Konstantopoulou Photoshop: Christos Maritsas, Michalis Tzannetakis, Stelios Vazourakis Commercial director: Natasha Bouterakou ( Head of public relations: Lefki Vardikou Online marketing: Thanasis Sofianos, GREECE IS - THESSALONIKI is a yearly publication, distributed free of charge. Contact us:

It is illegal to reproduce any part of this publication without the written permission of the publisher.

ON THE C OVER Š Andy Warhol, Alexander the Great (1982) Screenprint (Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art Collection, donated by Alexandros Iolas)



The art of doing nothing A great way to get to know Thessaloniki is to just sit back and let her come to you, in any way she sees fit. B Y R i k a Z . Vay i a n n i

through a divorce/separation/affair right now; nothing to worry about. The government stinks, the city is suffering, we are being short-changed, once again, don’t you think?” “Yep, right, Staff, I couldn’t agree more.” “So, where is your husband?” After all, this is Thessaloniki. As friendly as it gets. Keeping a polite professional distance is futile. We all know each other, why should we pretend it’s otherwise? Still, as a born-and-bred Athenian I will always be an outsider. It does not matter that my home is just a half-hour flight away. I am not a “Thessalonikia,” this is what matters, I am a “hamoutzou,” a southerner, forever the object of gentle ridicule amongst my many northern friends. I will never be able to master the few, but distinct language differences between my city and theirs, and I will certainly never aspire to even mimic the lush, heavily spiced accent that gives away a true Greek of Thessaloniki, in any part of the world he or she chooses to set camp. I will never be

“Laid back” is a very good choice of attitude. Enjoy the Thermaic Gulf waterfront view, from the old port pier all the way to the concert hall, at the far side of the bay.


a real Thessaloniki woman, a truly enchanting creature, with the appearance of an exceptionally well-groomed kitten and the heart of a roaring lioness; nor will I come to ever really know this city, no matter how much I work at it, how long I stay, how hard I study. My advice? Don’t even try. Travel guides, specialist books and websites, as well as “distilled” editions such as the one you are presently perusing are very much needed. Mostly to take home with you and marvel at the multitude of things you did not even have time to read about, let alone explore. A great way to get to know Thessaloniki is do nothing to “explore” her, but instead just “be” there. Just relax. The word “halara” (take it easy), is so embedded in the city’s laid-back mentality, that its use is now all but frowned upon by the locals. However, those superficial platitudes that modern Thessalonians avoid like the plague when describing their city, are in fact, very real qualities any metropolis would kill to have. Apart from its given unquestionably “relaxed”



o I have a favorite spot in Thessaloniki? Yes, it is the vista from my room in the Makedonia Palace hotel, on a misty afternoon, after a nap, watching the fog eating up the sunset over the Thermaic Gulf. I stand on the balcony, a potent double espresso just wheeled in by room service, amazed and amused by the fact that after almost four decades of visiting, I simply cannot get enough of this city. Whatever “this” city is.  My coffee is getting cold, as a consequence of the obligatory chat with any member of the immaculate staff that delivers the order. “Chat with staff” here is code for a short, but passionate discussion about politics, soccer – the local teams are revered almost to the point of a cult following – the latest bit snippet of city gossip, as well as soul-baring disclosures about our personal lives. “Are you with your husband? “No.” “I see” (wink). “Oh, come on, Staff, I am here on an assignment, those years are behind me.” “Yes, yes, of course, my daughter/sister/myself is/am going

URBAN LEGENDS Tales of the unexpected, Thessaloniki-style



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



A musical snapshot from the historical quarter of Ladadika.

You are here: Thessaloniki as a cultural, historical and geographic crossroads.

mentality, the city has, at times being been branded as “erotic,” “lazy,” “magical” or “short-changed” (in comparison to with the public funding and opportunities that are, more or less, reserved for the capital and the general Athens metropolitan area). There is a core of truth inside each and every one of those tired clichés. Even if you don’t ever publicly utter the words, it does not hurt to take them into consideration. Did I mention the word “magical?” I am not very comfortable with the unproven, but I could swear that this place is a live, sentient being. She acknowledges your presence; she assesses your personality, your needs, and probes into your deepest thoughts. She speaks to you. One of our most beloved Greek songs of the last 30 years (and one of myriads that salute the city’s name) is titled “Looking for you in Thessaloniki” (“S’anazito sti Saloniki”). The song “Ladadika” includes the cryptic phrase “This is what I give / How much do you want? / They sell what you want in Ladadika.” The historical downtown quarter of Ladadika is a metaphor for the entire city. Be prepared to pay, not always in money.  You also need to throw in some “soul currency” for the exchange to be complete.   By all means, take action if you 12

feel like it, but know that you are doing so at your own “risk.” I remember the night our Canadian friends, a delightful, cosmopolitan couple, dismissed our recommendation for dinner exactly 20 feet from their hotel entrance, as “too touristy.” Instead, armed with the latest trendy city guide they took us to a distant neighbourhood, to savor the legendary Pontic cuisine, the culinary heritage of the diaspora of the Pontic (Black Sea) Greeks. The four of us ended up gazing at our plates of cold mushy pasta, cold cream, and cold ham, all rolled up and served in one amorphous dish. Back at the hotel, close to midnight – our exhausted friends now asleep in their room – we decided to honor the original dinner reservation – albeit with two guests short and a three-hour delay. The manager did not flinch. Out of curiosity, he wanted to know where we had been. “Pontic? I am Pontic,” he laughed loudly, “so is half the city! If they wanted Pontic culture, they could have stayed at their hotel; the manager is Pontic, the staff is Pontic, even their breakfast is Pontic. Trust me, I know; the hotel belongs to my family.” See my point? Do not feel guilty if you don’t go all out actively uncovering Thessaloniki’s “secrets.” It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the historical, infor-

mational and sensory overload. Breathe deeply. Stay put. Look around. Have a bite. Walk two blocks. Chat with a complete stranger. Follow your group’s scheduled itinerary or just stand on your balcony, linger on a street corner. Try to feel the Thermaic Gulf breeze, or the frosty Vardaris wind in your face. Sip your coffee and listen. This city speaks. Some of the things she will say, or show to you, will remain in your memory for a long, long time. Some of them will perplex you, take you out of your comfort zone. But the city does speak. And her first words will always be “This is what I give / How much do you want? I sell what you want to buy.”

Thessaloniki is a live, sentient being. She acknowledges your presence; she assesses your personality, your needs, and probes into your deepest thoughts.

© Roger Viollet MUSEUM / History Center of Thessaloniki



Part and parcel of the history of Thessaloniki The National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (MIET)


a dv e r to r i a l

IET’s long-standing contribution to the arts and sciences has been significant and vigorously supported by the activities of its Cultural Center as well as the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (“ELIA”) in Thessaloniki. MIET was set up in 1966 as part of the Bank’s 125th anniversary celebrations, when the management of the Bank under Georgios Mavros decided to create a cultural foundation that would contribute to letters, fine arts and the sciences. Its activities, however, were interrupted by the military coup in 1967, though it commenced its work again in 1974 on the restoration of democracy, when Georgios


Mavros, who in the meantime had been appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Greece, enacted legislation to this end. The approximately 300 publications, in accordance with its statutory purposes, aim primarily to meet the teaching needs of universities and already many of them are used as textbooks in higher education. Currently, however, MIET has expanded in various areas, such as the collection of works of art and the organization of exhibitions. Apart from the Center in Thessaloniki, MIET manages two other major cultural centers in Athens and Patras. It has also set up the “Archive of Cartography of Greek Regions”, the “Historical and Palaeographical Archive” and the

pilot “Paper Conservation Laboratory”, while it also manages the “Alexis Minotis Bequest in Memory of Katina Paxinou”.

Thessaloniki Cultural Center NBG Cultural Foundation

The Center was established in 1989 as the National Bank Cultural Center of Northern Greece. In 1997, it was subsumed under MIET. To date, the Thessaloniki Cultural Center of MIET has organized exhibitions jointly with the French Institute of Thessaloniki, the Goethe Institute, the British Council of Thessaloniki, “Christos Kalemkeris” Photography Museum in Kalamaria, the Thes-


Currently MIET has expanded in areas such as the collection of works of art and the organization of exhibitions.


Villa Kapandji as it stands today, viewed from Vasilissis Olgas Ave.

© Folklife & Ethnological Museum of Macedonia - Thrace

V i l l a K a pa n d j i 1. The Triumvirate (Pavlos Kountouriotis, Eleftherios Venizelos and Panagiotis Daglis) pictured at the front steps of Villa Kapandji with members of the caretaker government (27/9/1916). 2. Aerial shot, dated 1962, of Vasilissis Olgas Ave. Villa Kapandji and Chateau Mon Bonheur. (Source: Ellinikos Vorras newspaper, from a feature marking the 50th anniversary of Thessaloniki’s liberation from Ottoman rule.) 3. A popular postcard, showing customers at the seaside cafe “Chateau Mon Bonheur” and Villa Kapandji, covered with scaffolding. 4

saloniki Contemporary Art Center, the Benaki Museum, as well as the Albert-Kahn Museum (Paris). Since early 2000, the Center has run a bookshop, which stocks all the currently available publications of the Foundation, National Bank of Greece and its Historical Archive.


The Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (“ELIA”) – originally founded about 35 years ago in Athens – set up a branch in Thessaloniki in 1997. It is today housed in MIET’s Cultural Center and contains archives, a library, a reading room and an exhibition area. ELIA’s collection includes archives

4. Late 60s-early 70s. Boat with fisherman in front of the villa.

of historical, literary, economic and commercial interest. It has established and digitized a significant archive of oral testimonies from the period of the Greek Resistance and the Civil War mainly from the region of Western Macedonia, while it also hosts a small museum area exhibiting household and personal belongings of Nikos-Alexis Aslanoglou, a Thessaloniki-born poet. ELIA’s library in Thessaloniki includes over 10,000 volumes on subject matters related mainly to Modern Greek history and literature and hundreds of journals and periodicals of literary, historical and political interest.

MIET’s Cultural Center in Thessaloniki, like ELIA, has the privilege of being housed in a building of unique historical value built in the early 20th century (at 108, Vasilissis Olgas Ave.). It is one of the few mansions to have remained from the old town of Thessaloniki and has been linked over the years with personalities and events that marked the history of the city. Its construction cost more than 40,000 gold sovereigns, a huge sum at the time, paid for by the Kapandji family, the original owners and a leading commercial family of the city since the late 18th century. Momentous historical events took place in the building, such as the signing of the Greek-Serbian Alliance in 1913. It was the residence of Eleftherios Venizelos during the period of the provisional government under the so-called triumvirate (1914-1917), while during the Greek-Italian conflict in the first part of the Second World War it was used as a military bakery. The Mansion was later used to house schools, until it was eventually abandoned in circa 1972. Ten years later, in 1982, the decision was taken to restore the building. Restoration work was completed in 1989, whereupon it served as NBG’s Cultural Center (until 1997), and thereafter, through to the present, as MIET’s Cultural Center.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


Thessaloniki is one of the few cities in the world whose port is part of its urban fabric, a harbor full of life that accommodates economic and cultural activity side by side. Τhe city’s proclamation as European Capital of Culture in 1997 triggered a sea change in the port’s appearance and character. Pier 1, until then a sinister, filthy place, was transformed into a metropolitan cultural park. The old warehouses, now ablaze with light, became an ideal venue for modern art. Early evening, when the sun begins to set behind Mount Olympus and the noisy seafront Nikis Avenue grows quiet, is the best time for a stroll. - S T R AT O S K A R A K A S I D I S

The Port Its history and contribution




A Stroll at the Port

Exclusive Distributor of ORIS for Greece and Cyprus 19, N.Kountouriotou Str., Thessaloniki, T. 2310 511413 I F. 2310 512311 Email:



The Museum of Photography

Art hopping The Costakis Collection George Costakis, a Greek living in Moscow and employed by the Greek Embassy (as a driver) and later by the Canadian Embassy (as director of local personnel), had a marvelous eye. Without specific training, he was guided by taste and enthusiasm in acquiring works of the Russian avant-garde. He started in the mid-1940s, ultimately amassing this significant collection of over 1,200 works by Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Vasili Kandinsky and Vladimir Tatlin, among many others. Two large galleries show different parts of the collection in changing thematic exhibitions.

State Museum of Contemporary Art, Lazariston Monastery, 21 Kolokotroni, Stavroupoli (bus No 27 to Stavroupoli, Pavlou Mela stop), tel (+30) 2310.589.143; Tue-Sun 10:00-18:00; Admission 3 euros

One of the harbor’s late 19th-early 20th century warehouses was converted by the noted Thessaloniki engineer Eli Modiano into this well-appointed exhibition space that maintains a strong sense of place. The museum hosts temporary exhibitions of work by local and international photographers that explore the medium’s various applications. The cafe, whose floor-toceiling window overlooks the port’s industrial side, is one of the city’s secret finds. The museum also maintains a permanent collection on the history of the harbor, titled Portrait: The Story of a Port.

3 Navarchou Votsi, Warehouse A. Open daily 11:00-19:00 and Fridays 12:00-22:00; Admission 3 euros Permanent Exhibition Dock A, Old Pump Room, tel (+30) 2310.566.716; Mon-Fri 15:00-21:00, Sat & Sun 11:00-15:00; Admission free

Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art This relatively young museum is the result of remarkable initiative, generosity and cooperation – a beautiful thing created in response to the damage to Thessaloniki’s monuments in an earthquake in 1978. The original idea of gallery owner Maro Lagia and collector Alexandros Zolas motivated a community of art lovers to realize the goal of a significant center for contemporary art in Thessaloniki. The museum now has a permanent collection of well over 1,500 works, including by Niki de Saint Phalle, Joseph Beuys, Yannis Gaitis, Dennis Oppenheim, among many others. Perhaps more interesting still, particularly for the foreign visitor, is the opportunity to see the work of 20th century and contemporary Greek artists and their contributions to international movements in the art world. Galleries of a variety of styles, corridors and stairwells on three levels have been used to advantage so that each piece seems to be placed in its ideal environment.

154 Egnatia, tel (+30) 2310.240.002; Τhur 10:00-22:00, Fri 10:0019:00, Sat 10:00-18:00, Sun 11:00-15:00; Admission 4 euros 20

Design Hunting Thessaloniki boasts some of the funkiest, original hangouts in Greece. In the city’s many multi-purpose venues where easy-going socializing meets the arts, there is still plenty of room for curling up with a book, a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and your thoughts. The design studio Bord de L’eau on 45 Egnatia, for example, specializes in high-quality handmade furniture and jewelry. Next door, the venue’s cafe, inside a well kept arcade, is an ideal place to read or get some work done. [45 Egnatia, tel (+30) 2310.520.911,]

SEE MORE Our pick of artsy hangouts


STYLE UP YOUR LIFE Why settle for baubles when you can treat yourself to original jewelry and objets d’art created by the city’s young and inspired designers? Stop at Kitchen 29 on Navarinou Square for clothes, accessories and homeware; Katerina Ioannidis’ boutique on 5 Mitropolitou Iosif for original jewelry and Wood for the Soul at 49 Aghias Sophias, an artists’ studio, for furniture and decorative objects. - D E S P I N A P O LY C H R O N I D O U


Details and spaces

Official Distributor of FOSSIL Group for Greece 19, N.Kountouriotou Str., Thessaloniki, T. 2310 511413 I F. 2310 512311 I Email: I URL:


PHOTO OPS Sometimes you just have to embrace the tourist in you. Hop onto the Argo, Klio or Arabella, three “floating bars” that cruise around the Thermaic Gulf, for great views of the shoreline. For snaps from up high, try the revolving bar-restaurant at the 76m-tall telecom tower, in the Helexpo fair grounds. And don’t forget to take the obligatory selfie under the city’s signature modern landmark, sculptor George Zongolopoulos’ award-winning installation Umbrellas, the artistic centerpiece of the New Waterfront.




SPLENDID REVIVAL Thessaloniki’s architectural legacy spans centuries, empires, civilizations, religions and styles. Its landmarks are still an intrinsic part of city life. Among them, the emblematic Rotunda, completed at the beginning of the 4th century on a commission by Roman Emperor Galerius and later altered to become a Christian church. The 6m thick walls have kept its soaring 30m ceiling aloft through the ages. This is a monumental space, inspiring in scale yet inviting. Parts of the monument are currently under restoration, with a grand reopening scheduled for December 18. • Dimitri Gounari & Aghiou Georgiou. Open daily 8:00-17:00, except Mondays.


SEE MORE Thessaloniki’s top 10 historic edifices

Thessaloniki’s food culture is renowned. The pleasures of the table, the market and the street stretch out over 24 hours. Our day starts at the source, Kapani Market, a wonderful, chaotic labyrinth: Live crabs, shimmering fish, meat swinging from steel hooks, vats of feta, mountains of olives, technicolor spices, pyramids of dewy fruits and every kind of greenery. Break for a strong Greek coffee, and don’t forget a koulouri the sesame bread ring sold by street vendors, or the local speciality, bougatsa! Come midday, tavernas start to fill up and tables are covered with salads, spreads and hot dishes; everyone shares everything. Evening drinks are had with friends at an ouzeri or rakadiko, meaning lots of delectable meze and spirits. And as for a hardcore late-night, after-party ritual, patsas (tripe soup) is said to keep a hangover at bay. For dessert? Thessaloniki’s siropiasta, golden, butter-rich syrup pastries are guaranteed to ruin any diet. Check “Gastronomy” section for more.





CULTURE shot Selected events from Thessaloniki’s rich calendar. BY ALEXIA AMVR AZI

Moni Lazariston Festival


LGBT Pride Thessaloniki Science Festival

2015 | November 13 - December 12

May 2016

Museum Sleepover Children aged 7-12 are invited by the municipality to throw on their PJs and sleep over at some of Thessaloniki’s most captivating cultural institutions, such as the Archaeological Museum, Byzantine Culture Museum, Museum of Photography, Olympic Museum, Folklore Museum and War Museum. For details, call (+30) 2313.318.222/4

Science Festival Discover how science plays a part in our everyday lives. •


VideoDance VideoDance honors the relationship between movement-based art and audiovisual media, with screenings of dance-based films past and present, as well as video-performances, live improvisation with sound and image, and other experimental cinematic projects.

April 14-20

May 12-15

In-Edit After Barcelona, Berlin and Sao Paulo, the greatest music documentary festival comes to Thessaloniki for a third year to connect two of the strongest sections of the culture industry: music and cinema. This year features more than 20 exciting music documentaries from around the world. • Olympion Cinema, Aristotelous Square

Book Fair In its 13th year, the International Book Fair will host over 250 events and feature works by 400 publishers from 30 countries. Parallel events include presentations, round-table discussions, workshops, projections, artistic events and kid’s activities, with the key theme on European Young Writers. •


May 18-25


Moni Lazariston Festival The festival takes place at various stages and spaces

in the vast grounds of an early 19th century monastery, offering a wide assortment of music, theater, dance and other performances by some of the region’s and the world’s most accomplished artists. •

June 24-25 LGBT Pride Every year the White Tower is lit by a rainbow projection indicating the kick-off of the LGBT Pride Parade that shimmies along the waterfront. Parallel events include a forum, street party and concert. More and more travel agencies are offering special packages to people interested in traveling to Thessaloniki on the occasion of this celebration. •

Dimitria Festival

360 Taratsa Festival


Urban Picnic

June Garden Theater Jazz Famous and newcomer jazz musicians get together to jam out improvisational performances at the Municipal Kipou Theater, in a popular event organized by the Lazariston Monastery and the Thessaloniki Municipality.

August 20-30 360 Taratsa Festival Films in high places, at the 360 Taratsa Festival that presents Greek and international shorts and features as well as a series of talks and workshops run by film professionals. Screenings on city rooftops mean you gain interesting perspectives both on and off screen. •

August 24-27 Urban Picnic Life’s an urban picnic every summer in Thessaloniki, as the Parenthesis team organize en masse, al fresco snacking at four archaeological sites this year, accom34

panied by live gigs and film screenings. Greek films are screened with English subtitles. •

September Wine Festivals Discover the magic of northern Greece’s vineyards at the annual Wines & Spirits Fair also known as VorOina (www. For 10 days every September restaurants, wine shops and wine bars around the city offer tastings and other events worth clinking your glass to. Meanwhile, on November 28-29, northern Greece’s biggest wine fair, Map of Flavors ( presents a selection of great regional wines, offering the opportunity to sip and swish to your heart’s content and meet local winemakers.

September 10-18 Thessaloniki Trade Fair The fair, annually hosted at Helexpo and which turned 80 in 2015, presents around 850 exhibitors from Greece and around the world and

receives around 250,000 visitors, who go there to learn about everything from the latest trends in e-gaming and car manufacture to agricultural practices and job prospects.

September 15-18 Mysticon An alternative, mystery-based festival that reveals different aspects of the city involves escape rooms and interactive escapes, treasure hunts, mystery city tours, police-content games, comics exhibitions and much more. A festival for fans of alternative and experiential games. •

20 key venues in different parts of the city. •

Year-round Food Festival The municipal authority hosts a non-stop food celebration showcasing local cuisine, culinary traditions, gourmet trends and parallel events like talks, presentations, workshops and exhibitions. Weekly discounts (at 8-10 euros) are announced every Tuesday at different local restaurants. •

Sept 26 – Oct 18 Dimitria Festival Artistic and intellectual life is in full swing during the Dimitria Festival, the city’s largest, most prestigious and popular annual cultural happening. Visual arts exhibitions, film screenings, masterclasses, creative gastronomy events and a multitude of performances are organized in over

don’t miss a thing! CultureTourismMunicipalityof Thessaloniki ThessCity/

The Olympion cinema, the flagship of the Thessaloniki Film Festival and where the opening and closing ceremonies are held.


Nurturing the independent spirit The city hosts two festivals, which have affirmed their place as Southeast Europe’s centrifugal showcase of local and global talent. BY ALEXIA AMVR AZI


tanding at the waterfront on a crisp November morning gazing at the Aegean Sea, inhaling its fresh ozonic breeze, almost blinded by the bright sunlight, hoping to drown out a lousy hangover from last night’s partying. Just before stepping into the quiet, embryonic darkness of the cinema, you spot Jim Jarmusch walking nearby, waving his hands as he talks to a group of people, and wonder when you’re going to sober up. The previous day you enjoyed immersing yourself in his latest movie and now, settling into a comfy seat, you are more than ready to travel back into the cinematic galaxy. During the 10 days of the Thessaloniki International 36

Film Festival (TIFF), held every November, and another 10 in March for the International Documentary Film Festival (TIDFF), the city acquires the air of a film-lover’s wonderland, abuzz with directors, producers, writers, critics and film buffs – receiving as many as 70,000 visitors at a time. People arriving from far and wide go from screening to screening at the festival’s eight venues, as well as attending a multitude of parallel events (from workshops and masterclasses to live music gigs, see more @ With 56 years under its star-studded belt, the film festival, which went international in 1992, has affirmed its place

1. Legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve graced the 40th TIFF with her presence in 1999, as star of Philippe Garrel’s Le Vent de la Nuit.

3. Irene Pappas, the “priestess” of Greek cinema, arriving at the 1961 premiere of Eroica, for which Michael Cacoyannis received the Best Director award.

2. Greek-French director Costa-Gavras at the premiere of his film, Le Capital, during the 53rd Thessaloniki Film Festival, in 2013.

as Southeast Europe’s centrifugal showcase of local and global independent moviemaking. The general director of both festivals, Dimitris Eipides, who has dedicated years of his career to bolstering Greek filmmakers by setting the agenda for themes, styles and marketing, says that the TIFF program is “based exclusively on independent filmmaking, which needs the best possible support, in contrast with the dominating Hollywood film industry.” The documentary festival, which was the first of its kind in the country, is now among the top three in Europe. With inspiring sections devoted to contemporary themes, human interest stories, sociopolitical and historical issues, as well as the arts, priority is given to local filmmaking. “The Documentary Festival has managed to introduce the Greek audience to a film genre that was previously undervalued,” Eipides says. The event has gained a reputation also for presenting positive networking and marketing opportunities in the industry through its Doc Market, which caters to broadcasters such as the European Documentary Network and welcomes a wide range of professionals from around the world. This is also one of the objectives of the TIFF, which connects feature filmmakers with industry players via its Agora.



4. American indie king Jim Jarmusch, presenting Only Lovers Left Alive, steals the show in 2014, roughhousing with screenwriter/director Alexander Payne.



For 20 days a year, the city acquires the air of a film-lover’s wonderland, abuzz with directors, producers, writers, critics and film buffs.


What makes the festival experience so exceptional is the combination of film and fun – the city may be Greece’s second largest, but as most events are within walking distance of each other, it’s easy to bump into friendly faces with whom you can take advantage of the delightful local gastronomic scene. Despite the festival committee having to drastically slash their budgets due to the country’s grueling financial crisis, both the TIFF (which was held from November 6-15) and TIDFF (March 18-27, 2016), continue to ride the swell of an affectionate and discriminating global audience and the ongoing support of eminent figures from the independent film scene. Τhis year’s TIFF 56th edition showcased 200 films from 53 countries, while the documentary fest, according to Eipides “continues to evolve in harsh times, setting new goals.” G R E E C E IS

T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



Musical Tapestry Thessaloniki has always been a city that respected its musical traditions and roots while absorbing modern European styles. BY Giorgos Toulas*

classics. This Trikala-born pioneer, who had planned to study law but was won over by music instead, played a pivotal role in steering rebetika into the mainstream, around the time the style began developing into a milder form of song to become the popular (laiko) music genre. For quite some time, Tsitsanis also ran his own music venue in Thessaloniki, the famous Ouzeri O Tsitsanis, at the corner of Pavlou Mela and Tsimiski streets. The artist penned there some of his finest material, which ended up being recorded once World War II had ended. The fascinating story of the venue is now told in a recently released feature film. Thessaloniki has always mined its traditions and roots while also absorbing modern European ways. Pop-rock groups such as the Olympians, formed in the mid-1960s, created music reflecting the new sounds coming from the West. The city also spearheaded the country’s contemporary rock scene with Trypes and Xylina Spathia, two Greek-language acts whose fresh sounds and lyrics provided a base for the entire local rock scene in the 1980s and 90s. The frontmen of both these acts, Yannis Agelakas and Pavlos Pavlidis, respectively, remain creative musical forces as solo artists to this very day. The university city’s considerable population of young adults has always served as fertile ground for musical creativity. The late Nikos Papazoglou, who joined the scene as a pure, fresh-sounding and slightly unconventional singer and songwriter, with innovative skills as a studio engineer, was instrumental in reviving a wider interest in more authentic musical roots. His work helped rid any sense of shame or awkwardness felt by locals for older musical ways at a time when Greek music was generally being westernized, often badly. Papazoglou

Though highly inspired and authentic, rebetika songs were initially marginalized as a raw form of music that expressed hardship and displacement, often with references to hashish smoking at dens.




hessaloniki’s association with music has, over the centuries, been linked to the influx and departure of people and communities, cultural fusion and the impressive blend of astonishingly talented individuals who lived in the city or passed through it. The songs of the Sephardic Jews, a community expelled from Spain in 1492, found a new home in Thessaloniki. These sounds co-existed with amanedes, visceral songs expressing deep sorrow and associated with the Turkish community, an integral part of the city until 1912, as well as Slavic rhythms from the wider Balkan region to the north. The influx of ethnic Greek refugees to various parts of the country, including Thessaloniki, from Asia Minor in 1922, following a failed Greek military campaign against the Ottoman Empire, served as a key spark that ignited rebetika, the period’s most distinctive form of urban song, that had begun to develop in Greek port cities in the late 19th century. Though highly inspired and authentic, rebetika songs were initially marginalized as a raw form of music that expressed hardship and displacement felt by outsiders, often with references to hashish smoking at dens. This musical style began to acquire greater social acceptance in the early 1940s by presenting themes that were more suitable for the masses. One of the period’s legendary rebetika vocalists, Roza Eskenazi, an artist of Jewish background from Istanbul who ended up in Thessaloniki in the early 20th century, captured the hearts of locals with her heartfelt and elaborate vocal delivery. The city’s considerable rebetika tradition was maintained throughout the Nazi occupation by the great Vassilis Tsitsanis, the style’s most prolific songwriter who penned countless

Clockwise from top left: Vassilis Tsitsanis, Roza Eskenazi, Sokratis Malamas, Nikos Papazoglou, Yannis Agelakas.


Thessaloniki has consistently produced an exceptionally large number of talented acts but never managed to hold on to them. Over the years, virtually all have ended up in Athens.

built and launched his own Agrotikon recording studio in Thessaloniki’s Toumba district in the 1970s and many of the city’s other musical greats went on to record here. They have included Dionysis Savvopoulos, a pioneering singer-songwriter who emerged in the mid-60s as an artist who dared to experiment with politically charged lyrics at a time of major sociopolitical upheaval in Greece. He remained a key musical spokesman right through the post-dictatorship era after 1974. In addition, the exceptionally popular singer-songwriter Sokratis Malamas, nowadays regarded as the ambassador of quality Greek music – often tagged entehno – who experienced a gradual rise to fame, including as a guitarist in Papazoglou’s band, also recorded a string of early landmark albums at Agrotikon. Serving as yet another fine example of the impact of Thessaloniki’s melting pot on artists, Malamas’ Greek sound has been creatively influenced by western ways, drawing a wide range of fans, in terms of musical preferences and age groups. Around the same time, the other side of the city’s fervent musical spectrum was represented by the independent label Ano Kato Records, headed by Giorgos Tsakalidis, which unveiled the country’s most significant rock acts. Adding to the city’s fascinating musical tapestry, the prolific and top-selling output recorded at the Vasipap studio run by Vassilis Papadopoulos, an 40

attraction over the years for the city’s full-on Greek acts making music for the masses, further highlights its musical fertility. The range of acts that have recorded here include local laika (popular) stars Marianthi Kefala and Vassilis Karas, one of the country’s more widely listened to singers, whose work is based on old rebetika-era amanedes and the city’s Ottoman traditions, all adapted for modern local tastes. Thessaloniki also features countless rehearsal studios in and around the city, as well as many hallowed music venues. They have included Minoui, where legendary rebetika singer Lilly was a regular feature, to Mylos, Ydrogio, Pararlama, as well as bouzouki-heavy clubs like Souita, Liogerma and Akroama, all of which have contributed to the city’s musical history. Without a doubt, Thessaloniki has consistently produced an exceptionally large number of talented acts but never managed to hold on to them. Over the years, virtually all have taken an inevitable step into the bigger picture ending up in Athens, where record company headquarters, bigger clubs and the country’s mainstream media, each possessing the potential to project and further establish acts, have all been based. Subsequently, Thessaloniki has continuously bid farewell to its artists. As for the city’s recent recording activity amid a music industry largely devastated by the digital era, studios run by Giorgos Pentzikis and Giorgos Kazantzis have managed to keep things afloat. Acts such as Giorgos Christianakis, a superb composer of soundtracks, pop music artist Monsieur Minimal, and Manos Mylonakis, one of Thessaloniki’s most innovative newer songwriters, have insisted on living and creating in the city. Their work enjoys nationwide appeal.

* Giorgos Toulas is editor-in-chief of Parallaxi, Thessaloniki’s historic free press magazine.

Listen... T h ree l a n d m a r k re l e a s e s

I Ekdikisi Tis Gyftias (Revenge of Gypsydom) This album, an impressive hybrid of sophisticated and simpler lyrics, set to pure-hearted Greek sounds, had great impact not long after its release in 1978. Besides acquainting listeners with the emerging Nikos Papazoglou, it also inspired other artists to expand their creative horizons.

Ano Kato Records – 20 Years A compilation of Greek rock music selections by acts from Thessaloniki, the style’s domestic birthplace, originally released on Ano Kato Records. Issued in 2004 to mark the label’s 20th anniversary, this compilation includes tracks by Trypes and Xylina Spathia, both pivotal in the Greek rock music circuit.

Vassilis Tsitsanis Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki (Cloudy Sunday) Originally released in 1965 and featuring Greek classics sung by a host of legendary Greek singers – including Stelios Kazantzidis, Grigoris Bithikotsis, Stratos Dionysiou, Poly Panou, Yiota Lydia, Marinella, Keti Grey, as well as Tsitsanis himself – who all gathered to mark the significance of this exceptionally prolific and gifted songwriter, this album showcases gems of a highly creative musical era. It serves as an ideal introduction into the world of Tsitsanis and oldschool Greek music in general.






For Prodromos Nikiforidis and Bernard Cuomo, the architects behind the revamp of Thessaloniki’s waterfront, the objective was to establish a new urban balance with interventions that would not run against the ever-changing water element but, instead, adopt and absorb the scenery’s color and draw from its elegance. The duo succeeded as is clearly evident every sunset when locals head to the coast in numbers to walk, jog, dance, fish, or just gaze out into the distance.



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6




SEE YOU at the Arch

Besides being a spot where pigeons like to gather, the Arch of Galerius is the city’s most popular meeting point. Spending a little time in Thessaloniki and not arranging to meet at the Kamara on at least one occasion is a highly unlikely prospect. Though the cement buildings that have sprouted around the monument would probably represent a drawback in any other city, they actually highlight the interaction of old and new.



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



Š ARIS papadopoulos


You won’t find a more awe-inspiring view than from Trigonion Tower in the Upper Town. Get there in the late afternoon to catch the sunset painting the sea in gold, as the city transitions from day to night and Olympus, the mountain of the Gods, fades from the horizon.



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6




Spiritual Retreat

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Athos is one of the most sacred religious locations in the world. Its monastic community has survived without any break from tradition since the late 8th century. Today it is home to some 2,000 monks who lead an ascetic life dedicated to prayer and maintaining a human presence on the Holy Mountain. Located on the third leg of the Halkidiki peninsula, Mount Athos is a spiritual retreat and cultural treasure worth exploring, though this is a privilege restricted only to men. Others can view the area’s spectacular natural landscapes and architectural beauty from a distance, on boat tours from Ouranoupoli.



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6




A collection of insiders’ takes


‘THERE’S No place like Halkidiki’...

boast Thessalonians of their favorite holiday destination, less than an hour’s drive from the city. Halkidiki is a sprawling peninsula comprised of three legs, each with its own distinct character, ranging from full-on tourist resort to nature wonderland. Halkidiki is endowed with some of mainland Greece’s most stunning beaches. All-year delights, Mount Holomon and the woodlands of Sithonia (pictured here) are perfect spots to marvel at starry skies through tall planes and pine trees, while badgers, hedgehogs, foxes and fireflies come out to play.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



Thessaloniki has gained exceptional prowess in the field of graphic art, as exemplified by the internationally renowned Beetroot team, which over the past 16 years has taken visual communication to another level. Beetroot is largely responsible for the development of a buzzing graphic arts scene in Thessaloniki. Shortly after completing their studies, Vagelis Liakos, Alexis Nikou and Yiannis Charalambopoulos decided to launch their own agency. Beetroot emerged in 2000 with visual communication and visual art as its main focus.


MADE IN THESSALONIKI This city constantly generates new ideas and inspires talented individuals in the fields of design, retail and gastronomy, many of whom have gained international recognition for their work. Let’s meet a few. B Y D a n a i S O F IA V a r d a l i


SEE MORE The Horizon App & Urban Soul Project Architects

The team swiftly established itself in the field. A bold use of color and illustration are the elements that define Beetroot’s work in typography, corporate logos, visual installations, digital applications and design objects. Beetroot has won agency of the year prizes at the Red Dot Design Awards and the European Design Awards, and been named national champion three years in a row at the European Business Awards. But fame has not softened the team’s artistic sharpness and the company follows the philosophy of never trying the same thing twice. Beetroot operates as a multifaceted and flexible unit whose 18

I n fo

Illustrations from the Greek Monsters exhibition, a visual comment on the acceptance of diversity inspired by ancient mythology.

team members are driven by a variety of references and sources of inspiration, which may be discerned in all of the team’s projects, be they for giants such as Microsoft, the Onassis Foundation or small artistic teams with which the agency collaborates on a frequent basis. Its acclaimed Greek Monsters exhibition, presenting three-dimensional designs of misunderstood beasts in Greek mythology, may be continuing its tour around the world, but Thessaloniki remains a point of reference for the team. The company aims to keep young people in the city so that they may develop their own entrepreneurial plans. Along with other companies in the wider field, it has managed to place Thessaloniki on the international visual arts map and intends to develop this further.

Companies like ours have managed to place Thessaloniki on the international visual arts map. Our objective is to keep young people in the city so that they may develop their own plans.


If you live in London, Brussels or Miami, there is a good chance that you are already familiar with Ergon, a Greek deli-casual restaurant that offers a collection of exceptional Greek products and serves a fine selection of reinvented traditional dishes. For Thomas and George Douzis, “traditional” does not necessarily mean “old.” From a family that was three generations in the food sector, the brothers chose to redefine the meaning of “traditional.” Since 2008, when the first Ergon branded product was created, their collection of select produce from different independent farmers and producers from Greece has grown. The increasing awareness of Greek gastronomy was an unexpected ally in their efforts. Three years later, the first Ergon deli store opened in Thessaloniki. It was not a recreation of old-style groceries but a new, modern space showcasing Greek gourmet treasures.

Soon, famous Greek chef Dimitris Skarmoutsos joined the team, creating an entire menu based on the brand’s products, redefining traditional shared meze dishes without losing sight of the food’s origin. The team’s concept inevitably expanded to combine a fully functional grocery store with a casual restaurant. Ergon has not only become a landmark in Thessaloniki’s gastro-scene – the flagship Ergon Agora on Pavlou Mela Street is a must see – but a successful business model that has expanded beyond the city. Ergon products are available from 300 retailers and outlets in Greece and abroad, and Ergon Greek Deli-Restaurants have been established to several international locations. Ergon London recently opened on Regent Street while two more locations were recently added in Florida: Miami and Weston. As the word ergon (work, vocation, but also the fruits of labor) signifies, the team’s work is never done.

We source products and create packaging to meet present-day standards, while preserving the values of the past. 54

I n fo




According to Christina Tsirangelou and Babis Papanikolaou, aka 157+173 designers, talent is a creator’s last refuge. “That which mediates between the scale of one’s ambitions and the limits of one’s power.” And for Thessaloniki’s creative scene, which has been hit hard by the economic crisis, it takes a lot of effort to put one’s talent out in the world while staying true to one’s vision. If you read The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, there is a good chance you have already seen their work. The design duo, best known for their signature industrial lamps and

light fixtures, first met while working as architects for the same firm. They soon decided to switch to smaller scale projects, which can be a lot more fun. Their fresh approach to design can be seen in numerous locations across Thessaloniki, such as bars, restaurants, lights for TOMS Flagship store/cafe, or even “Mia Feta-Feta bar”, a store which they have designed. Whether designing key-holders or buildings, they follow the same creative process, with the aim of positively affecting people’s feelings and offering products that they will be happy to own. All of their creations are made with the lowest environmental impact. Their newest project, a hybrid mat aptly named “Wool(d)en Carpet,” is made of wool and wood and the designers are launching a crowdfunding campaign to finance production. Thessaloniki’s laid back ambience serves as an inspirational backdrop for their work: “It’s not a huge city but it does have an immense creative potential”, they say. “When it comes to product design, things are just starting to happen. We are trying to make a right start and build solid foundations.”

I n fo

Thessaloniki is not a huge city, but it has an immense creative potential. When it comes to product design, things are just starting to happen.



“A particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.” That is the meaning of the Japanese word shibui and that is exactly what the Shibui design brand represents. This homeware and accessories brand was founded in 2013 by two Greek designers – Athanasios Babalis from Thessaloniki and Constantinos Hoursoglou, who is based in Geneva. Both share a common vision for their brand, one that revolves around purity of form, integrity, quality, simplicity and sustainability. All Shibui products are economical by design, made from natural materials, produced by highly skilled, independent producers in Europe and sold by retailers all around the globe.

I n fo

But Shibui is just one recent venture for Athanasios Babalis, a key figure in Greek design who started out as a mechanical engineer before deciding to go back to college. After studying Industrial and Furniture Design at London Metropolitan University and the Royal College of Art in London, he worked as a freelance furniture designer, soon relocating to New York. In 2003 and despite having a well established career in the US, he decided to switch direction – once again. He returned to Thessaloniki, founded his own design studio and has since collaborated with a number of Greek and international clients on the development of new products and packaging. “If a creative city is defined by the number of creative people working there, then Thessaloniki is definitely an inspiring place,” he says. Inevitably, his unique approach to design has not only gained him international recognition, but also several distinctions and awards. In recent years he has witnessed “a certain energy” in Thessaloniki which is “looking to be channeled in all directions” and believes that the city’s creative scene has the potential to become a force to be reckoned with on an international scale.

If a creative city is defined by the number of creative people working in it, then Thessaloniki is definitely inspiring.


Dimitris Koparanis, aka the Foodie Anarchist, came up with the idea for a Greek hybrid dessert in 2013. A few months later he created the first bougatsan and posted a photo on Instagram. Thirty minutes later he had the first media request. Half Thessaloniki and half Paris, bougatsan successfully combines a French croissant with the thick, hot custard used to fill bougatsa – a popular local filo pastry. Bougatsan instantly became a trending hashtag among local foodies and a sold-out item at Café Estrella, where it is exclusively served. It was not long before media all over the world (The Guardian, National Geographic Traveler, Olive magazine, The Culture Trip) were raving about it. The man behind this hype-generating dessert, a traveled and well-read food editor, cinephile, blogger and self-taught chef with an eclectic taste in music, is mainly inspired by Thessaloniki’s historically rich background. The city’s Ottoman past and the urban cui-

sines that emerged from its culturally diverse inhabitants are what make Thessaloniki a perpetual source of creative energy for him. Bougatsan was created at Estrella (48 Pavlou Mela), a central all-day café-restaurant located next to the iconic church of Aghia Sophia. It is served in three different versions: custard and cinnamon, custard and chocolate, custard and ice-cream, topped with red berries. The “Ottoman burger,” the homemade bagel burger and the hot dog French toast are some of the chef’s other famous creations served at Estrella. Aside from its irresistible fusion pastries, Estrella is also one of the city’s main brunch spots, buzzing with young people and indie tunes, especially at weekends. Dimitris describes Estrella’s menu as casual, humorous and rather personal. “It was created out of a desire to put together a contemporary menu that reflects the city’s present, in the best way,” he says.

I n fo thefoodieanarchist. EstrellaThessaloniki


It only takes one influential person to place Thessaloniki at the top of the international creative scene. If one person takes this much- needed step, several others will soon follow.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6





A MAYOR APART Vintner, patron of the arts, environmental hero and nonconformist with rock star appeal, Yiannis Boutaris has turned around his city’s fortunes.

BY n ata s h a b l at s i o u


iannis Boutaris was named Mayor of the Month in October 2012, joining the likes of London’s Boris Johnson and New York’s Michael Bloomberg. The UK-based City Mayors Foundation said that if all Greek politicians were like Thessaloniki’s mayor, Greece wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in. Similar views were voiced by the International Monetary Fund, which praised him for his reformist zeal, and foreign media who dubbed him a beacon of hope for the country. Boutaris insists that he is not a politician, just a businessman who passed his family’s winery on to the next generation to take on a new project: running Thessaloniki. Born into the oldest wine-growing family in Greece, he was instrumental in bringing Greek wine to the world. A scholar of the city’s history and an art aficionado, he co-founded the Macedonian Center of Contemporary Art and throws his support behind all manner of cultural activities. He is also involved in grassroots movements to improve life in the city and was a pioneer in environmental activism, earning the title of “European Hero” by Time magazine in 2003.

Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris swaps his usual get-up of jeans and checkered shirt for formal attire.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



The truth is that the “tattooed mayor,” as he was recently dubbed by The Guardian, is not your ordinary politician. Even at the age of 73 he is more rock star than suit. He has been open about his battle with alcohol addiction, wears John Lennon-style glasses, has seven tattoos and sports a diamond stud in one ear. He smokes roll-up cigarettes and is always dressed in signature suspenders, checkered or striped shirts, jeans and a corduroy jacket. He eschews all the habits of a public official. He does not go around with an entourage, doesn’t drive a state car and unlike most Greek politicians, does not hide from his electorate. Boutaris is not afraid to rock the 60

boat. Just days after he was elected for the first of two terms, he confronted the influential metropolitan bishop of Thessaloniki, asked Berlin for advice on waste management at a time when relations between Greece and Germany were especially fraught, and visited Istanbul in a bid to drum up Turks’ interest in visiting Thessaloniki. He challenged the city’s conservative impulses by posing nude for an AIDS campaign and openly supporting Gay Pride – on the day of the parade, a large chunk of the populace attended church services protesting the event. Boutaris’ nonconformist stance may have raised eyebrows but no one doubts that within the first two years of his

tenure, he spoke openly about corruption, tidied up municipal finances and transformed Thessaloniki into an international destination. A city that once catered exclusively to business travelers and passing tourists saw arrivals in 2011-2013 from Russia skyrocket by 371 percent, from Israel 358 percent and from Turkey by 226 percent. Proof of his success was Thessaloniki’s ranking among the top international destinations in 2013 by National Geographic.

Cycling is the latest craze in Thessaloniki, and Yiannis Boutaris is supporting the trend by revamping bicycle lanes and boosting the presence of shared bikes.

You’ve said that you can’t get to know Thessaloniki unless you muddy your shoes. What did you mean?


That you need to walk a lot to enjoy it. Head up to Ano Poli to see the 10th century churches and monuments, and sniff out the cafes and tavernas that aren’t in any guide book. Walk down to the historical center with its open-air farmers’ markets and the aroma of a bygone era – still present amid the smell of clothes and shoes arriving in bulk from China. Take a stroll by the sea, along the coastal promenade from the port to Thessaloniki Concert Hall.

What were the key historical events that shaped the city? The city was devastated by a terrible fire in 1917 that engulfed the entire center, together with all the commercial activity run by the Jews. A plan for its restoration was never put into effect and so the big village with its eastern feel and narrow streets – which is what Thessaloniki was at the time – never became the European-style city envisaged by French urban planner Ernest Hébrard, whose vision was confined to Aristotelous square and street. Next came the doubling of the city’s residents with the population exchanges of 1922 and the annihilation of its Jewish community in the Holocaust. So, from a cosmopolitan city that had acquired European characteristics, a crossroads between East and West, outward-looking and with a plethora of foreign diplomatic missions, companies and banks, it became a city of refugees.

How would you define Thessaloniki today? It is in search of an identity. I wouldn’t call it a classically European city nor does it have the air of the East. I believe it is a medley that is alluring. It is home to more than 120,000 students and is seeing the emergence of young entrepreneurs as well as citizens’ groups volunteering their services in many different areas, and this gives us hope because active citizens are the ones who ultimately shape developments. G R E E C E IS

T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



Why would someone choose Thessaloniki over Athens for a city break? If someone is planning to spend five days in one or the other, the simple truth is they’ll have more fun in Thessaloniki. The Acropolis and its museum may be unrivaled, but all the cultural activities available in Athens are also available here on a smaller scale: from the Byzantine and Archaeological museums – the city has 33 vibrant museums – to the Costakis Collection of Avant-Garde Russian art at the State Museum of Contemporary Art and the Iolas Collection at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art. The same goes for the commercial center: the cafés, restaurants and clubs are clustered together in a few blocks. And if you want to escape the urban setting, just an hour’s drive away you will find spots of incredible natural beauty: From a boat ride on the Axios Delta to climbing Mt Olympus, bird-watching at Lake Kerkini and hundreds of beautiful beaches, all the way from Halkidiki to the coast of Pieria.

Do Thessalonians embrace their visitors? Just the other day I was at a restaurant, talking with the owner and I asked him why someone would visit the city. He said because we will show them a good time. It’s not easy to explain, but in general terms it means that you’ll be in a good mood from the moment you step out of your hotel. You’ll say five ‘good mornings,’ see someone you met the day before and be greeted with the warmth of a friend.

Where do the young artists and entrepreneurs live? Frangomahalas is a neighborhood with a lot of young residents. Two- and three-story early-19th-century buildings that once served as residences, then as large workshops before being abandoned with the demise of industry, are now coming back to life. They are being turned into small business premises for architects, engineers or innovative graphic arts and design firms, or transformed once more into homes. 62

This is where the first boutique hotels are emerging and where the nightlife is concentrated. The mornings are mostly given over to commerce, with the activity centered on the food and spice shops, but come noon, the young people who work, live and hang out here start making their appearance.

What is the latest trend? Bicycles. We’re not quite Copenhagen but there has been a notable increase. We’re trying to restore the bicycle lanes that had been designated at one point, build a new network and boost the presence of shared bikes.

Boutaris may have raised eyebrows but no one doubts that within the first two years of his tenure, he tidied up municipal finances and transformed Thessaloniki into an international destination.

The numbers show that Thessaloniki is experiencing a tourism boom despite the crisis. To what do you attribute this enviable rise? From the outset we tried to promote the city’s rich multicultural history and cultural heritage, with an emphasis on the Ottoman and Jewish past, which had been considered taboo. Our reasoning is that a city needs to know its own history before it can move ahead into the future. Overtures to Turkey and Israel, particularly the Jewish diaspora, resulted in a rise in tourism. We also engaged in a form of city diplomacy by forging ties with other metropolises in Greece, Europe and the rest of the world through, for example, the European Youth Capital initiative in 2014 and the Rockefeller Center’s network of 100 Resilient Cities, to which we were accepted later that same year. Our drive to make Thessaloniki more outward-looking was also coupled with efforts to host major international events such as the 2011 Biennale of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean, the 2012 World Music Expo, the 2013 International Maxibasketball Championship for veteran players, the 2014 World Rowing Coastal Championships, etc.

How do you intend to enhance the traveler’s experience over the next five years? Thessaloniki needs to solve its traffic problem, particularly through public transport because right now we only

have buses as the metro is still under construction. We are pushing for better transportation along the coast and a tram network, but also trying to restrict traffic in the city center, which is why we’re constantly creating smaller and larger pedestrian zones – Aghias Sofias, which was recently pedestrianized is a good example. In the area of waste management, we want to increase recycling, reuse and composting, and reduce the number of bins on the streets, something that would definitely boost the city’s image. We are also going ahead with a plan to run all power cables underground, starting in the historic center.

You are Thessaloniki-born and bred, and spend a lot of time all over the city. Does is still hold surprises? The other day, leaving City Hall and walking along the coast, I saw seven or eight couples dancing swing and suddenly felt as though I was on a film set. Further down another group was dancing Latin. And then there are the street drum bands that perform for no apparent reason. The city’s energy, despite unemployment of 30 percent, never ceases to amaze me.

Exclusive Distributor of TW STEEL for Greece and Cyprus 19, N.Kountouriotou Str., Thessaloniki, T. 2310 511413 F. 2310 512311 Facebook /twsteelgr

discover GREECE IS



Ancient home to philosophers, kings and humble fishermen, Macedonia combines impressive landscapes with history, archaeology and awe-inspiring treasures. At its heart lays Thessaloniki, a 23-centuries-old cosmopolitan city, the jewel of the north. View of the White Tower from the West, 19th century, by unknown artist (detail) Thessaloniki by Artists-Travellers of the 19th and 20th c from the Kalfayan Collection



A CITY BECOMING Thessaloniki’s leading modern chronicler lays bare the city’s soul. BY GIORGOS SK ABARDONIS

No man will be without a homeland, as long as Salonica exists,” so wrote Nikephoros Choumnos, the Byzantine scholar and statesman (Grand Logothete) of Thessaloniki, as early as the 14th century AD. This sentence captures the essence of a city located midway between the East and West, at the intersection of cultures; a city that is a geopolitical keystone, a bustling crossroads, a haven for the poor and persecuted; and the only European city to boast an urban population for an uninterrupted 2,500 years. Thessaloniki was founded by Cassander, the King of Macedonia, in 315 BC. He consolidated the population of 26 surrounding settlements within the walls he raised around the new city, which he named after his wife, the sister of Alexander the Great and daughter of King Philip II. The dazzling palaces and public edifices he erected were instrumental in its metamorphosis into the most important port city of the Macedonian Kingdom.

Youngsters by the sea, a rare photograph by prolific mid-20th century Thessaloniki photographer Socrates Iordanidis, from the archives of the Museum of Photography.



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


In 168 BC Thessaloniki succumbed to Roman rule, after the defeat of Perseus, the King of Macedonia. They too erect resplendent monuments and turned the city into the business, cultural and administrative heart of the Balkans. In 58 BC the brilliant Roman orator, Cicero, was exiled in Thessaloniki; in AD 42, after the Battle of Philippi, Anthony and Octavian baptized it the “free city” with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto. In AD 50, Paul the Apostle visited the city; then, between AD 298 and 305, Galerius Caesar selected Thessaloniki as one of the seats for the Roman Tetrarchy. Again, eminent buildings, palaces and temples were built: the Roman walls, the Palace Complex, the Octagon, the Hippodrome, the Theater-Stadium, the Roman Forum, the Arch of Galerius, the Mint, the colonnade later known as “Las Incantadas,” along with the chief Roman highway, the Via Regia. About AD 330, Con70

stantine the Great declared Thessaloniki the second city of the Eastern Byzantine Empire and, until 1430 when it is seized by the Ottomans, exquisite temples and new Byzantine walls were raised. All the while, the city braved all manner of adversity: besieged and overrun by Ostrogoths, Slavs, Saracens, Normans and Franks; the latter captured the city during the Fourth Crusade and it became the capital of the kingdom of the Lombards, ruled over by an Italian king, Boniface of Monferrat. On its heels, we have the rise of the Zealot movement of 1342-1349, the arrival in Thessaloniki of the first bands of Ashkenazi Jews from Central Europe in 1387, and the Saints Cyril and Methodius christianizing the Slavic people and promulgating the Cyrillic alphabet. Under Ottoman rule, the Muslim districts in the upper part of the city flourished, burgeoning with new holy precincts, mosques, military adminis-

The dazzling palaces and public edifices erected by Cassander were instrumental in Thessaloniki’s metamorphosis into the most important port city of the Macedonian Kingdom.

1916: A German warplane, put on public view after being shot down by a French airman, becomes the focus of interest on the waterfront.





tration offices, the White Tower, the Triangle Tower or the Tower of the Fall, The Fortress of Vardar, the Heptapyrgion (Yenti Koule), the Baths of Paradise, the Bedestan, etc. Liberated by the Greek army in 1912, the city, once again, was beset by adversity: the Balkan Wars, World War II, the German Occupation – during which 96 percent of the Jewish population perished – and the civil war. But this is a city that has withstood 25 centuries; it holds in its hallowed heart the traces of Romans and ancient Macedonians; a thousand years of Byzantium; the wounds made by barbarian spearheads; Frankish and Ottoman houses

of worship. From center to periphery it is laden with riches comparable only to those that lie restlessly in wait under the earth. As these treasures surface – which they do, continually – they bear incontrovertible witness to all that the city has lived through; they proclaim its dignity in the face of the most recent wave of barbarity, a sea of concrete and incivility. Thessaloniki is at once immutable and volatile, extraordinary and mundane. A city both walled in and open, protean and Byzantine, skittish and bold, Machiavellian and naïve. Multitudinous and manifold, its secret pathways disappear into decades shadowed

by notorious murders and burnished by breakthrough innovation. The city is a multitude – multidimensional, multifocal, multipolar; a sacred and profane palimpsest buried deep under a surface frivolity; a crossroads marked by perpetual returns; a yawning maw of resignation and pride; a tale both convoluted and cyclical echoing the most ethereal, ghostly, and multifarious of webs, the finest of nets, the thickest of snares. Thessaloniki is always in the process of becoming: it crumbles and bleeds and then rises up out of the ashes, whole. It is not an easy city to comprehend. Like a wicked woman, she’ll bleed you dry; she’s cunning, hopelessly beautiful,

1. 1947: A fish vendor weighs his wares at the harbor.

2. Summer fun in Peraia, on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, sometime in the interwar years.

3. Alexander the Great and His Sister, the Mermaid, 1984 oil painting by celebrated artist, playwright and political cartoonist Chrysanthos Mentis Bostantzoglou (pen name “Bost”).


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



ria and the island of Thassos. Two hours to the north we find Sofia, and two to the east, Samothrace and the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, Olympia and the Cabirian Mysteries. This land, teeming, complex, ensnares you in its endless labyrinthine stories shaped by hopelessly tangled plots that dissipate only to return in a different form. An assortment of facades and mysteries, fiends and cherubs, glory and ignominy, reticence and uplift; rumors and shadows, arias and shrieks, kings and slaves. You see them often, looming wreathe-like in the morning mists of the waterfront. Empty, striped uniforms worn by the Jews come and go, floating on air. Suddenly you hear, in passing, the heavy footsteps of Saint Gregory of Palamas receding around the corner; the faraway strum of Tsitsanis’ chords; hallelujahs, uttered centuries ago, but still vibrant until they slip away into Dimitrios the Besieger’s concealed tunnels, or drift into the hubbub of the fish taverns in Modiano Market. Thessaloniki is many cities in one, inexhaustible. A home to the homeless, a nesting place for every sparrow, a wineskin in the smoke, the open secret that is the smoking-room of the Poets.

Thessaloniki is at once immutable and volatile, extraordinary and mundane. A city both walled in and open, protean and Byzantine, skittish and bold, Machiavellian and naïve.



complicated. Those familiar with the city’s literature and architecture will tell you that the simple coffee shop in front of you was once the headquarters of Dagoulas, chief of the security battalions under the German occupation: before that, an opium den to the Dervishes and a Byzantine tailor shop; and before that, a Macedonian bath house. When you know this, you cannot help but see things in a new light. For the archaeology of the future, nothing is off limits, yet there is one thing it cannot touch or tarnish: the poet, that “primeval creature,” who spends the night roaming through this occupied yet always free city. Let us not forget that Thessaloniki is defined and determined not only by her own intrinsic value but also by Constantinople’s watchful eye; the blessing of her neighboring Mount Athos; of Pella, the capital of Macedonia; of Vergina and Olympus, the mountain of the Gods. Within an equally small span of the compass, the city cohabits with: Aristotle’s and Potidaea’s Chalcidice, the point of origin for the Peloponnesian Wars; the great Kasta Tomb at Amphipolis and Thucydides’ Paggeo gold mines; Kastoria with its 200 Byzantine churches; Ve-

1. The city from above, painted on an old postcard. 2. Street cars and pedestrians pass under the Arch of Galerius, 100 years ago.


Macedonia THROUGH THE AGES Northern Greece’s past consists of an extensive chronological constellation of influential figures that left their mark on the region’s history. BY JOHN LEONARD


© Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum / Ministry of Culture & Sports, Archaeological Receipts Fund, photo Orestis Kourakis

Gold myrtle wreath, from the tomb of Philip II at Vergina (Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki).


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6




ow, stands sentinel over the region’s southern borderlands. In the north, as elsewhere in Greece, impressive landscape combines with history, archaeology and present-day culture to ensure a unique, unforgettable experience. Here, one also finds Vergina (ancient Aigai), the first capital of ancient Macedonia and the burial place of King Philip II, whose son, Alexander the Great, came to rule most of Greece and eventually a vast empire in the East. Alexander’s spirit seems ubiquitous in this central area of Macedonia – at nearby Pella, where he

was born and grew up; at shady Mieza, where he continued his studies under the philosopher Aristotle; and at Amphipolis, about 100k east of Thessaloniki, where in 334 BC he mustered his land and naval forces before departing across Thrace for Asia. However, northern Greece’s past does not begin and end with Alexander who, although unquestionably its greatest luminary, can today be recognized as one particularly bright star within a more extensive chronological constellation of influential figures – both ancient and modern – that have


hessaloniki provides an ideal base from which to explore the history and archaeological sites of northern Greece. No matter where you travel in this country of diverse regions, it seems you can always find something new, intriguing and worthy of note. This is particularly true when you head north, away from the teeming megalopolis of Athens into the lush plains and rolling green hills of Macedonia. One enters a different world, marked first by the towering mass of Mount Olympus, which, along with the archaeological site of Dion in its shad-

From the excavations at Vergina. In the foreground, Manolis Andronikos (center). The facade of the so-called “Tomb of the Prince” at Vergina. It had double, marble doors, blue capitals and two shields rendered in plaster relief (right).


Manolis Andronikos’ discovery of the royal tombs of Vergina in 1977 has had much the same impact on Greek archaeology and history as Schliemman’s formative late-19th century revelations concerning the Bronze-age kings of Mycenae.


Strymonas River Prespa Lake Amphipolis

Apsalos Florina



Thessaloniki Arethousa

Kastoria Lake

Lefkadia (Mieza) Stageira

Vergina (ancient Aigai)


Petralona Cave Olynthos


Via Egnatia



also left their mark on the region’s history. These important Macedonian characters range from the anonymous Petralona Man, whose 200,000-to400,000-year-old skull was discovered in 1960 deep in a cave in Halkidiki, to the late archaeologist Manolis Andronikos, who, in the 1970s, unearthed the ancient royal graves at Vergina. Thousands of years ago, Greece was a preferred path for transient people streaming into Europe from the Middle East, much like today in fact. North78


ern Greece, in particular, witnessed the passage of many travelers, some of whom stopped temporarily or settled down in more permanent villages. Near Apsalos in the Pella district, archaeologists have identified a 10,000-yearold campsite where Mesolithic people erected wooden shelters and used chipped-stone tools, but still lacked the know-how to produce pottery. The enormous span of Macedonia’s history is similarly attested by its many Neolithic settlements. At Dispilio, on the



southern shore of Kastoria Lake (ca. 5600-3000 BC), timber, reed and clay houses on elevated wooden platforms (now partly reconstructed) once accommodated a community of fishermen who inscribed symbols on wooden tablets – perhaps to record their catches or to inventory other food supplies. Elsewhere around the Kastoria and Prespa lakes, one finds the much later remains of Byzantine painted churches and medieval hermits’ caves, while in Kastoria itself are preserved many



THE LANDMARKS TOUR A comprehensive guide to the archaeological sites of Vergina, Dion and Pella


Reconstruction of a prehistoric lacustrine hut.


Cuirass from the gold-trimmed armor of Philip (Museum of the Royal Tombs at Aigai-Vergina).


Bust of a horse from a couch in the Villa of Dionysus.


Pella (House of Dionysus): Detail of Lion Hunt mosaic.


Statue of the philosopher Aristotle, teacher of Alexander the Great.


The Lion of Amphipolis. 5




Ruins of Basilica II (6th century AD).

Ottoman-era 18th and 19th century archontika (mansions). Further north, the Via Egnatia, a major East-West highway built by Roman engineers (2nd c BC), once stretched across Macedonia and Thrace, allowing Rome’s imperial troops to move speedily through the area to reach its eastern provinces and frontiers. Today’s Egnatia Odos follows much the same route and greatly facilitates present-day travelers intent on exploring the region. In the area of Florina, Hellenis-

tic-Roman Petres – once a prosperous, agriculture-based town with workshops for pottery, figurines, metal goods and sculpture – was for passers-by on the ancient highway the first or last urban center inside Macedonia. The heart of ancient Macedonia lay southwest of Thessaloniki. This was the central stomping ground of Philip, Alexander and his ruthlessly supportive mother Olympias, who conceived the boy, legend held, after Zeus came to her bed disguised as a serpent. It was here

that generations of Macedonian kings, beginning in the 7th century BC, based themselves at Aigai (Vergina) and later at Pella; and from where Philip and Alexander successively expanded their hegemony to the wild Epirote west, to the distant northern province that today grandly labels itself “Macedonia,” to eastern, mineral-rich Thrace and to the revered southern realm of Classical Greece. By consolidating and expanding on his father’s imperial conquests, Alexander brought Macedonia to an


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6







economic and cultural zenith, evident in the splendor of his capital at Pella, and set the stage for the rise of the Hellenistic world. The wealth of ancient Macedonia is also apparent in the ornate chamber tombs of Lefkadia (Mieza); and at Archontiko, near Pella, where more than 1,000 now-excavated graves of late Geometric through Hellenistic date indicate a long-lived settlement whose later inhabitants possessed gold-trimmed bronze armor and lavish jewelry. 80

History and archaeology continue to be rich east of Thessaloniki in the three-fingered Halkidiki region, whose easternmost peninsula hosts Mount Athos, a Christian monastic enclave that has existed for at least 12 centuries. At Olynthos, Halkidiki’s political and cultural nucleus in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, visitors will find a modern-like orthogonally planned city, burned by Philip II in 348 BC, but notable today for its extensive array of Classical houses and fine pebble-mosaic floors. Further east lie the coastal city

of Stageira, birthplace of Aristotle, and the hilltop castle of Rentina, a control point for the Via Egnatia, fortified in Late Roman and Byzantine times. The adjoining city of Arethousa was infamous as the place where the playwright Euripides died after being attacked by King Archelaos’ hunting dogs. Continuing east across the Strymonas River, one comes to Amphipolis and eventually (166k east of Thessaloniki) to Philippi, located at another strategic pass successively fortified and colonized by the Thracians, Romans





and Byzantines. Following St Paul’s visit circa AD 49, Philippi became a major Christian center and a magnet for pilgrims. Almost 2,000 years later, the city’s fascinating expanse of ruins encompass a fortified acropolis, an agora, an impressive, partly reconstructed theater and numerous sanctuaries, churches, baths, shops, public buildings, common houses and sumptuous mosaic-floored bishops’ residences. From one end to the other, an archaeological journey through eternal northern Greece has much to offer.

1. The Abduction of Persephone by Pluto. From the decorative wall painting in the so-called “Tomb of Persephone” (350 BC) at Vergina, which may belong to Nikisipoli, one of Philip II’s wives and mother of Thessaloniki. 2. Golden mask and bronze helmet of a dead warrior, from the mid-6th century BC (Archaeological Museum of Pella).

5. Statue beside the flow of the Vafyra River and the temple of Isis at Dion. 6. The hypocaust system in the Roman Baths at Dion. The floor, below which circulated hot air, was supported by many small piers. 7. Mosaic depicting a bull-sea monster from the Great Baths at Dion, Roman era.

3. The golden larnax bearing the Macedonian star, in which were placed the remains of Philip II; made of 24 carat gold, weighs 11kg (Museum of the Royal Tombs at Aigai-Vergina).

8. The sanctuary of Isis Lochias at Dion. The narrow corridor leading to the sanctuary’s entrance was filled with water and symbolically represented the Nile River in Egypt.

4. Mosaic depicting a deer hunt, from the House of the Abduction of Helen (325-300 BC, Archaeological Museum of Pella).


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


Ale x ande r the Gre at


Macedonia’s BRILLIANT Native Son


A charismatic yet complex character, a gifted leader and military commander of unparalleled skills... Twenty-three centuries after his death, his legend lives on. BY John Leonard


ore than 23 centuries after he unexpectedly died in distant Babylon, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) still seems to be a name that comes easily to many people’s lips – from young children first learning to tell jokes (“What’s purple and conquered the world?” “Alexander the Grape!”) to historians, anthropologists, linguists and opportunistic politicians striving even today to come to grips with the Macedonian commander’s stunning military achievements, to trace his cultural influence or to exploit his universal fame and appeal. Alexander III was, and is, ancient Macedonia’s greatest native son, a brilliant, hugely confident, remarkably skilled young man, who grew up surrounded by royal luxury, hard-fighting, hard-drinking military men, self-serving, often murderous palace intrigue and especially the examples set through the relentless ambitions of his dynamic parents, Philip II and Olympias. Thanks to a slew of biographers both ancient and modern, including Theopompus, Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Polyaenus and more recently Robin Lane Fox and Peter Green, we (think we) know much about Alexander, his character and his ambitions. Alexander was born at Pella, then a prosperous coastal emporium that lay at the heart of a kingdom his father was already in the midst of expanding and consolidating into a powerful regional empire. He was the latest scion

Alexander the Great at the Battle of Issus (2nd c BC). Detail of a mosaic from the House of the Faun in Pompeii (National Archaeological Museum, Naples).


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6






1. Aristotle Teaching Alexander the Great. Engraving by Charles Laplante, in vol. 1 of Louis Figuier’s Vie des Savants Illustres Savants de l’Antiquité (Paris, 1866). 2. Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, depicted on a gold pendant of the Roman era (Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum). 3. Head of Philip II, carved in ivory, from his tomb at Vergina (Museum of the Royal Tombs at Aigai-Vergina). 4. Alexander Refuses to Take Water. Painting by Giusette Cades (1792, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg).

in the Argead Dynasty, which claimed descent from the divine hero Heracles. On his mother’s side, who hailed from wild Epirus, he was said to be related to the great warrior Achilles, a revered figure that played a formative role in Alexander’s thinking, self-image and actions right down to the end of his life. As a youth, he pushed himself to excel in fighting, to achieve great feats and to stand above the crowd. When he invaded Asia in 334 BC, he first stopped at 84

Troy, where, accompanied by his closest, life-long friend Hephaestion, he paid his respects at the tomb of Achilles and ran a race naked in honor of his dead hero. In the end, eight months before his own death, Alexander was inconsolable at the passing of Hephaestion, much as Achilles had mourned his beloved Patroclus, and buried him in a similar (although far more extravagant) ceremonial style. The greatest influences in Alexan-

der’s early life were his tough soldier-father and his fiercely protective mother. Philip seems largely to have been absent from Pella, but, due apparently to his great military prowess and lack of paternal attention, he was dominant in Alexander’s mind – as a role model, but also as a competitor, whose acknowledgement the boy seemed desperate to gain. The well-known story of 8-yearold Alexander recklessly, but magnificently mastering the seemingly uncon-


trollable horse Bucephalas at Dion, in front of Philip and his father’s friends and functionaries, well illustrates his own character and the internal conflict that ultimately drove him to reach heights far beyond those of Philip. Queen Olympias, on the other hand, spent much time looking after her young son’s best interests, particularly those concerning Alexander’s future ascendancy to the Macedonian throne. This led the prince himself to become constantly on guard to protect his own position and the way others perceived him. In another telling, wellknown incident, at the wedding feast in celebration of Philip’s marriage to his fifth wife, Cleopatra Eurydice, in 338 BC, Alexander responded to an insult cast at him by the bride’s father, Attalus, concerning his legitimacy, by hurling a wine cup at the offending guest. When Philip, perhaps far into his cups, attempted to respond violently to his son’s rudeness, he slipped and fell, thus giving his son the opportunity to mock him: He who wants to invade Persia cannot even move from one seat to another without stumbling. Despite occasional bad blood, Philip looked after his son’s education and

appears to have admired him. Alexander’s most influential teachers were Leonidas, a relative of Olympias, and especially the philosopher Aristotle. Leonidas taught him to be tough, to endure all-night marches and forced deprivations of food, while Aristotle cultivated his mind. Alexander occupied his days at Pella with reading, writing, swordplay, archery, horse-riding and learning to play the lyre. Another memorable incident reveals several lasting character traits in Alexander: his tendency not to forget a slight and to welcome opportunities for vengeance; his sometimes exaggerated generosity; and his clever verbal agility. Leonidas had sternly chastised Alexander as a boy not to waste incense at sacrifices. Long afterward, in 332 BC,

when Alexander had seized Gaza, the main Levantine spice emporium, he shipped back to the now-elderly Leonidas a potential fortune of 18 tons of frankincense and myrrh, as a remembrance of old lessons learned together. Physically, Alexander was below average height, muscular, a fast runner, with wild blonde hair like a lion’s mane. He was fair-skinned and said to have different colored eyes (grey-blue, dark brown), sharply pointed teeth, a highpitched, sometimes harsh voice and a quick, nervous gait. His head he held characteristically high, with his neck twisted slightly to the left. Alexander’s biographers mention something almost girlish, with a sense of suppressed tension, about his early portraits. He is remembered as intelligent, calculat-

Alexander’s legacy as an ambassador of Greek civilization survives in linguistic, religious and other cultural traces still evident in distant corners of Asia.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


The Battle of Alexander and Darius. Painting by Francesco Solimena (1735, Palace of La Granja, Madrid).

ing and perceptive, but also impulsive, stubborn and violent-tempered. Aristotle instructed the adolescent Alexander and a small student-body of other young princes and nobles at the Precinct of the Nymphs, a shady cave complex beside a river at Mieza, a village south of Pella in the so-called Gardens of Midas (today’s Veria-Naousa-Edessa region). Here, the philosopher oversaw Philip’s son in various studies, including Homeric literature, philosophy, morals, religion, logic, art, geometry, astronomy, rhetoric and medicine. Alexander developed an omnivorous curiosity for knowledge, later bringing on his Asian campaign a host of zoologists, botanists and other scientists. His keen interest in medicine encouraged a flexibility of mind and an ability to face any given situation, without preconceptions – qualities that eventually served him on the battlefield. Alexander’s unparalleled skills as 86

a military commander were largely learned from his father, initially tested in Macedonian and Greek lands, then honed and brilliantly demonstrated in Asia. He broke the back of the Persian Empire at Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela, ultimately pushing as far eastward as northern India. His battle strategy relied mainly on the use of his elite officer-corps of Companion Cavalry and the impenetrable Macedonian phalanx armed with 6m-long spears (sarissas). By breaking the enemy’s central line with the phalanx, then aggressively outflanking and enveloping them with cavalry and archers, as he and Philip had done at Chaeronea (338 BC), Alexander overcame all opposition – even when charging war elephants were deployed against him in Persia and India. Alexander was a gifted leader, diplomat and propagandist, who presented himself to his Asian subjects as a god,

son of Zeus-Ammon. In his inspired quest to meld East with West, he adopted Persian ways, brought conquered local officials into his imperial administration and encouraged his officers to intermarry with his newfound subjects. He himself married a Persian princess, Roxana, and spawned an ill-fated son, Alexander IV. In the end, he proved all too human, finally succumbing to disease, overdrinking or poison. He left behind an army in disarray and a host of squabbling successors. Nevertheless, his legend fourished. Today, Alexander’s legacy as an ambassador of Greek civilization survives in linguistic, religious and other cultural traces still evident in distant corners of Asia. His memory still sparks political wrangling and enriches the present-day cultural scene. Above all, his dynamic, undefeated military record will stand forever as one of the greatest achievements of ancient Greek history.

mus t se e

Fresh Views of an Ancient City An extensive renovation, open-air exhibits and mosaics from local sites are indicative of the Archaeological Museum’s fresh, progressive approach. B Y J O H N L E ON A R D


or history lovers, Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum (AMTH) is one of the hottest tickets in town. Conveniently located in the city center close to the White Tower and the Museum of Byzantine Culture, AMTH has undergone great changes over the past decade, now presenting museologically state-of-the-art displays that cover the full range of Thessaloniki’s and its region’s rich history and archaeological remains. AMTH has been an evolving space for culture and learning since it first opened in 1962, the same year that the 4th century BC Derveni krater – a magnificent bronze funerary urn wrapped in reliefs of Dionysus, Ariadne and the wine god’s retinue of ecstatic satyrs and maenads – was unearthed northeast of Thessaloniki and soon made one of the new museum’s primary attractions. The completion of major renovations to the museum in 2006 marked the dawn of a new era for AMTH, where, today, visitors of all ages are welcomed with engaging and thematically arranged permanent displays, temporary exhibitions,

educational programs, workshops, academic talks, seminars and recreational activities. Permanent displays include Prehistoric Macedonia; Towards the Birth of Cities; Macedonia from the 7th century BC until Late Antiquity; Thessaloniki, Metropolis of Macedonia; The Gold of Macedon; Macedonia, from Fragments to Pixels; Field House Garden Grave; and Memory in Stone. The latter two displays have been installed outside the museum, where visitors can view distinctive ancient funeral monuments, sarcophagi and altars. These open-air exhibits, indicative of AMTH’s fresh, progressive approach, also feature a mock Roman-era house, with genuine mosaic floors transferred from local archaeological sites. There is also a collection of stone artifacts intended to highlight the fragmentary nature of archaeological evidence, the frequent reuse of stone materials in antiquity and the role of such objects in transmitting important information and past collective memory to later generations – both in ancient and modern times.

TREASURES GALLERY Discover more of the museum’s exhibits

Info A r c h a e o l o g i c a l M u s e u m o f T h e s s a l o n i k i : 6 Manoli Andronikou Street • Open Mon-Sun, 9:00-16:00 • Admission 6 euros, reduced 3 euros, combined ticket (with admission to Museum of Byzantine Culture) 8 euros • Tel. (+30) 2313.310.201 •





1. Detail of the Derveni Krater (330-320 BC), showing a maenad that decorates the shoulder, beside the handle.

2. Detail of a golden diadem, with a handsomely crafted Eros (ca. 320 BC).

3. Clay perfume holder shaped like a coq (540 BC).


4. Detail of a statue of Harpocrates (late 2nd century BC).

5. Statue of Roman Emperor Augustus (second quarter of the 1st century AD).

6. View of the interior of the museum. At right, a 440 BC funerary stele of a young woman, from Nea Kallikratia.






T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6







he ancient Macedonian site most in the news these days may be Amphipolis (“Both-Sides City”), a prominent, strongly fortified hill in a bend of the Strymonas River. Long an important cultural and commercial crossroads, Amphipolis became a coveted Athenian colony, bitterly disputed between Athens, Sparta and Macedonia in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. This now tranquil archaeological park at the top of the Aegean was the scene of decisive military battles and historic diplomatic missions; a place of confinement and eventual execution for Alexander the Great’s Persian-born queen Roxana and young son Alexander

Views of the two Caryatids, discovered at the back of the first chamber in the Kasta Hill tomb.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6





IV; later, the capital of Roman Macedonia; and, in the 5th and 6th centuries AD, an Early Christian seat with five impressive churches and a bishop’s palace. Since the renewal of excavations by the 28th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities on the site’s Kasta Hill in 2012, however, much attention has been focused on the discovery of the largest funerary monument ever found in Greece – a tumulus containing a three-chambered Macedonian tomb, enclosed by an enormous (158 m in diameter) circular wall of gleaming white Thasian marble, which may have been the final resting place of Alexander’s close friend Hephaestion. The area of Amphipolis was where Alexander I decimated Xerxes’ retreating Persian army in 479 BC. Later (465 BC), Athens lost 10,000 initial colo-

nists, when they were overrun by fierce Thracian locals. The colony was reimplanted in 437 BC, but soon attacked by Spartans in 424 BC. Their leader, Brasidas, although killed in battle, was hailed as a liberator and a local hero. Following Philip II’s seizure of Amphipolis in 358/357 BC, the city served as a forward military base for his, and later Alexander’s, eastward campaigns. Visitors today can explore much of the Amphipolis hill and surroundings, as well as its excellent museum. Worth seeing are the Lion of Amphipolis; the city’s Classical-Hellenistic fortifications; the gymnasium; the Early Christian basilicas; a Byzantine/medieval watchtower (being restored); and the preserved pilings of a 2,500-year-old wooden bridge that spaned Strymonas River into the 19th century.



1. Mosaic depicting the Abduction of Persephone (last quarter of 4th century BC). 2. The two headless sphinxes above the entrance to the Kasta Hill tomb. 3. Ceramic plaque with theatrical masks, from Tomb 212 in the Hellenistic cemetery at Amphipolis (Archaeological Museum of Kavala). 4. The Lion of Amphipolis (last quarter of 4th century BC), a restored funerary monument, erected originally perhaps in honor of Laomedon, a devoted companion and military commander of Alexander the Great.


5. A silver ossuary and the golden olive wreath discovered inside it. Once held the remains of the Spartan General Brasidas (Amphipolis Archaeological Museum). 6. The marble head of the east Sphinx, a sculpture of exquisite craftsmanship unearthed in the third chamber of the tomb. 7. View the 497m-long marble wall enclosing the perimeter of the Kasta Hill tomb. 8. Capital with preserved paint, from the monumental tomb at Kasta Hill.



The newly unearthed Kasta Tomb, not yet open to the public, is dated to the last quarter of the 4th c. BC. Two marble (now headless) sphinxes flank its entrance, while two female caryatids support the doorway to the second chamber, where a polychrome mosaic depicts the Abduction of Persephone to the Underworld. The third, innermost chamber, closed with a marble door typical of Macedonian tombs, contained five burials in a vault beneath its floor: an elderly (60+) woman, two middle-aged (35-45) men, a newborn and a fifth cremated individual, probably an adult. Analysis of the tomb’s disturbed contents is proceeding, but whether it belongs to Hephaestion or another historical figure remains a fascinating puzzle.



Info AMPHIPOLIS MUSEUM Amphipolis, Serres • Tel. (+30) 23220.32474 • Open Winter daily 8:00-15:00, except Mondays; Summer TBA. • Admission 2 euros, reduced 1 euro. Opening hours of the archaeological site were not confirmed at the time of printing.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


View of the interior of Aghia Sophia. In the foreground, the chandelier that hangs from the dome of the church.

Byz antine e r a


SHINING SHIELD of an empire 94

For almost 11 centuries, Thessaloniki was the second heart of the Byzantine Empire alongside Constantinople, as testified by a number of glorious monuments that dot the city. BY VA S S I L I S M I N A K A K I S



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


© VISUALHELLAS.GR, SHUTTERSTOCK,museum of byzantine culture


he 15 buildings in Thessaloniki which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Monuments attest to the great importance of the city during the 11 centuries of Byzantine rule (330-1453). It was initially declared capital of the Balkans by Justinian and later designated the “co-reigning” city (Symvasilevousa) of the Byzantine Empire alongside Constantinople. Thessaloniki held a prominent place in the political and economic life of the Byzantine Empire but it proved equally important in church affairs, as evidenced by its religious monuments, surpassed in number and artistic value only by those of Constantinople. Even in modern times, the city is considered the “Byzantine capital” of Greece. Constantine the Great was the first to realize the strategic importance of the city and constructed a new port there, even before he made Constantinople his capital. From that time and until 1430, when it fell into Turkish hands, Thessaloniki had a checkered history marked by periods of prosperity but also bloody sieges, alternating sovereigns, imperial intrigues and upheavals; all of which are reflected in the surviving buildings of the period and have been recorded in numerous legends and written sources. Several emperors made Thessaloniki their base in their effort to repel various invaders. Among them was Theodosius the Great, who converted to Christianity there in 380 AD but only 10 years later slaughtered its inhabitants in the Hippodrome, following riots after the imprisonment of a popular charioteer by the city’s garrison commander. Aside from being the “shield” of the Empire, the city also developed into a major artistic and religious center. It was from Thessaloniki that Cyril and Methodius set out to Christianize the Danubian Slavs in 863 and it was where Gregory Palamas, one of the most preeminent theologians of Hesychasm lived in the 14th century, becoming Archbishop of the city in 1347. 96



3. Crypt of Saint Demetrios, in the church dedicated to the martyr. According to tradition, this is where Demetrios was imprisoned, put to death and buried.

1. Detail from the mosaic floor depicting Notus, god of the south wind (first half 5th century, Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki). 2. Fragment of a wall painting depicting the Washing of the Feet (1360-1380, Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki). 2


4. View of the interior of the Church of Aghios Demetrios.


5. Rear of the Church of Aghia Sophia.



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



ΤΗΕ fortifications Originally constructed by the Romans, the fortifications were successively repaired and reinforced by the Byzantine Emperors Theodosius (late 4th c), Justinian and Manuel II Palaeologus and protected the city from a number of invaders. The walls stretched for approximately 8 kilometers, varying in height from 9 to 10.5 meters.

Museum of Byzantine Culture experiencing the sacred and the secul ar


From the bright stillness of its enclosed courtyard to the intimate darkness of the textured interiors, this contemporary structure designed by award-winning architect and painter Kyriakos Korkos, evokes a sense of sanctuary, ideally suited to the exploration of the early Christian era through the middle Byzantine period. The “Early Christian Church”   – itself arranged as a basilica – introduces the visitor to various elements of the church through texts, drawings and photographs. Period mosaics, sculptures and frescoes are placed as they would be in a church throughout. Other primary permanent exhibitions help to create a full picture of the Byzantine era. The Early Christian City and House exhibit explores the secular public and domestic lives of the early Christians through a period room, artifacts and informative texts. From life to afterlife, the exhibit “From the Elysian Fields to Chris-


tian Paradise” reveals the seamless continuity of pagan Roman funerary customs through the early Christian era, recloaked in Christian symbolism and iconography. The culture of the middle Byzantium period is explored through the sculptures, icons, artifacts and jewelry in an exhibition on the Macedonian and Comnenus dynasties. Artifacts of the dynasties of the Byzantine Emperors follow, then “The Twilight of Byzantium: 1204-1453” to complete this experience of both the sacred and secular throughout Byzantium. The museum, awarded in 2005 by the Council of Europe, also hosts periodical exhibitions, currently The Struggle with Time, an interactive show focusing on conservation. - AMBER CHARMEI • 2 Stratou Avenue, tel (+30) 2313.306.400;; Open daily 9:00-16:00; Admission 4 euros (2 reduced)

Panaghia Chalkeon The church stands at the junction of Egnatia and Aristotelous Ave. It was built in 1028 and its name derives from the nearby coppersmith workshops. Following the conquest of the city by the Ottomans in 1430 it was converted into a mosque, but changed little structurally. It is also popularly known as the “Red Church” because it is built entirely of bricks.

Byzantine baths Located at the outskirts of the Upper Town on Theotokopoulou Street, the baths were built in the late 12th or early 13th c and renamed Koule Hamam by the Ottomans. In constant use up to 1940, the building has undergone restoration and has been open to the public (though not as a bathhouse) since July 2015.



Mother of Israel

Little remains from the 2,000-year presence of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, though its contribution has been pivotal to the city’s culture, society and economy. BY DR. RENA MOLHO*




hat makes the Jewish community of Thessaloniki unique is its continued presence throughout the city’s 2,300-year history, a rare fact in the annals of Jewish history, even for Jerusalem or Alexandria. Especially between 1492 and 1912 the Jewish community was not only the largest of all ethnic communities living here but also the largest Jewish community in the world. Thessaloniki was known as Madre de Israel, the Mother of Israel, to its Spanish Jewish inhabitants and as the Jerusalem of the Balkans to non-Jews. In 331 BC Alexander the Great granted the Jews who had been slaves for approximately 250 years equality under the law. This brought many of them to settle in cities of the Hellenistic Empire and become Hellenized. The first Jews settled in the newly-established Thessaloniki in 315 BC. Favorable conditions attracted many Jews to migrate to Macedonia throughout history. The Ottoman conquest of Macedonia in 1430 was followed by a great influx of European Jews expelled from their home countries,

Jewish men in traditional cloaks and hats gather to read the newspaper in 1916 (left). Founded in 1925, the Monasteriotes’ Synagogue (right) is the oldest in the city and the sole survivor of the Nazi occupation.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



particularly from Spain. At the time, Salonica had only 2,000 inhabitants, so the 20,000 Sepharadim, Spanish Jews, who settled in the city, contributed to its demographic and economic rebirth. They dealt in international trade, finance, medicine and pharmacology. Many introduced new crafts such as the manufacturing of arms and gunpowder, as well as textiles. By the turn of the 16th century, at a time when all other Greek cities were in decline, Salonica had acquired 29,000 citizens, 50 percent or more of whom were Sepharadi Jews. The new settlers gave Salonica an international character and made it the second most important port in the Ottoman Empire. In the 16th century, known as the Golden Age of Salonica, the Sepharadi established libraries, an important Talmudic Academy, a printing press (1527) and a Conservatory for Jewish religious singing. They also founded 31 independent synagogues, with names reflecting the geographical origin of the newcomers, such as Provincia, Majorca, Castillia, Catalan, Aragon, Evora, Italia and Sicilia. Within 100 years all the Jews in Salonica spoke Judeo-Spanish. For more than four centuries, 50 percent of the city’s multiethnic population being Jewish, this language was also spoken by many Christians or Muslims, underscoring their peaceful coexistence. In the 17th century, Ottoman losses of their territories in Europe and the discovery of new commercial routes caused Thessaloniki’s economic decline. This brought spiritual and social impoverishment and, as a result, Salonica’s Jewish community lost its former glory. Nonetheless, the city that had become famous as a Jewish metropolis continued to attract new settlers. Between 1878 and 1914, flour mills, brick factories, breweries, soap-works and silkworm nurseries, carpet- and shoe-making factories and, above all, several large tobacco workshops were created, mainly by Jews. Yet most of the Jewish population was poor.  From 1878 Thessaloniki was connected to Europe by railway, its port was renovated and the city entered 102

modern times. The creation of banks facilitated commerce and contributed to the economic growth and social uplifting of its inhabitants. All of the four theatrical halls established then were owned by Jews. The Workers’ Union created in 1909 by a group of Salonica Jews was the most important socialist organization in the Ottoman Empire. Between 1865 and 1940, more than 50 Jewish newspapers were published in the city, most of them in Judeo-Spanish but several also in Turkish, French and Greek, representing all the political movements then current. Since the Jews constituted the largest multiethnic population, they largely determined the city’s social and political dynamics. For example, the port remained closed on Saturdays as well as during all Jewish holidays up until 1923, that is 10 years after the city was incorporated into the modern Greek state.  In the interwar period, which in Thessaloniki started with the big fire of 1917, the Greek government passed laws aimed to Hellenize the city. Slowly the Jews became segregated and turned into second-class citizens. This policy legalized anti-Semitic activities and led to the outbreak of a pogrom that drove many Salonika Jews to emigrate. Nevertheless, the ancient Jewish community stopped developing only with the arrival of the Nazis, who murdered 96 percent of its members and destroyed most of its cultural wealth.



The new settlers gave Salonica an international character and made it the second most important port in the Ottoman Empire.

Villa Modiano (right) is home to the Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia and Thrace. The neo-renaissance building was built in 1906.


1. Jewish nurse and “chicatico,” Salonica, 1864 (Mary Adelaide Walker, Through Macedonia to the Albanian Lakes, London, Chapman and Hall, 1864, Library of the Benaki Museum).

3. A man walks past graffiti commemorating the Holocaust and the first wave of deportations of Thessaloniki’s Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II.

2. Jewish merchants in 1910 (Roger-Viollet Collection, Thessaloniki History Center).

4. In the late 19th century, Thessaloniki had more than 70,000 Jews, who represented half the city’s total population. They formed numerous charitable institutions, including the Allatini and Aboav orphanages, the latter picture here. 5. In the art nouveau style, Villa Bianca or Casa Bianca, was built for Dino Fernandez-Diaz, an Italian Jew and prominent businessman, between 1911-1913. It was named after his wife Blanche (Bianca).



Read more on the Jewish, Armenian, French and German presence 6



6. A ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Menorah, a modern monument dedicated to the memory of the 50,000 Thessaloniki Jews killed in World War II death camps.

The Jewish Museum



ABOUT THE AUTHOr Dr. Rena Molho has taught and published extensively about the history of Ottoman and Greek Jewry. For her work she won the Athens Academy Award (2000) and the Alberto Benveniste Award for Research in 2015. She was also decorated as Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government in 2010. 104

Left: Sephardic Jewish costumes. Right: Scroll of the Book of Esther.

The museum’s building is itself a living memory as it is one of the very few Jewish-owned buildings to have survived the fire of 1917, and also once served as the offices of the Jewish newspaper L’Independent. The ground floor – divided between a gallery of stones, inscriptions and photographs from the city’s old Jewish necropolis, and a room of remembrance – sets a contemplative mood. Upstairs, in the light and airy main gallery, there is an enormously informative narrative of the Jewish presence in Thessaloniki, from the 3rd century BC, through the great arrival of Sephardic Jews fleeing Spain in the 15th century and up until World War II. Texts are in both English

and Greek, with audio guides available in English, Greek, Hebrew, French and German. Artifacts of everyday life complement the exhibit. A separate gallery is devoted to the Holocaust and its impact on Thessaloniki’s Jewish community: the vast majority – some 49,000 – were deported and less than 5 percent survived, practically erasing a tremendous presence that had helped shape centuries of the city’s cultural, intellectual, and commercial life. There is an extensive library documenting both the secular and religious life of the community, with books dating as far back as the 16th century. – AMBER CHARMEI

Info • 13 Aghiou Mina, tel (+30) 2310.250.406-7 • O P E N Tuesdays, Fridays & Sundays 11:00-14:00, Wednesdays & Thursdays 11:00-14:00 & 17:00-20:00 • A D M I S S I O N 3 euros

Stones and inscriptions once found in the Jewish cemetery that lay to the east of the city walls.


Visitors coming for the first time to Thessaloniki encounter a basically Byzantine city because historical events, such as the devastating fire that destroyed most of the Jewish monuments in 1917 and the annihilation of the Jewish community during the German occupation, erased the city’s Jewish character. Reconstruction after the end of World War II, which reached its peak in the 1960s, made the few remaining traces of the 2,000-year year Jewish presence in the Macedonian capital even less evident. What the visitor can see today are the three surviving synagogues, some surviving mansions with the most outstanding being the Villa Allatini (198 Vassilisis Olgas), the Modiano Market, the New Jewish Cemetery in the Stavroupoli area of the city and the Holocaust Memorial Menorah in Freedom Square. The Memorial Menorah is a modern monument dedicated to the memory of 50,000 Thessaloniki Jews murdered in death camps.

explore GREECE IS



Every neighborhood tells a story, every corner holds surprises, every monument and architecturally significant building bridges past and present. All you have to do is walk around and take it all in. At the Port of Thessaloniki, 20th century, by Charles Fourverry (detail) Thessaloniki by Artists-Travellers of the 19th and 20th c. from the Kalfayan Collection



On the waterfront The coastal promenade from the port to the concert hall represents a walk through the different phases of Thessaloniki’s history and architecture. BY ANGELIKI SAPIK A


he sea has always been an integral part of Thessaloniki’s attraction, both as a commercial waterway that has sustained its economy and as a privilege that few seafront cities have showcased to such advantage. The city’s orientation toward the sea is due to a great extent to the vision of Ernest Hébrard, the French urban planner and architect tasked with redesigning the center after the devastating fire of 1917. His plan may have been only partially implemented, yet what grandeur survives is thanks to his basic concept of introducing so-called classical divisions: “the rational organization and zoning of spaces for production and consumption,


the selective highlighting of monuments and preservation of a number of ‘picturesque’ residential precincts,” as Aristotle University Architecture Professor Alexandra Yerolympos explains in her paper Thessaloniki Before and After Ernest Hébrard. This rationale is instantly apparent along the waterfront, the 5k stretch from the port to the concert hall. Along this route, you can become immersed in the city’s vibe in under an hour, with views of the sea and Mount Olympus seemingly cast in a perfect frame in the background on a clear day. To really get the taste of a city you need to visit not just its historical landmarks, but also those spots that keep


Dubbed “The Bride of the Thermaic Gulf,” Thessaloniki has the privilege of a long seafront. The part between the iconic 15th century White Tower and the port, or the Old Waterfront, is where city folk congregate.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



adding new tales. The Palia Paralia (Old Waterfront) is one such place, running along Nikis Avenue from the port to the White Tower. It has served as a parade ground for kings and a place of protest for indignant citizens past and present. Walking along the Old Waterfront with the sea to your right, you will see a stretch of apartment blocks on your left. Most of these were built in the 1970s, though a handful of eclectic-style edifices from the early 20th century are also squashed among them. The architecturally indifferent buildings near the port mostly house shipping and law offices, but the view changes dramatically from Aristotelous Square onwards, segueing into luxurious apartment blocks and some of the 108





most expensive real estate in the city. The genius of Hébrard’s vision is best illustrated in the elegance of this strip. The ground-floor spaces of these buildings have been taken over by cafés, bars and restaurants, most of which overcharge for coffee, but make up for it with their privileged location. Not much has changed since the 20th century, when this area was abuzz with noisy traditional coffee shops and later cinemas, ideal for a languid stroll.

“bypass road” to waterside jewel Continuing your walk for a few minutes more will bring you to the White Tower, the city’s most emblematic landmark and museum, and the point where

1. The square at the White Tower is a popular meeting point and hangout. In the backround, one of the floating bars that cruise around the gulf. 2. The statue of Alexander the Great changes company during the day – in the morning it’s tourists, in the afternoon skaters and at night the party crowd of impromptu dance meets. 3. Pavlos Vassiliadis’ Moon graces the deck opposite the Makedonia Palace Hotel – a spot for fishermen and couples in love. 4. One of the most beautiful theme parks on the New Waterfront is the Afternoon Sun.

George Zongolopoulos Umbrellas, first exhibited at the 1995 Venice Biennale, found its proper place on the New Waterfront and quickly became Thessaloniki’s most popular and photographed landmark.



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


Street artists and musicians provide entertainment on the watefront, from the port to the concert hall.


Canteens offer sweet and savory temptations across the waterfront, but “Red Cap” is famous for his honey-soaked loukoumades.

the Nea Paralia (New Waterfront) begins, with the rather narrow sidewalk of the older stretch giving way to a broad cobbled promenade that was built in the 1960s along with the embankment. For the first 20 years, the New Waterfront managed to retain its aesthetic appeal, but neglect nudged it into decline so that in the 80s it gradually devolved into a rather dingy and isolated spot, used for sordid trysts and the morning constitutionals of elderly residents in the immediate vicinity – earning it the nickname “bypass road.” Thessaloniki turned over a new leaf on December 1, 2013, however, unveiling the New Waterfront, an ambitious renovation designed by architects Prodromos Nikiforidis and Bernard Cuomo. It was cause for celebration in a city in the grips of the severest economic crisis in modern history, with unemployment soaring to 30 percent. Residents continue to embrace the new boardwalk with as much enthusiasm today as they did when it was first presented to them, using it for free public events, many organized by the Friends of the New Waterfront Society, from fashion shows and concerts to all manner of artistic happenings – but no protests as the mayor has adamantly refused to allow political gatherings in this jewel of a location. With the sound of traffic from the Old Waterfront behind

you, this is where to experience a panorama of Thessaloniki’s human geography: yogis demonstrating inner-balance exercises, people taking a stroll up and down, families playing, dogs running beside their owners, elderly people chatting at “their” bench, students strumming on guitars or playing drums while drinking beer from the kiosk, joggers adding up the miles, photographers waiting for the perfect light and dozens of cyclists… cycling. The rationale of the project, as the two architects explain, was the pursuit of a new equilibrium between the seafront and the city, “balanced solutions that respect equally the citizen and the environment.” It has certainly brought a sense of equilibrium to the daily lives of residents by allowing them to rediscover the wonderful possibilities of a well-designed, thoughtful public space. One of the most fascinating aspects of the revamp is the creation of 13 themed pocket parks, or “green rooms” as the architects have dubbed them, which are interspersed with recreational areas. This stretch begins just after the Vassiliko (Royal) Theater, which hosts many performances of the National Theater of Northern Greece, with a park inspired by the statue of Alexander the Great at its center. This is one of the most photographed spots on the boardwalk, not so much for the statue

One of the most fascinating aspects of the revamp is the creation of 13 themed pocket parks, which are interspersed with recreational areas.


© Studiotessera / Nalbantidou - Kalafatis

View of the waterfront from the M2 building of the Thessaloniki Concert Hall, designed by Japan’s Arata Isozaki.

itself, which was built in 1974, but for immortalizing the image of the ancient warrior who is so intrinsically identified with the broader region. Just before dusk starts to set in, the park is inundated by young skaters using the base of the statue to perform acrobatic feats, while it’s not unlikely to come across a tango class – a silver-screen moment – later in the night. Further along, three small boats wait to take you on a 90-minute ride around the Thermaic Gulf, during the summer months, just for the price of a drink. Standing atop a wooden platform, George Zongolopoulos’ Umbrellas installation draws attention, as does an expanse of dancing water fountains, the perfect spot to snap a photo. You can also rent a bicycle here from the first such facility introduced in the city and ride along the boardwalk’s bike lane. Yet another wooden platform showcasing the Moon sculpture by Pavlos Vasileiadis presents a great photo-op, while this is also a good place to grab a snack from one of the – admittedly over-abundant – street peddlers selling cotton candy, candied apples, nuts, souvlaki and even cocktails, depending on when you’re visiting. The pocket parks have each been given 112

distinctive features that define their use. The Sand Garden, for example, is a playground for kids, while the Afternoon Sun Garden has a seating area built on a gentle slope where you can read a book, catch some rays or simply chill out. The Sculpture Garden is not open to the public yet, but you can stop to enjoy the Three Circles water-powered installation by Zongolopoulos. The city’s past is showcased in the Memory Garden, a visual crack through which you can view a beautiful neoclassical mansion that stands above the waterfront and is home to the National Bank Cultural Foundation, organizer of numerous interesting exhibitions. There is a refreshment stand under a pretty gazebo that also hosts art exhibitions in the summer and a dancing fountain area where kids like to play on a hot day. The last garden is dedicated to music and marks the end of the boardwalk, adjacent to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall. This is another fascinating architectural landmark that consists of two separate buildings. The first, M1, is a nod to the city’s Byzantine past, while the second, M2, is a modern structure designed in simple geometrical lines by the acclaimed Japanese architect Arata Isozaki.


The ideal time to start your 5k stroll along Thessaloniki’s seashore is about an hour before sunset so that you can take in all the sights and sounds, and reach the end in time to watch the sun go down over the Thermaic Gulf. This is a great city to get around by bicycle, and particularly along the waterfront, where there’s a proper, 5k cycle path. To learn about the best routes and rent a one- two- or even four-seat bicycle, visit and The Thessaloniki Concert Hall hosts music, theater and dance performances all year round, though its agenda is much more varied in the winter. For details, visit


THE BEATING HEART Hospitable and inviting, downtown Thessaloniki is a dazzling kaleidoscope of history, culture and daily life. B Y D a n a i S O F IA V a r d a l i



Aristotelous Square, designed in 1918 by Ernest Hébrard, exemplifies the French architect’s unrealized vision for the entire city.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



he precise location of Thessaloniki city center is open to debate. Most visitors will tell you it is bustling Aristotelous Square, which opens onto the sea front, where one can see the White Tower on the left and the old port on the right. However, when locals refer to “the center” they normally mean the “historical center” of Thessaloniki which, surprisingly, does not include the waterfront, which they view as a distinct area referred to locally as the paralia (“seashore”). The city’s inner center is steeped in history. The range of architectural styles reflects its Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past. Over the centuries, the wider region has been occupied by a number of diverse cultures, each of which has left its own distinctive mark. Visitors can easily explore the beating heart of the city, stretching from Venizelou Street in the west to the iconic White Tower in the east. With Eleftherias Square right next to the port as your starting point, your exploration gets off to an emotion-charged beginning. The square has a tragic past, for it is the place where the city’s Jewish population, roughly one-third of its inhabitants, was rounded up in 1942, before being deported to Nazi concentration camps. A memorial at the southeast end of the square commemorates their terrible fate.  Before you leave the square, take a moment to look at the iconic Stein


1. Aristotelous Street, above Tsimiski, buzzing with activity. Even the pigeons like hanging out here. 2. Bit Bazaar is a great place for offbeat shopping and traditional low-brow food. 3. Bey Hamam, the city’s first Ottoman bathhouse, was constructed in 1444 by Sultan Murad II. It is also known as “Baths of Paradise.” 4. The iconic Olympion cinema, designed in 1950 by French architect Jacques Mosset, is a film buff favorite.



Around Athonos Square you will find tavernas and delis, herbs, groceries and practitioners of time-honored occupations such as basket-weaving. 3



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



building on the corner of Venizelou and Kalapothaki streets. This could provide one of your best Instagram moments, along with several other neoclassical buildings in the same district. If you’re visiting Thessaloniki in late autumn and have an eye for architecture, then your trip may coincide with Open House Thessaloniki (www. which gives architecture aficionados the opportunity to be guided through the city’s most remarkable monuments and contemporary structures. If not, play “Open House” on your own by trying to get a peek inside the Ermion in the Karypi Arcade (corner of Venizelou & Ermou). Erected in 1925, this remarkable art deco building was Thessaloniki’s very first shopping mall. As you make your way up Venizelou Street, wander through the alleys and discover the antique shops of the colorful Bit Bazaar. Named after the Turkish word “bit” (meaning old, worthless) this market has been operating since 1928. Many of the antique stores have now been converted into coffee houses and tavernas, making the area worth a visit day and night. Nearby, the late 1st century AD Ancient Agora (Roman Forum) has been wonderfully preserved and is still impressive today. Art installations and large-scale art pieces are often displayed on the site, along with a permanent exhibition depicting Thessalon-

The Gattegno-Florentin Mansion on Tsimiski & Venizelou is one of the few eclectic edifices from the 1920s to survive urban homogeneity.

iki’s history. The agora also marks the beginning of Aristotelous Square. Designed by celebrated French architect Ernest Hébrard, the square was built in 1918, incorporating elements from both Byzantine and Western architecture. Dedicated to the great philosopher Aristotle and affording a view of majestic Mount Olympus standing far in the distance, this is probably the busiest part of the city. Shops, boutiques, cafés, restaurants and hotels line the square and its nearby streets. Look for the architecturally impressive Olympion – the cinema that hosts the majority of Thessaloniki’s International Film Festival screenings, or visit the stone-built Bey Hamam, the city’s first Ottoman bathhouse, constructed in 1444 by Sultan Murad II and alternatively known as the “Baths of Paradise.” 118

If shopping is on your agenda, bear in mind that the city’s female population has a reputation for being fashion conscious and trendy. Take a stroll down Tsimiski Street, the city’s quintessential High Street. Head up Mitropoleos Street and smaller Proxenou Koromila, both packed with high-end boutiques, designer stores and art galleries. If you prefer some alternative shopping or traditional handcrafted objects, explore the cobblestone alleys around Athonos Square. There you will also find tavernas and delis, herbs, groceries and practitioners of time-honored occupations such as basket-weaving. Choose some traditional products for friends back home or try several delicacies on the spot, preferably with a shot of ouzo. As you continue in an easterly direction, you will come to the magnificent Church of Aghia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), which has stood there since the late 7th century and, like most Early Christian monuments in the area, had been converted by the Ottomans into a mosque. But the most intriguing story of a monument successively serv-

ing as a place of worship for different religions is that of the Rotunda. Built in the early 4th century by Roman Emperor Galerius, possibly as a temple dedicated to Zeus or as his mausoleum, it then became a Christian church, possibly under the patronage of Emperor Theodosius I. In 1590, during Ottoman rule, it was converted into a mosque and reconsecrated as a church in 1912 when the city was liberated during the First Balkan War. Impressive mosaics decorate the interior while a minaret still stands outside, just a short walk from the Arch of Galerius, commonly referred to as “Kamara” – the city’s most favored meeting point. Heading south, you will cross Navarinou Square where the ruins of Galerius’ summer residence provide a fascinating backdrop for a hangout popular with the city’s young crowd and Aristotle University students with some time to kill between lectures at the nearby campus. To wrap up your tour, keep walking towards the waterfront, to the iconic White Tower.



Coffee Break




Walking Tours

n o t a d ay w i t h o u t s o me j ava

Download the OASTH (Organization for Urban Transportation of Thessaloniki) app for iOS or Android and hop on bus No 50 for a 50-minute cultural tour that takes in 43 historical sites. •

Walking Thessaloniki App

Urban Adventures

Thessaloniki by greek guide

Sightseeing Bus & Train

Bike Sharing

Eat and Walk

Coffee culture is one of the things that defines the daily routine and lives of the locals. The city center is usually packed with students, tourists and professionals who savor their daily ritual of a coffee break. Fact: Thessaloniki has more bars and cafés per capita than any other European city, and it would be no exaggeration to say that much of the city’s everyday life is experienced over a cup of coffee. Enjoy a cup of well brewed mocha or perfectly prepared cappuccino while taking in the sea view at the legendary Thermaikos Café (21 Nikis Avenue), in the elevated art-deco lounge of Café Palermo (8 Aristotelous St, 1st floor) or in the lively Pastaflora Darling (6 Zefksidos St).

Download the GreekCityWalks Walking Thessaloniki app and explore the city on foot through 23 suggested walks, with your iPhone as your guide • Discover the best places for food, drinks and shopping, along with useful tips and suggested getaways to nearby destinations that fit every age, budget and even weather forecast� • Tour Thessaloniki on two wheels: register for your own Thessbike card online and get a bicycle from the several bike rental/sharing stations around the city. •

Walk the city with a team of urban “connoisseurs” who will reveal tips and secrets through thematic tours centered on history, food, wine, culture and nightlife. • Take a day-tour with this team of locals who will guide you through the city’s history, culture, nightlife and gastronomy. • Hop on to an open-deck bus or a city train and discover its monuments and archeological sites in a fun 45-minute ride, enjoying commentary in eight languages. • This private guided tour by English, French and Spanish speaking experts offers an original gastronomical experience, through tasting sessions and mini cooking classes. •

Thanks to mountain and sea you probably don’t need a GPS device, but a camera should be ready at all times. Even when it’s overcast or foggy, the cityscape will reveal its beauty, often at the most unexpected moment.


TIPS & STOPS Car-free zones are becoming increasingly popular in the city center. Enjoy a relaxed walk, a cup of coffee or a cocktail on trendy and always vibrant Zefksidos and Iktinou streets, or on Aghias Theodoras and Georgiou Stavrou, where among other things you can visit the Les Yper Yper underground art space (4 Georgiou Stavrou, or grab a slice from Pizza Please (9 Georgiou Stavrou).


Near the church of Aghia Sophia, look out for the independent bookstore Read (6 Stefanou Tatti) with a fascinating new section where you can find a great selection of graphic works, along with independent fanzines and limited editions.



2 Object Repair (6 Ioustinianou, www.2objectrepair. gr) sells recycled or redesigned retro furniture and decorative items, while Τo Pikap (57 Olympou) is a favorite haunt of vinyl fans and collectors, where you can browse through vintage records and clothes.

T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



BOHEMIAN HOTBED Vibrant, youthful and polychromatic, this neighborhood is also imposing, like a museum piece that defines the city’s contemporary image.

The Whistling Boy,” the famous bronze statue by Nikolaos Pavlopoulos, is the hallmark of Navarino Square. Placed at the center of its small fountain, the statue, both because of its posture and “pastime,” is like a younger sibling to that renowned brass statue of the peeing boy in the Grand Platz in Brussels. Don’t bother to remember street names like Ippodromiou, Svolou, Gounari, Isavron, just ask for Navarino. This urban district comes laden with history, monuments and moods that evoke centuries past. It also conjures customs and behaviors that transport us, temporarily, to analogous, contemporary European cities. What am I saying, you might ask? These restored Roman ruins of a palace that was built at the end of the 3rd century AD by Gaius Galerius Maximus bear witness to Thessaloniki’s cosmopolitan and multiracial DNA. Do not forget to admire them, for it is like gazing into the depths of a pool of water in which you will find reflected Rome’s Via Dei Fori Imperiali. But before I continue with my tour, a short lecture on Roman history is very much in order: Galerius’ marriage to Diocletian’s daughter, as well as the successful military campaigns that resulted in the defeat of the Persians, anointed him Caesar. He

As lively by night as it is by day, Navarino Square is Thessaloniki’s pop culture magnet.





Apartment buildings from the 1960s and a 4th century Roman site, rub shoulders in an unwitting union of past and present.

in turn chose Thessaloniki as the administrative and religious center of his crown. This is the reason for the reigning image of the region today: its distinct echoes not only of Rome, but also of Paris. In fact, in no other neighborhood will you find as many creperies and hole-in-the wall bars and cafés. This is not at all surprising if you keep in mind that in the middle of the day, Navarino is overrun by thousands of students from the adjoining – just a stone’s throw away – campuses of Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University. They subsist on the staple diet of students the world over – sweet and savory crepes and gallons of caffeine and alcohol. It is in the square that young people spend most of their time: eating, drinking, flirting and bestowing on the area yet another identity: a hotbed of bohemi124

anism and liberality as if, instead of the Thermaic Gulf, we were to find the Left Bank of the Seine just a few yards away. When the weather is good and the sun shines on the sea, and all is bathed in the light of spring or summer, it is imperative that you go outside and make a beeline to Navarino Square. On the stoops of dilapidated apartment buildings itinerant musicians strum chords from the Doors or Dylan, and there, suddenly, is that billowing of cosmopolitanism again: echoes of the San Francisco of Summer of Love or Camden Town in London are everywhere. Another resemblance – both ideological and stylistic – that Navarino bears with urban centers the world over are the dozens of little stores that ply alternative punk, goth and heavy-metal clothing, and are teeming with young

boys and girls. They are unmoved by the siren-call of fashion’s multinational franchise brands and instead count on the “finer” dress codes of a bygone subculture’s moments of glory. Welcome, then, to the most colorful, hippy crossroads of Thessaloniki, home to the free-wheeling, pluralistic tribes who inhabit it. And this little game of “spot the sister city” does not end here: let’s make our first stop Los Angeles, with its scores of tattoo parlors, edgy independent bookstores, Lilliputian computer and tech stores, comic book shops and hairdressers. You enter a mere mortal but are soon transformed into a Compton Ghetto boy or a girl extra in a Lana del Rey clip. These imbue Navarino with something of the essence of the West Coast. There it is, I have forewarned you, but



Baus Probably the most coolest bar in the area, it looks out onto Galerius’ ancient palace and is frequented by the art/media crowd. Enjoy excellent drinks while Billie Holiday plays in the background. • 5 Navarino Square • Tel. (+30) 2310.226.407

Ofto the stolen lamB The menu focuses on lamb cooked in traditional ovens in six different, equally delicious ways. • 7 Navarino Square • Tel. (+30) 2310.254.680 Skitso

Pulp An authentic British rock-and-roll pub with an enormous selection of beer and wonderful vintage décor. • 8 Alexandros Svolos • Tel. (+30) 2310.270.830

Skitso Handmade light fixtures, dolls and small furnishings for that special gift. Just brilliant. • 11 Grigoriou Palama • Tel. (+30) 2310.269.822

Gelati e Amore The best handmade ice-cream in the city by Florentino Franco, a transplant to northern Greece. He has been awarded the Internazionale Mastri Gelatieri Prize. • 44 Alexandros Svolos • Tel. (+30) 2310.242.014 Ofto the stolen lamB

still I need to remind you: this is where the shades of antiquity and contemporary codes of pop culture comingle, converse and concur; the ghosts of Roman centurions stand guard at night next to young punk rockers. Along the length of Dimitris Gounaris boulevard that connects Egnatia Way to the sea, interwar apartment blocks in the modernist architectural style bear witness to what is arguably the most interesting pedestrian zone in Thessaloniki and home to the city’s final remnants of a middle class. A bastion of tradition and ritual, they dine, for instance, in one of the many tavernas and restaurants where – and I say this off the record – some of the best grilled dishes found in Thessaloniki’s cuisine are served. When night falls, pull up a stool in one of the region’s many bars like a

Gelati e Amore

character in a Hopper painting. Take in the blaze of light from the marquees and shop windows and trace its reflection on the faces of passersby, or on the corners of street intersections. Now, finally, we are in New York City. Or perhaps we have returned to Baudelaire’s Paris, where the errant flaneur “reaches his spleen” – the culmination of the pleasure of perambulation – when, bewitched, he stands at the very epicenter of this urban phantasmagoria. Navarino is another country.

This is where the shades of antiquity and contemporary codes of pop culture comingle, converse and concur.

* Stefanos Tsitsopoulos is the Editor of Soul Magazine and Thessaloniki correspondent of the Athens Voice weekly free-press. G R E E C E IS

T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



LADADIKA After dark

Like London’s Soho, Berlin’s Kreuzberg, and Rome’s Trastevere, this once decadent, always colorful neighborhood is the nightlife epicenter of a fun-loving city. BY STEFANOS TSITSOPOULOS



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6




1. Unchanged by time. The area’s revamp in the early 1990s was designed to take us back to the late 19th century.


ld color postcards of Thessaloniki, the kind that French and British soldiers stationed here in WWI used to send to their families, preserve the charm and exoticism of the Laladika neighborhood. In 1915 the city was used by the Allies as a launching pad for troops assigned to battle in the Balkan mainland. Due to its optimal location close to the port, the Laladika neighborhood was where all business related to the provisioning of the city was conducted. After all, ever since Ottoman rule, this was where the storehouses for oil, spices and foodstuffs were located. Soon, other types of “trade” appeared: dozens of brothels, musical cafés, pastry shops, dance halls and taverns cropped up to cater to the soldiers’ various needs, turning the area into a multiethnic and multiracial Babel of business and pleasure. Next to



the extant Jewish, Muslim and Greek business owners and residents, and almost in front of the offices of shipping companies and state-owned companies, stood “houses of entertainment” for the thousands of European soldiers and their colonized brethren-in-arms from Africa and the Orient. Music and

red lights; hotel ballrooms; spies skulking both undercover and out in the open; soldiers and civilians: all were woven together in the area’s prevailing image as the center of a vibrant nightlife and eroticism that rocked Thessaloniki to its cosmopolican rhythms. Imagine something along the lines of Fellini’s

film Nights of Cabiria spliced together with Georg Wilhem Pabst’s Salonica, a nest of spies (1936). This will give you a sense of the hedonism and heady pulse of life in Ladadika during that period. The neighborhood is an example of the architectural idiosyncracies and urban planning typical of Balkan city

4. A traditional café, one of many in the area. Try a Greek coffee with a loukoumi (delight).

3. Street art and restored buildings. Old architectural styles and modern art coexist in every side street.

5. This gigantic mural was created for the Biennale for Young Artists in 2011.



2. Pedestrianized Katouni Street is the area’s main “thoroughfare.”


business centers at the beginning of the 20th century. Ladadika’s neighborhoods, preserved intact to this day, present us with a medley of tiny spaces, workshops, warehouses, tenements, elaborate brick buildings, stone covered in plaster – austere simplicity cheek by jowl with the most intricate orna-

mentation. Morihovou Square, known as the area’s hub, is dominated by the eclectic cadences of the Bristol Hotel. Imposing and impeccably restored, it serves as an eloquent reminder of what Ladadika was before its decline, precipitated by radical changes in business practices at the end of WWII.


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


L adadik a


EAT & DRINK Zithos A selection of beers from all over the world and the finest specialties of Greek cuisine. Frequented by artists and foodies from all over Greece. Our recommendation: no matter what you order, make sure you include the dill salad – it’s their signature dish. • 5 Katouni • Tel. (+30) 2113.115.555

Aristo’s Cod place A glass of retsina accompanied by garlic dip and fish-and-chips served on grease-proof paper. This is a traditional recipe from Thessaloniki’s port, the equivalent of the British classic, and a local lunch favorite. • 2 Katouni • Tel. (+30) 2310.548.668

Negroponte A trip back to Thessaloniki’s cuisine from the interwar period, with wines and dishes that call for sharing. Our recommendation: make sure you order the fried pork with yogurt. It’s sinfully good. • 24 Aigiptou • Tel. (+30) 2310.523.571

La Dose At that time, Thessaloniki’s business center moved elsewhere and the neighborhood was ghettoized, relegated to the city’s margins. Cheap prostitutes, outcasts, and all manner of illegal activity reinforce the area’s blight. The area became a refuge for rock band studios and moonstruck writers who, inspired by the surrounding rottenness, wrote eulogies to decadence. Until, that is, 1992 – a pivotal date in the story of the neighborhood’s revitalization and reinstatement as central to the life of Thessaloniki. In 1992, the Ladadika neighborhood was included in a new urban planning and improvement project. Hundreds of buildings from the interwar period were restored and declared protected historic landmarks. As if by magic, their rooms once again filled with the frantic, hedonistic pulse of nightlife. Both sides of Tsimiski Street became crowded with restaurants, bars and clubs – an amusement park of sorts specializing in a variety of indulgences and pleasures. To this day, the area is on every local and visitor’s bucket list. There are dozens of ouzeri, restaurants and specialized eateries focusing not only on Mediterranean and Greek 130

food, but also Italian, Spanish and even Argentinian, Chinese and American. With such an incredible range to choose from, you are guaranteed a fine dining experience. As you wander along Ladadika’s side streets, you will surely happen upon wines and gourmet dishes that will warm your heart. After your meal, next to the restaurant strip, you will find an equally impressive range of bars and clubs with both Greek and international music. What is Greek kefi? You will see! Especially in the area that the locals call “Valaoritou,” youthful Thessaloniki paints the town red, all night, every night, until dawn. Like London’s Soho, Berlin’s Kreuzberg and Mama Roma’s Trastevere, today’s Ladadika continues to be the epicenter of cosmopolitan entertainment, presenting us with an unadulterated image (despite the economic crisis) of a fun-loving, always vibrant Thessaloniki. Enjoy!

The buildings (top left) have been restored with their original colors. Right: The facade of the historic Bristol Hotel.

A cocktail bar and gallery rolled into one, it is where you will find Thessaloniki’s artists, trendsetters and devotees of the alternative music scene. Cutting edge in every way: space, music, happenings and themed evenings. • 1 Villara (Singrou) • Tel. (+30) 2310.922.247

Urania Located on the second floor of a restored neoclassical building, the congenial blend of space, music, drinks, and undeniably cheery clientele found here stretch out the night’s pleasures. • 4 Paikou & 7 Kapodistriou • Tel. (+30) 2315.527.999

The Trigonion Tower, crowning the city in gold by night, was probably built by the Turks in the mid-15th century.



Guardian of Authenticity Ano Poli, an enchanting mix of stone-paved alleys, traditional houses, impressive Byzantine and Ottoman-era monuments, is Thessaloniki’s most cohesive, iconic neighborhood.




T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


1. The Tsinari area by night is one of the city’s most romantic spots for dinner or a simple stroll through its charming cobbled alleys.


p in the old town, at the Alaca Imaret, an art exhibition is opening. Eight lengths of fabric richly reflecting the hues and imagery of the mosque flow like curtains beneath its soaring dome, inscribed in the languages of the old neighborhoods – Pontic Greek, Ladino, Turkish, Armenian... The installation movingly references the diaphanous layers of history outside. We weave freely in and out of the work, listening to the polyglot recording composed for the event, immersing ourselves in the rich history of the past. But right outside, it’s very much the present – under the golden streetlights, children playing on the Imaret’s porch and screeching as they chase one another through the hedges. We’re the interlopers here – the 15th century mosque is the secret garden behind their apartment buildings; this is just another moonlit night in the mosque’s six centuries, brimming with life. Alaca Imaret, Koule Kafe, Sheikh Sou, Kipos tou Pasha, Yenti Koule, Geni Hammam, Tourbes Musa Baba... each exotic-sounding name testifies that during the Ottoman period the Ano Poli (Upper Town) district, with its views and fresh breezes, was the Turkish quarter. Today this is the most cohesive, most iconic neighborhood of Thessaloniki – its modern and international face can be found further down the hill. Just as its Byzantine walls guarded the city, Ano Poli guards Thessaloniki’s authentic and timeless self. Situated just inside the walls and high above the main town, Ano Poli escaped the devastating fire of 1917, and thus remains the same enchanting labyrinth that it has been for centuries. Examples of Ottoman vernacular architecture – charming partially timbered houses with cantilevering upper stories – are beautifully restored, painted in shades of ochre, terracotta and dusty blue. Those in ruins are just as picturesque – overgrown and often covered with elaborate street art. Newer buildings incorporate the same architectural elements and volumes to 134




As much as the winding paths and alleys reward unplanned rambling, there are many notable monuments of both the city’s Muslim and Christian heritage.



2. Nature – and color – run a little bit wild in Thessaloniki’s oldest neighborhood.

4. The dramatic interior of Alaca Imaret, a 15th century mosque whose opulence has been beautifully preserved. It is now an exhibition space, currently hosting this marvelous sitespecific installation by artist Tina Karageorgi.

3. The Byzantine walls continue to shape the city: the No 23 bus navigates this narrow arch several times an hour.

5. Thessaloniki shimmers in the fall: the secret garden of Aghiou Nikolaou Orphanou is a sanctuary in itself.

INSIDER Author Isidoros Zourgos writes about his favorite part of the city


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6




Composer and bouzouki player Vassilis Tsitsanis, the father of modern rebetika, is honored by a square in his name.

Eptapyrgio, or Yenti Koule, aglow in the sunset.

maintain the character of the historical streetscape. The residents preserve the local character too – some upper-story balconies are equipped with pulleys and rope which the older residents use to lower baskets down to the street for their bread and newspapers. The texture of everyday life remains as true to Ano Poli’s heritage as the architecture. Fleeting trends find no footholds here – this is a neighborhood of retsina and raki, not bespoke cocktails. Your order of yiaourtlou (spiced meat patties with a thick yogurt sauce) will not come on a fancy square plate, and neither will the bougiourdi (a rough fondue of slices of feta and searing hot peppers) or kazan dibi (scorched rice flour pudding) – three of many Turkish dishes that aren’t going anywhere – much of the reason the complex and well-seasoned cuisine of Thessaloniki is so praised. Rebetika – the beloved old music genre of Asia Minor (in its philosophy not dissimilar to blues) played on traditional instruments such 136

as the bouzouki and the baglamas – drifts from open windows. Ano Poli gives a contemporary relevance to its deep cultural roots.   This untamed area of the city, although densely built and with few planned parks, is also its greenest – nature thrives with tenacity in every unplanned corner. The air is rich with the scent of fig trees and jasmine on summer nights; wet leaves and wood smoke in winter. The many paths and stairs are inhospitable to cars (only a few main thoroughfares can accommodate them) so there is no smog, and no noise either – just some crickets by night, birds by day, strains of bouzouki from tavernas and cafes, and lively conversations between upper balconies across the alleyways. (Those looking for more nature can explore the 170k of hiking trails of the Sheikh Sou Forest that borders Ano Poli’s northeastern edge.) Standing tall and majestic above all this are two of Thessaloniki’s defining monuments – lit up dramatically

by night, they give the city its characteristic silhouette from below. The Yenti Koule (also called the Eptapyrgio – literally “Seven Tower Fortress”) has crowned the hill since the 15th century. The fortress later became a prison of some reputation – immortalized in many a rebetika song – and was in use until 1989. Just to the east of this, near the beginning of Eptapyrgiou Street, the Byzantine city walls of the north and the east join in a crenellated fairytale of a tower, formerly an artillery emplacement, now the city’s breathtakingly romantic postcard – the Trigonion (added in the 14th/15th century), site of two of the old city gates. Here the entire city stretches out before you, as well as the Thermaic Gulf and snowcapped Mount Olympus. This spot is as popular with locals as with tourists – every evening before sunset, students climb through the not-so-serious fence, bringing with them guitars and retsina to spend the evening in the ruins of the wall, under the stars.


Osios David

Ataturk Museum

Koule Kafe

This Early Christian chapel (5th-6th c) is perhaps best known for its magnificent mosaic – easily the city’s most impressive – a vivid rendering of Ezekiel’s vision of Christ ascending into Heaven. The mosaic was covered and entirely forgotten, only to be dramatically revealed centuries later in an earthquake. The church has a spectacular view. • 7 Timotheou, tel (+30) 2310.221.506 • Open Tue-Sat 11:0017:00, Sun 11:00-14:00.

The founder of the modern Turkish state was born in 1881 in this Ottoman-style house at Ano Poli’s southern edge. The house, beautifully preserved, is now the site of both the Turkish Consulate and the Kemal Ataturk Museum, which displays many of his personal effects and photographs from various stages of his life. A very popular destination, especially among Turkish visitors. • 75 Apostolou Pavlou, tel (+30) 2310.965.070 • Open daily 10:00-17.00

Until World War II, this small public square was one of liveliest in the Upper Town, surrounded by traditional coffee shops, elegant buildings and bath houses. The building pictured above is a typical example of 19th century Balkan architecture. It was restored and is now being used by Aristotle University’s School of Fine Arts.

Tourbes of Musa Baba Viewable at present only from the outside. This 16th century structure, currently undergoing restoration, is the only well-preserved Ottoman mausoleum in the city. • Terpsithea Square

AghioS NikolaoS OrphanoS The walled, lush garden and storybook murals of this 14th century church are beautiful and especially popular for the Anastasi (Easter Resurrection) service, weddings and baptisms. Weekdays are another matter – you may wander the peaceful garden entirely alone but for the birds in the trees. • Apostolou Pavlou & Irodotou, tel (+30) 2310.209.913 • Open daily 8:30-15:30, except Mondays

Truly a beautiful and contemplative space, this 15th century mosque retains much of its original opulence. It is now used for exhibitions. • 91 Cassandrou, tel (+30) 2310.278.587 • Open Tue-Sun 11:0018:00






Nea Folia

Ever popular and extremely casual – one of the area’s several classic tavernas and mezedopoleia (the Greek version of a tapas bar), for the dishes and rebetika that characterize the neighborhood. • 32 Irodotou, tel (+30) 2313.011.967

The most photographed restaurant in Thessaloniki? Possibly. Tsinari stands on the most picturesque corner of Ano Poli. The eatery delightfully takes its name from the Turkish word (çinar) for a much admired massive plane tree that once grew here. • 72 Alexandras Papadopoulou, tel (+30) 2310.284.028

Just west of the Church of Aghios Pavlos and next to the Byzantine wall coming up from the lower part of the city, is what local cabbies aptly call “The Balcony of Thessaloniki.” There are several coffee shops and tavernas that afford spectacular views. The sunset is dazzling.

On an unassuming corner below Ano Poli, each simple dish here is prepared with carefully sourced local ingredients, and more imaginative and delicious than the last. The cuttlefish with spinach and orange is fabulous. • 4 Aristomenous, tel (+30) 2310.960.383


AlaCa Imaret

gastronomy GREECE IS



What higher praise for a city than to say that everyone’s an epicure? Thessaloniki’s food culture is renowned, a pleasure stretching out over 24 hours, ranging from street food to creative cuisine and meze to heavenly desserts. A Day at the Market, illustration by Farida El Gazzar for Greece Is



Where Food is Religion


Cooks and waiters will tell you that the city’s reputation as gastronomic capital is built on a commitment to quality ingredients.


Grabbing a bite with a friend in Thessaloniki can take up to a couple of hours, while a “proper” lunch or dinner may stretch into an epic affair, treated with a respect verging on reverence. BY Diana Farr Louis & Christine Sturmey


T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6




food scene is Kapani, the city’s large, open-air farmers’ market. After an appetite-whetting stroll through stalls that spill over with seafood, fruit and vegetables, pickles in barrels, blocks of dazzling white feta, shiny black and green olives, pyramids of powdered red chillies and garlands of dried peppers, eggplant and tomatoes, you can indulge in an actual feast at one of the dozens of little, no-frills restaurants. The youthful energy of students is also omnipresent. Why settle for a generic cheeseburger combo or double

RECIPE Crispy-fried leek and minced-meat patties


Established in 1935 and with two outlets in the city center, the Titania bakery is one of the key producers of Thessaloniki’s famous koulouri.


five-star restaurants or experimenting with ethnic fusion – though both are certainly in evidence. Instead, cooks and waiters will tell you that this reputation is built on a commitment to quality ingredients. Almost every neighborhood has a classic family restaurant but also a plethora of lively meze establishments specializing in the “little dishes” that pair so beautifully with tsipouro or ouzo. Add to these the host of tavernas owned by the descendants of Asia Minor refugees, who inherited their grandmothers’ recipes or give them their own inventive twist; greasy spoons that stay open 24/7 serving tripe soup to early birds and night owls; homey fish places; casual grill houses and souvlaki joints. There are even atmospheric beer halls in the remodeled warehouses of the traffic-free squares and alleys of the Ladadika district, the only one to escape the Great Fire of 1917. One of the best places to begin to appreciate the diversity of Thessaloniki’s

For a quick snack on the go, grab a koulouri from a street vendor. Here we see one of the purveyors of this yummy bread ring on Tsimiski.



ating is a serious matter in Thessaloniki. No matter where you go, from the humblest fish and chips hole-in-the-wall to the trendiest “in” restaurant, you’ll find that a meal is not something to be rushed, but rather relished and savored. The dishes may range from a simple salad of broccoli, beets and wild greens, to crisp pies oozing with creamy cheese and paper-thin slices of pastourma made from cured camel meat, sizzling fried mussels and spicy  “soutzoukakia”  meatballs. This ceremonial approach to food is not the exclusive domain of the leisure classes or the pot-bellied gourmand; almost all residents, be they impeccably manicured ladies, scruffy dockworkers, bearded intellectuals, suited businessmen or tattooed students, are epicures and you will often find them patronizing the same restaurants and tavernas. Greece’s second largest city has earned a reputation as the country’s gastronomic capital not because celebrated chefs are doing great things at



Shrimp “saganaki” with fresh tomato

pepperoni pizza when you can enjoy a steaming bowl of mussels, dunking chunks of bread into the garlic, tomato and herb infused juice at the bottom, or tuck into a platter of bougiourdi, a dish of roasted cheese, tomatoes and hot green peppers, for the same price? In Thessaloniki you can eat well without even sitting down. Its street vendors are ubiquitous, just in case you need a snack to keep you going between meals. And when their wares appear elsewhere in Greece they are advertised as “Thessalonian” as proof of authenticity. Foremost among these is the koulouri, a baked bread ring covered in sesame seeds, which comes in various degrees of chewiness and crispness, depending on whether it’s a single loop or braided.  The bougatsa,  another classic snack, is more filling.  Thessaloniki’s cuisine reflects the city’s multiethnic and inclusive history. Unlike Athens, which was a remote outpost after the fall of Rome, it lay directly on the route between the West 144

and Constantinople, between the Balkans and the Aegean, and as the second city of both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, it accommodated conquerors and traders, settlers and itinerant merchants, from Sephardic Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition to Armenian and Arab traders, Slavs and Greeks from poorer rural areas. More recently, it welcomed refugees from Asia Minor, Greeks from the Black Sea and hundreds of migrants from the Balkans seeking new opportunities. Besides endowing it with a complex human geography, Thessaloniki’s spot on the map also brings with it the bounties of nature. The city is surrounded by farmland and grazing pastures, so quality meat and dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have to travel hours to reach market and plate. The Thermaic Gulf and the sea around the Halkidiki peninsula provide abundant fish and seafood, while the river delta offers a nutrient-rich environment in which shellfish flourish.

The best places to savor fish are on the waterfront or near the port, refreshed by the sea breeze and sparkling waves. Simple or sophisticated, they serve such treats as crisp but succulent fried mussels, a revelation if you haven’t had them before, to squid lovingly filled with soft white cheese, herbs and/ or rice and gently roasted; cuttlefish stewed with greens or tomatoes; and shrimp. It goes without saying that the choice of finny creatures is also vast, beginning with tiny, fried Mediterranean sand smelt and sardines, including the prized red mullet and bonito and ending with groupers, giant sea bream and monkfish. Meat lovers will not go hungry either. Just follow your nose and the aromas of grilling skewered kebabs, gyros and kokoretsi (spit-roasted innards) will lead you to their source. Besides these Anatolian specialties, keep your eye out for whole lambs and suckling pigs slowly turning on their own spits, glistening and dripping with juices. Visitors should take note that many eateries do not accept credit cards and almost all allow smoking.

1. Pick a pickle, from fish to veg, at the open-air farmers’ market in Kapani, where you can also get a bit to eat at dozens of no-frills tavernas. 2. Fresh fruits and vegetables don’t have to travel for days to reach market and plate in Thessaloniki, which is surrounded by farmland. 3. Inspired by the laid-back atmosphere of a classic American diner, the Excelsior Hotel’s Be* restaurant attracts a young crowd. 4. Fine products from around the country can be found at the family-owned Pantopoleio tis Thessalonikis grocery store on 12 Komninon.








SWEET decadence If you’re on a diet, you might want to wear blinkers when walking around Thessaloniki so you don’t yield to temptation. BY Diana Farr Louis


ven if you’re not particularly fond of sweets, you’ll have to admit that the array of possibilities in Thessaloniki is a feast for the eyes. Pastry shops abound, but my favorites belong to the Terkenlis chain, in business since 1948. I find myself, face pressed against the window, ogling the variety and marveling at the mind-boggling inventiveness that created these masterpieces. Of course, one expects the baklava


family of crisp filo stuffed with nuts, studded with cloves and drenched in syrup, but who knew that it came in so many guises? Besides the familiar squares and rolls of fine-spun kataifi (nicknamed shredded wheat), they come layered with dried fruit like apricots and prunes, coated with chocolate, encasing pastel-colored creams, green with crushed pistachios . . . twisted into flutes, cylinders, spirals, origami-style envelopes...

But then my attention turns to the tsoureki. In most of Greece, this traditional festive braided brioche loaf (much like challah) is tasty enough with its spongy texture flavored with mahleb or mastiha, but instead of shaved almonds, some of these loaves are slathered with an artfully poured glaze of dark chocolate, snow-white vanilla, or both. And inside they contain more surprises: fillings of chestnut, hazelnut, orange, lemon, or more chocolate.

Perhaps the most famous, signature sweet of Thessaloniki is the Trigono Panoramatos, the Panorama Triangle. A cone of multiple sheets of baked fyllo filled to bursting with a heart-stoppingly rich custard, it was invented in the late 50s by Giannis Elenidis, whose family were Pontic Greek refugees. Arriving just before World War II, they settled in Panorama, back then a rocky wasteland. Their one goat saved them from famine during the war and in time evolved into a herd, enabling Yiannis to open a milk shop in 1949. Before long he’d added whipped cream and puddings to his products,

and when one day an employee filled a puff pastry cone with whipped cream, he had a eureka moment. Why not make a cone of filo and squeeze in some custard? Thus was born the famous Trigono – 10,000 were sold in a single Sunday, and Yiannis forgot about sleep. Today his sons run three shops, including the original in the nowchic Panorama area. The saying goes: “Elenidis doesn’t sell triangles, they sell squares. They’re so delicious you eat them two at a time.” Cravings not quenched? Then seek out one of the most unusual sweets that made their way from the East onto the menus of

Thessaloniki restaurants. Kazan dibi might be compared to crème brûlée, since it’s a creamy pudding combined with caramel, but the name literally means burnt kettle, and the scrumptious dark topping actually comes from the bottom of the pan. The richest kazan dibi contains buffalo milk and chicken breast. It’s not recognizable as such to be sure; it just adds a bit more substance, but vegetarians beware: ask before you try it. One thing is for certain. You will not go hungry in Thessaloniki but perhaps you’d better go on a strict fast before and after your visit.

Sugar, spice and all things nice Veterans in the art of filo-making and ambassadors of modern patisserie are propagating the city’s long tradition in sweets. Choureal




A new-generation boulangerie with several outlets, it has spread the aroma of vanilla and fresh yeast across the city. Famous for its bread, you will find all kinds of loaves on the shelves. The dessert cases offer temptations from around the world: French savarins, sweet tsoureki bread from Asia Minor, sweet Cretan cheese pies (kaltsounia), Lenten tahini pie, macaroons and profiteroles. • 19 Aghias Sofias, tel (+30) 2310.231.200]


The soft French pâte à choux pastry forms the canvas for dozens of delightful confections from the hands of two young pastry chefs. In this dessert boutique, eclairs, Paris-Brest, stuffed Swedish rolls and profiteroles are prepared 148

in front of you. • 7 Palaion Patron Germanou, tel (+30) 2310.252.766

They’re simply addictive. • 37 Pavlou Mela, tel (+30) 2312.232.166


Trigona Elenidis

For over a century Hatzis has been making its famed ekmek kataifi (angel hair pastry wrapped around a cream filling). Since starting out as a dairy in 1908, it has known nothing but success, expanding to the point where it has six stores in Thessaloniki and Athens. Why not take some baklava or delicious syrup-soaked sweets with fresh pistachio back home? • 50 Eleftheriou Venizelou, tel (+30) 2310.279.058


Hatzifotiou The city is already nuts for its sweet pastry cigars and is going even crazier with the new series of flavors: strawberry, banana and praline cookie.

Here you will find the authentic recipe for Thessaloniki’s famed “triangles,” described above. • 13 Dimitriou Gounari, tel (+30) 2310.257.510

The current proprietor’s father was known as the King of Turkish Delight because he was the creator of soutzouk loukoum, a sticky delight with walnuts that 50 years ago became a symbol of Komotini, the town where the family hails from. At the new Thessaloniki store you will find a variety of sweets from the east, all of which hide a romantic tale beneath the sugar, spice and syrup. • 10 Tsimiski, tel (+30) 2310.275.927


Bougatsa from Scratch A no-fail recipe for the emblematic Thessaloniki street food, in a city that takes its food very, very seriously. B Y R I K A Z . VAY I A N N I

Tickets to Thessaloniki (two or more)

Accommodation: Preferably in the city center for optimum accessibility

Price: Approx. 2 euros/serving Preparation time: From 12 hours to roughly a lifetime


rrive in Thessaloniki. Proceed with itinerary: meetings, sightseeing, shopping and life as planned. At the end of the day, do not go to bed. Spend the best part of the night out – for optimum results spend the entire night out, until about 90 minutes before sunrise. Moderate to significant alcohol consumption is optional. A good time, good music, some dancing and venue-hopping are of the essence. Get out into the fresh air, famished to the verge of fainting. Ignore all signs advertising “BOUGATSA” unless 100 percent positive they make it by hand, with no filo machines involved or frozen fillings in sight  (culinary sacrilege alert).

Cooking time: 8-12 mins. For guaranteed results, visit Chatzis on Mitropoleos Street off Aristotelous Square or Chryso at Navarino Square. Peek into 150

the preparation area and watch the baker perform a ballet/acrobatic/dervish-like mystical dance, as flour, salt, water and olive oil are kneaded, spun in the air, shrunk, respun and expanded into a gossamer-thin, tablecloth size, transparent filo. Brace yourself for the ensuing multiple folding-in of said filo around a scoop of velvety, foamy semolina custard: not too sweet, not too creamy, not too thin. Try not to physically attack the baker or jump the queue as you watch the whole batch disappear into the oven. Practice no-thought meditation for about eight minutes, or until your pie is ready. Alternatively, engage in a heated argument about the local soccer team (you must pick a team), laced with equally heated predictions about the score next Sunday. When you reach the point of almost getting involved in a fist fight, cool down and melt in front of the steaming, mouth-watering marvel that is presented to you.

by the mini-tsunami of custard exploding in your mouth.

Extr as: Extend your bougatsa adventure into a mid-morning snack (savor the cheese bougatsa served with melted myzithra in lieu of custard with just a dash of sugar sprinkled on top, hold the cinnamon) at Chatzis on Mitropoleos Street. Or make a delicious lunch of it by ordering bougatsa filled with aromatic minced meat at Paradosiakon (Aristotelous Square): a meal so substantial it will fill you till dinnertime.

Timing: Never order a bougatsa after 1 p.m. Decent bougatsa-makers used to close shop after that time. This is strictly breakfast food, midday snack or/and a worker’s lunch. After that, the chef has gone home and the product is cold, stale or prepared by a non-expert. This delicacy, fit for an emperor, is reduced to fool’s fodder.

Serving: Let the waiter sprinkle your oven-hot, crunchy, custard-filled filo with icing sugar and cinnamon. When a very big, very sharp knife descends across your pie with the ominous thump of a double guillotine, this is your cue to start eating. Test the result for perfection by two standards: The sound of 10,000 newborn crickets chirping between your teeth as you bite deep enough into the filo until said sound is completely drowned

Friendly warning: Do not attempt to re-create the authentic northern Greek bougatsa at home. Gracefully accept the fact that you will never match the masters. Come back for more and endorse the few remaining establishments that still honor the centuries-old Byzantine tradition. Handmade bougatsa – and especially the dancing filo-making – is, sadly, a dying art.




Keeping it real Colors, aromas, traditional recipes, hard-to-find Greek products and a penchant for commerce – these are the characteristics shared by six historic stores. BY Kostis Zafeir akis

Dorkada, the yogurt queen

Toula and her legendary pies

Papageorgiou, a spoonful of sweetness

The décor is retro, as though time stopped in the 1960s, feeling enhanced also by the old-fashioned sign on the wall: “Our yogurt is superior to all�” “Does that mean I have to go all the way to Cassandra for some nutritious, delicious yogurt?” Thessalonians ask as they calculate how long it will take them to get to the Halkidiki suburb. The two Yiannises, cousins from the Gavalini clan – a synonym for superior dairy products – smile from ear to ear as they answer. The family opened its first store in the Thessaloniki suburb of Tsinari in 1957 and later moved to Cassandra Street, keeping the atmosphere, knowhow and quality intact. They insist on using ewe’s milk, an artisanal philosophy and traditional recipes. Dorkada is not just known for its excellent yogurt; it has plenty of other treasures: fresh orange cake, rice pudding, creams and custards, syrup-soaked touloumbes and, of course, the ultimate mastic-flavored kaimaki ice cream, or dondurma as it’s known in Turkish.

The simple, traditional recipe may hail from Macedonia and be a well-guarded secret, but it’s simply divine. Toula’s pies are a delicacy with a reputation not just in the north but throughout Greece, where every household has its own version of “the best” pie, passed down from generation to generation. “The secret of pie lies in the pastry,” says Toula Resiniotou, a master of the art and a loyalist to tradition. It’s no easy feat rolling out 25 sheets of cigarette paper-thin pastry – light as air – for every pie. Toula uses the same basic recipe to make pies stuffed with meat, wild greens and cheese – and they are always a hit. So are her sweets, also made by hand. Her marmalades with fruit from her orchard, biscuits with more vitamins than calories, cakes and liqueurs are all homemade. Even her shop looks like a home; like stepping into the kitchen of a homey, generous housewife.

When welcoming you into their homes, Greek old-timers will still offer you a small plate of fruit preserve known as spoon sweet. Modern retro-style cafes have been adopting this tradition in recent years, offering a beautiful start to the day. The Papageorgiou family, however, has been adhering to this philosophy for about a century. The story started in 1926 with grandpa Lazaros, who passed the torch onto his children and grandchildren, and who, in turn, opened a store on Aghiou Mina Street. It’s not just the old-fashioned awning and retro labels that transport you to a different era with a different ethos; it’s everything, from the servers’ aprons to the blue pots brimming with sweets. By the spoonful or the jar, you will find countless flavors: sour cherry, cherry, grape, bitter orange, fig, rose, strawberry, mandarin, orange… and the list goes on and on. Throw in a daub of yogurt and you’ve got the easiest, most delicious dessert in the world.

Dork ada: • 91 Cassandra Street, • Tel (+30) 2310.234.675

D i a X e i r o s R e s i n i o t o u ( B y R e s i n i o t o u ’ s H a n d ): 12 Kastritsiou Street, • Tel (+30) 2310.264.107

Pa pageorgiou: 11 Aghiou Mina Street, • Tel (+30) 2310.278.562





Dia Xeiros Resiniotou



Dia Xeiros Resiniotou




T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



Dia Xeiros Resiniotou





Sophia’s world

Harilaos, a natural-born nut

Salumeria, gourmands’ corner

Sophia Arabatzi grew up in the store just like her father before her, so this is very much a family affair. It was inaugurated in 1941 and started off as Thessaloniki’s only watermelon purveyor, selling nothing but watermelons. Over the years, the merchandise changed along with the times and circumstances. Sotiris can talk for hours about the legendary Kapani, the city’s historic market, and how it has evolved over the years. He’s also privy to almost everything there is to know about dates. When Sophia stepped in, she brought a breath of fresh air to the establishment: new labels, and new products, but always in the same spirit. Different types of halva, sesame snaps, loukoum delight, honey, herbs, nuts and an endless array of tsipouro, drinks and liqueurs – all quintessentially Greek. Sophia’s bubbly welcome is just another good reason to stop by.

He was initiated into the art of a good roasted nut as a kid working at his grandfather Harilaos’ store. He claims that nutprocessing runs in his veins and listening to him speak, it’s clear that he’s made for this job: he talks of how almonds are roasted, quince paste is prepared and nectarines are dried under the sun… and his eyes light up. At Harilaos’ store, the bounty is plentiful. You can find peanuts from Serres and Australian macadamias, Spanish tiger nuts, excellent stoneground tahini and roasted chickpeas from Komotini, a vast selection of dried fruits, homemade rose water from Voio and all sorts of sweet-making ingredients. In short, Harilaos’ nut store is a wonderful place to explore, taste and leave with a basketful of delights. Once you’ve braved the queue, of course.

You’ll meet plenty of gourmands on the corner of Balanou and Vatikiotis streets in downtown Thessaloniki, just off Athonos Square. This is where Lefki and Vivi keep their quaintly old-fashioned grocery stocked with goodies made by small producers from all over Greece: cured fish pastourma, flathead grey mullet botargo from Porto Lagos, smoked mussels, sardines,, snails, olives, Asia Minor-style pickled bonito, cured meats such as kavourmas from Thrace, cheeses such as kaskavali from Samothraki or kefalograviera from Paramythia, olive oil, coffee and bread from Komotini, tsipouro and wine, honey, pastas, pulses and many, many more delicious items. Tables are strewn here and there, where the tsipouro flows freely, spirits are always high and day segues into night, so long as you’re in good company and the snacks keep coming.

I Th e s s a l o n i k i 5 Kidoniatou Street, • Tel (+30) 2310.230.703

H a r i l a o s : 24 Vatikioti Street (Athonos Square), • Tel (+30) 2310.285.487

Salumeria 5 Balanou Street, • Tel (+30) 2310.22 8.585


The Pantopoleio Thessaloniki’s General Store


Three generations of experience and tradition are on hand to guide you in your purchases. Whether you are looking for health food or something sinfully unhealthy, you are sure to find something to your taste in this Aladdin’s cave of delicious flavours.

The Pantopoleio - Thessaloniki’s General Store 12 Komninon St., 54624 Thessaloniki • Tel.: 0030.2310.244684 • Fax: 0030.2310.244687 •


Anestis Babatzimopoulos is seen as a young boy in the family wine and spirit shop in Thessaloniki (left). Grape harvest on Mount Vertsiko in the 1970s (right).



WINE, SUCH A Family affair The story of the region’s most important wineries is intrinsically linked to the history of the city itself: tumultuous, ever-evolving and full of surprises. BY TA S S O U L A E P TA K I L I



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


KTIMA GEROVASSILIOU Winery and museum in one

Vangelis Gerovassiliou became a vintner out of sheer obstinacy. His father, Argyris, was a farmer. He made wine, but only for family occasions. While still fresh the wine was pleasant enough, but it tended to sour with time. As a student at the Agricultural University of Athens, Vangelis sought ways to improve it. He asked a chemical engineer for help. “I can’t tell you. It’s a secret,” the scientist replied. His secretiveness angered Vangelis and in the mid-1970s he decided to find the answers himself and changed his major to oenology. So, Vangelis found himself in Bordeaux, where he received his degree and had the good fortune to work with Emile Paynaud, guru of the oenological sciences. The French master recommended Vangelis for the post of oenologist at the legendary estate of Porto Carras in Halkidiki, where he went on to work for 22 years. It was a major educational experience, but he was not happy working for others and decided to start his own vineyard, building on a family-owned, 1.2-hectare plot in Epanomi, on the outskirts of Thessaloniki. He bought an additional 3.6 hectares and planted only white varieties, mainly Malagousia and Assyrtiko. His winery grew to lead the vanguard of a major shakeup in the Greek vineyard and wine scene, particularly by the showcasing of the Malagousia variety, largely overlooked at the time. Today, the Gerovassiliou estate covers more than 56 hectares. Its brightest star is Malagousia, followed by Assyrtiko,

Limnio, Mavrotragano, Mavroudi, Syrah, Merlot, Viognier and Grenache rouge. Annual production stands at 250,000 bottles of white and 50,000 of red, with exports at around 35 percent. But the Thessalonian vintner is not just proud of his award-winning labels. The Gerovassiliou Wine Museum he has created in the state-of-the-art Epanomi winery exhibits old presses and bottles, as well as barrels, farming equipment and machinery from a bygone era. The most fascinating part of the exhibit is a collection of 2,600 openers and corkscrews, which is considered among the largest in the world.

Try Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia Made from the Malagousia variety that was nearly extinct before being revived thanks to the efforts of Vangelis Gerovassiliou, with strong fruity aromas (pear, mango and citrus) and a rich mouthfeel with intense lemon notes.

Pair with Mediterranean classics including seafood, poultry, pasta with light sauces and fresh salads. Visit:


The winery’s herb garden.


Some of the objects on display at the Wine Museum, where the collection of corkscrews alone comes to more than 2,600 pieces.

Vangelis Gerovassiliou with his wife Sonia and their three children.



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


Evangelos Tsantali during the harvest in 1976.

The vineyard at Metoxi (glebe) Chromitsa on Mount Athos.

TSANTALI Greece’s biggest producer

The Tsantali family was among thousands of Greeks who were forced to abandon hearth and home in 1922 in the wake of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. They came to Greece from Samakovo in Eastern Thrace with nothing more to their name than a cart and an ox. They settled in Serres in northern Greece and got jobs as farm hands. But they had a dream, and in 1938, they used their savings to open a small winery and launched ouzo and red wine on the market. The firm’s reputation grew through word-of-mouth and buyers came from all over the country for their products. The seed was firmly planted. Evangelos was the youngest of the brothers and also the most energetic. When he started to feel that the town of Serres was too small for his grand plans, he left for Thessaloniki where, in 1945,

he opened an ouzo distillery. The distinctive flavor of his ouzo pushed up sales and soon the business expanded from 300 square meters to 5,000. The family inaugurated its first winery in Naoussa in 1970. The following year, the company became a public limited company based at Aghios Pavlos in Halkidiki. Today the vision of patriarch Evangelos Tsantali is kept alive by the third and fourth generations. The company continues to create fine wines and spirits with the same dedication – and the same secret recipe. Only the volume has changed and today Tsantali SA is the biggest wine producer in Greece, with over 250 hectares of vineyards (cultivating Xinomavro, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko and Moschofilero, as well as Merlot and Syrah), annual production of around 20 million liters and sales in 55 countries.

Tsantali Agioritikos Rose A blend of Limnio and Xinomavro from the Metoxi Chromitsa vineyard on Mount Athos, a wine with strong sour cherry and strawberry notes that has achieved some of the highest sales records in the Greek market. It was first launched in 1975 and in 1981 became the country’s first wine with Protected Geographical Indication.

Pair with Baked or fried mussels, shrimp in tomato sauce, olive oilrich Mediterranean vegetable stews as well as fruit. Visit:




DOMAINE BABATZIMOPOULOS From Turkish cellars to your glass

The Babatzimopoulos family has been making wine and distillations since the mid-19th century. Anestis Babatzimopoulos Senior lived in Constantinople and was the owner of a vast vineyard with more than 850,000 plants. He founded the Babatzim company in 1875 and produced wines that he exported to Russia and Austria. He was a man of great ambition and wanted to penetrate the local market, knowing that while the country’s Muslims did not drink wine, they were very fond of raki. So, the astute businessman concentrated all his efforts in this direction and began producing an excellent grape spirit flavored with mastic gum, anise, fennel, carob and figs – using the famed variety cultivated in the area of

Anestis Babatzimopoulos.

Troy. Within a few years, his raki was a hit in every Turkish salon. In 1932, after a period marked by population exchanges between Turkey and Greece, the family found itself back in Thessaloniki, where it had first started out, and the passion of wine-making and distilling, along with Anestis’ name, was passed down to his grandson. In 1970, the younger Anestis Babatzimopoulos bought his first plot of land and started planting it in 1974 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Today, beside these famous foreign varieties, the vineyard is also growing lesser-known Greek ones like Ugni Blanc and Greco, as well, of course, as the domestic varieties that form the pillar of foreign exports:

Xinomavro, Roditis, Malagousia, Moschofilero and Malvasia. Today the Babatzimopoulos Estate is a 55-hectare paradise at Ossa in the area of Lagadas, with beautifully arranged vines flanked by a forest of oak, beech and chestnut trees. The vines are cultivated in accordance with the principles of organic farming and annual production comes to 150,000 bottles. Other than his wines, Anestis Babatzimopoulos is also renowned for his excellent distillations of ouzo and tsipouro, made according to his grandfather’s original recipes. He is also planning a line of fruit liqueurs – plum, pear, raspberry, cranberry and peach – and we can’t wait for it!

Try Babatzim Tsipouro Just like it was once served in the homes of Constantinople’s affluent elite, flavored with anise, smooth and fragrant, in a tall glass with ice and a dash of water.

Pair with


Taramosalata fish roe dip, mushrooms, olives, stuffed vine leaves and any kind of seafood snack. Visit: domaine.babatzimopoulos

The estate covers an area of 55 hectares.


Stelios and Constantina Kechri with their daughters.

The tanks for the white wines.

STELIOS KECHRIS DOMAINE Guardians of retsina

In 1911 Evangelos Kechris returned to Greece from Boston, USA – where he had emigrated and opened a restaurant – and one of the things he brought back was glass bottles for bottling wine. The conditions, however, were not ripe. Later, in 1939, his four sons opened their own restaurant in Thessaloniki and made house wine for their customers with Savvatiano must from Karystos in Evia and Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini. Demand for the wine gradually grew and they started selling to outside customers, eventually, in 1954, opening the Kechris family’s first winery in Kalochori along with a retail outlet. In 1984, the range of products was enriched with the traditional Doriki liqueurs, while the business was taken over by the eldest of the 10 (!) first cousins, Stelios Kechris, who had studied chemical


engineering in Thessaloniki and later oenology in Dijon, France. With his new-found know-how, Stelios introduced to the family winery methods that were pioneering at the time in Greece. He also decided to focus his efforts on retsina, a popular white flavored with pine resin. He wanted to prove – contrary to prevalent perceptions – that this was not a product that necessarily had to be of poor quality. And he succeeded. Kechribari (Greek for amber) was launched on the market and it is a classic yet high-quality, elegant and intensely fresh wine. Stelios’ daughter Eleni – also with studies in France, at Bordeaux – has taken over in recent years and the winery is now producing almost 1 million bottles a year, 30 percent of which are exported.

The new winery in Kalochori.

Pair with Lobster pasta, rich fish soup, salmon, shellfish, baked or grilled fish fillets, roasted vegetables, roasted feta, white meats and sundry Greek meze. Visit:



Tear of the Pine This fine white embodies the philosophy of high-end retsina and has received numerous awards (Decanter World Wine Awards, International Wine Challenge, Mundus Vini). It is based on the Assyrtiko variety and aged in new oak barrels.

Thanasis and Giorgos Arvanitidis.


Xinomavro, a charismatic grape.



A family affair

Askos is a tranquil little village on the outskirts of Thessaloniki, 500 meters up the eastern slope of Mount Vertsiko. In this beautiful part of the country – where, like the rest of Macedonia, wine-making has ancient roots – the Arvanitidis family created its winery on the site of an older facility in 1999, led by agronomist Thanasis Arvanitidis and his brother, Giorgos. The siblings use organic practices to cultivate their vineyards, planted with Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Xinomavro and Malagousia, as well as a smaller quantity of Nebbiolo, Barbera and Montepulciano.

The first label they produced was a Chardonnay that was launched in 2003 and was awarded that same year. And quite rightly too, as it is such a voluminous wine, with an incredible bouquet and a pleasant acidity. Their first Merlot hit the market in 2006, followed by a Syrah in 2007 and more recently a Xinomavro. The latter is a particularly difficult grape, but incredibly charismatic when it succeeds. The brothers saw it as a challenge – one in which they excelled. Today the vineyard has grown to 5 hectares and production comes to almost 100,000 bottles a year.

Arvanitidis Xinomavro This is a single-vineyard wine that is aged for 12 months in oak barrels to bring out its wonderful rich flavor of red-fruit aromas (plum and sour cherry) and tomato notes.

Pair with Grilled meat, tomato-based casseroles, meat with spicy sauces, game, traditional pies, meatballs and strong cheeses. Visit: www.

Info All of the wineries can be visited by appointment. Additional information on other winemakers in the area who are doing excellent work can be found on the website of the Wine Producers Association of the Northern Greece Vineyard •



Temples of Meze Unlike Spanish tapas which are often eaten at a stand-up bar on the fly, the Greek meze culture is all about taking your time and sampling as many dishes as possible. BY Nena DIMITRIOU


ll of Thessaloniki’s gastronomical traditions can be savored at its numerous purveyors of meze (mezedopolio), laid-back eateries where diners spend several hours nibbling at a smorgasbord of small dishes over conversation and quantities of wine, ouzo or tsipouro. Famed pilaf preparations, spicy soutzouki meatballs, pork and leek casserole, mussels or spicy baked bougiourdi with feta cheese, tomatoes and hot peppers are also served. The city’s large student community has ensured that prices remain low, the wine abundant and portions quite robust, without discounts on quality. Massalia is a modern taverna serving good old-fashioned fare with this philosophy in mind. Among the city’s musts is the soutzouki at Diagonios, around since 1969, also famed for its stuffed vine leaves (dolmadakia). For well-cooked fish and seafood, Miami in Krini and Epta Thalasses (Seven Seas) are recommended. In the Ladadika district, which has been experiencing a second heyday in recent years, you will find numerous tavernas that take Greek classics and present them with 168

a modern twist, such as the elegant Sebriko, which looks a bit like a traditional grocery store and makes excellent use of fine, traditional ingredients. Very interesting local dishes based on the grandeur of fresh ingredients can also be enjoyed at Fri, inspired by the island of Kasos. A walk to Ano Poli (the old, upper quarter) and to Kastra, where you can enjoy a view of the entire city, is best topped off with a visit to Toicho-Toicho, a traditional-style meze place with a rather sophisticated crowd. Nearby is Igglis, a historic taverna that has been serving its loyal patrons under the shade of ivy for decades. Heading down from Ano Poli and just before you reach the Church of Aghios Dimitrios, look for Nea Folia, tucked away on small side-street, a diamond in the rough and one of the most honest gourmet eateries in town, catering to a small clientele. Near Aristotelous Square and serving 24 hours a day, Tsarouchas is a more hard-core option, slightly dingy but famed for its restorative tripe (patsa) as well as a selection of other hearty dishes.

Info D i a g o n i o s 13 Stratigou Kallari, tel (+30) 2310.260.958

E p ta T h a l a s s e s 10 Kalapothaki, tel (+30) 2310.233.173

F r i 4 Doxis, Ladadika, tel (+30) 6971.910.272

I g g l i s 32 Irodoutou, tel (+30) 2313.011.967 M a s s a l i a 6 Manousoyiannaki, tel (+30) 2314.003.714

M i a m i 18 Thetidos, tel (+30) 2310.447.996 Ne a F o l i a 4 Aristomenous, tel (+30) 2310.960.383

Se b r i k o 2 Frangon, tel (+30) 2310.557.513

T ο i c h o -T ο i c h o 1 Stergiou Polydorou, tel (+30) 2310.245.351 T s a r o u c h a s 78 Olympou, tel (+30) 2310.271.621

Epta Thalasses


Tοicho - Tοicho






T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6






FRESH TAKES ON MED STAPLES Great locations in and around the center see chefs inspired by traditional recipes to create a kind of European/Mediterranean fusion. Agioli Facing the seaside promenade, the ground floor is a relaxed ouzo-and-meze taverna, with the restaurant located upstairs. Seafood and meat are prepared in both traditional and contemporary styles, while there’s a good selection of wine and ouzo. Service can be a bit slow at rush hour. • 15 Nikis, tel (+30) 2310.262.888

Αyhan With its kitchen under globetrotting chef Ayhan 170

Ekinzi, this fine restaurant, located in the former Lazariston (or Lazarist) Monastery, presents traditional Turkish dishes that have been given a makeover without losing their authentic charm. Try the kebab, veal with eggplant puree and stuffed vine leaves, all served in massive portions, Orientalstyle. The sweets rule. • 21 Kolokotroni, Lazariston Monastery, tel (+30) 2310.647.524

Βe* Restaurant

Located on the ground floor

of the Excelsior Hotel, this modern bistro is suitable for any time of day and is best seen either from a seat at the window or the bar. The menu leans towards America, though the desserts are European. Lively colors and the buzz of a young crowd make for a vibrant setting that is the perfect place to hang out on a weekend morning or after shopping on Tsimiski. The brunch is quite popular. • 10 Komninon, Excelsior Hotel, tel (+30) 2310.021.010

Canteen A bistro with a European air that could belong in East London, Canteen serves breakfast and brunch, while the bar is open for cocktails from an extensive list starting in the early afternoon. A favorite among the city’s young women and ladies, and popular family spot. • 7 Dimitriou Gounari, tel (+30) 2310.228.520

Estrella This is the birthplace of bougatsan, a confection inspired by a prolific food




blogger that involves squeezing custard into the heart of a French croissant and serving it with fresh fruit, cinnamon, sugar or even chocolate. Pancakes, bagels and other savory snacks make this place ideal for brunch, though you will have to patient as the food can take some time coming. You can also sample beers from various microbreweries, such as the Spanish Estrella. • 48 Pavlou Mela, tel (+30) 2310.272.045

La Place Mignonne

Located just a few steps from the White Tower, this is a bistro with a French soul, a cosmopolitan character, retro décor and dishes that pay tribute to European gastronomy. The wine list, with an emphasis on local labels, is sadly lacking. A set menu on weekdays gives way to an Americanstyle buffet on Sundays for breakfast, brunch and lunch. • 4 Ethnikis Amynas, tel (+30) 2310.288.354


The absolute “place to be” in the city, tables start filling early in the morning for the first coffee of the day and remain occupied well into the night by businessmen, ladies lunching after a spot of shopping on Tsimiski and groups of friends enjoying a drink with a European attitude. A new space has been added recently, serving very decent Mediterranean food, while the cocktail list is also well thought-out. • 17 Palaion Patron Germanou, tel (+30) 2310.223.307

MaitrE & Margarita

A modern bistro, this has become a destination in its own right despite the fact that it’s just off the city center. Located on a corner to offer panoramic views, the décor is all about industrial simplicity and low lighting to make for a chilled-out atmosphere. Comfort food is the motto in the kitchen, which prepares simple

yet well-executed dishes using very fresh ingredients, inspired by the cuisine of the broader Macedonia region and the Mediterranean. The wine list is quite special, featuring Greek labels from small wineries at excellent prices. • Maitre & Margarita, 2 Verias (near the courts), tel (+30) 2314.007.586

Marina Potidaia Just a 35-minute drive from the city center is Potidaia, a brief and popular excursion for city folk. The restaurant is advantageously located, with a view over a canal. The cuisine is Mediterranean/ Greek, with an emphasis on fish and shellfish. Best-selling dishes include the pasta with lobster or other crustaceans. The wine list is especially rich in Greek labels. Ask to be seated on the wooden deck, where you’ll feel as though you’re right above the sea. • Marina Potidaia, Nea Moudania, tel (+30) 2373.041.570 G R E E C E IS

Mia Feta

A deli bar inspired by feta, Greece’s national cheese, this doubles as a grocery store with an array of products on sale and a tapas bar centered on a big table in the middle where you can try all sorts of creative meze, accompanied by wine. • 14 Pavlou Mela, tel (+30) 2310.221.120


A magnet for alternative types and foodies that have been congregating in this area since its opening about seven years ago, this is a Mediterranean bistro with a good wine list, located in one of the oldest covered arcades in the city. Hosts a live jazz and folk night. No credit cards. • 4 Paggaiou, tel (+30) 2310.510.852

T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6



A CUT ABOVE Just because Thessaloniki’s food culture seems kind of casual, this does not mean you won’t find high-end restaurants to pamper the gourmand in you. Clochard



Alfredo’s Grand Dining


Multi-award-winning French and creative Mediterranean cuisine is served in a luxurious Baroque-style dining room. Besides the à la carte menu, the chefs have also prepared set menus at attractive prices, reaching out to more diners. With a wine list featuring more than 400 labels and a cigar bar, this is the perfect place to celebrate special occasions. • Hyatt Regency Casino, 12th km on Thessaloniki–Airport highway, tel (+30) 2310.491.199

Located in the Met Hotel, this is considered the best fusion restaurant in town. In the summer, service is by the rooftop pool and in winter on the hotel’s ground floor in an impressive hall dominated by geographic motifs and mystical lighting. If you disregard the industrial look outside, you could be in a Los Angeles lounge. The sushi is quite good, but the black cod is the star. A decent wine list is complemented by a selection of quality sakes. With an upmarket clientele, this is recommended for a business dinner. • 48 26th Oktovriou, tel (+30) 2310.017.000

B With a simple yet substantial menu that showcases seasonal ingredients, the restaurant of the Museum of Byzantine Culture is more laid-back in its outdoor area than in its somewhat ostentatious dining room. As it opens early in the morning, this is a good option for breakfast or lunch. The sizeable wine list focuses on Greek labels • 2 Tritis Septemvriou, tel (+30) 2310.869.695 172

Clochard Serving all-time Greek classics with a global twist, from lamb chops to chicken with ginger and lime, or smoked salmon with quinoa to grilled squid, and with a good selection of wines, this is a favorite haunt among artists, journalists and politicians. • 4 Proxenou Koromila, tel (+30) 2310.239.805


Located just off the center, Duck defies classification as it has no menu staples or specific specialties. With just 40 seats and a wine list of 50 labels, the philosophy is about simplicity: seasonal ingredients, cooked well. Closed on Sunday and Monday nights. Reservations are a must. • 3 Halkis, Pylaia, tel (+30) 2315.519.333

Mavri Thalassa

A genteel atmosphere and polite service shows the evolution of Black Sea from a simple fish tavern to a high-end restaurant that focuses on fresh fish and seafood, specializing in meze to accompany ouzo and wine. The fish roe taramosalata and salted bonito (lakerda) are musts. • 3 Nikolaou Plastira & Hilis, Kalamari, tel (+30) 2310.932.542


Street Food

Coffee With Character


Derlicatessen stands out among the other souvlaki joints – as is evident from the long weekend queues – for its excellent quality ingredients and selection of different pita breads and sauces. It’s also popular for its vegetarian souvlaki with mushrooms and haloumi cheese. The fries are fresh, not frozen. • 7 Kouskoura

In a city with so many places to enjoy a hot cappuccino or a freddo while watching the world go by, there are a few that stand out. Container

One Sweet Day

Frederico Agapi Mou

Toms Flagship Store

Contemporary culture meets the creations of old in this café that is located in front of the ruins of the Roman Agora, hosts art exhibitions and plays classical music. • 37 Filippou

Frederico My Love has a retro attitude and looks like it came from a 1960 Almodόvar film. With its mix-and-match décor, it is a popular student hangout that stays open to the wee hours for cocktail. • 87 Olympou

To Koumbi

The Button celebrates DYI handicrafts and, apart from lovely beverages, also “serves” knitting, sewing and jewelry-making seminars, as well as workshops that can teach you how to make creative use of everyday materials in just two courses. • 2 Peloponissou

Serving hot chocolate beverages with a twist and cocktails with cocoa derivatives, this place presents itself as a chocolate bar, with a Parisian ambience and music from the French Quarter of New Orleans. • 57 Olympou

This is the first café opened by the charitable chain in Greece. With the motto One for One, Toms provides developing countries with 140 liters of drinking water for every packet of coffee used in the store. Apart from the good cause and good coffee it serves, it is also worth visiting for its location in the beautiful Pelosof arcade, once home to the city’s post office. • 22 Tsimiski


A canteen serving burgers to go or eat on site, with a funky aesthetic and humorous menu names, such as the Marc Zuckerburger or Steven Spielburger, the latter served in a soft brioche bun. The portions are big and the kitchen stays open until the wee hours. There are plenty of bars in the vicinity to quench your thirst afterwards. • 11 Proxenou Koromila

Pites tis Voulas ONE SWEET DAY

Using traditional filo pastry that makes a satisfying crunch when bitten into and other first-class ingredients, famous Voula’s Pies has been around for 20 years. The kitchen is open so you don’t have to try to sneak a peek at what’s going on. Ideal for breakfast or lunch to go. Try as many pies as you can: spinach, cheese, leek or mushroom. As for dessert, grab a rice pie, apple pie or cream pie, which is the inhouse version of the classic bougatsa. • 48 Pavlou Mela

Toms Flagship Store


Pizza Poselli

This avant-garde pizzeria, located right in the middle of the nightlife action, offers a good menu of thin-crust pizzas with light toppings, as well as a selection of eight different pizzas that can be bought by the slice. We loved the chandelier that gives it a deco feel, but not the fact that the staff rarely seems to smile. Stays open after midnight. • 2 Vilara & Syngrou



T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6




Barhoppers Rejoice� From posh to decadent, Thessaloniki’s watering holes do their best to keep you away from bed. B Y NENA D I M I T R I O U

Aigli Yeni Hamam

The glamor of a bygone era has been brought back with the restoration of this historic bathhouse, which was built in the late 16th century and was used as a warehouse for more than a hundred years after Thessaloniki’s liberation in 1912. The beautiful dome, spacious courtyard and terracotta color palate are done an injustice by the bright lighting. If you’re not 174

picky about your music, this is a good choice for early drinks. • 3 Aghiou Nikolaou

Aldebaran The Thessaloniki Concert Hall’s new bar-restaurant caters to a rather intellectual, well-dressed crowd and sports a Scandinavian design aesthetic. Located on the venue’s second floor, it affords a wonderful view

over the sea, making you feel as though you’re floating on air if you find a seat at the outdoor tables. It serves coffee, food and drinks, turning up the volume come nightfall. • 25th Martiou & Paralia

Berlin Around for decades, this is one of Thessaloniki’s most legendary and well-loved

bars, a friend to both loners and cliques. Best described as a dive with grunge attitude, the atmosphere is dark and heavy, the dance floor sticky with grime and the bathrooms have a mere passing acquaintance with bleach. But it rocks until dawn and rarely has an off-day. • 10 Chrysostomou Smyrnis


Cantina Tropicana


Cocktail Bar

Aigli Yeni Hamam

Cantina Tropicana

Tucked away in one of Thessaloniki’s dozens of arcades, with a secret garden and excellent DJ sets, this is a playground-bar for adults, where the décor is retro and there are plenty of nooks to hang out with your friends, to less or more intense music. • 31 Egnatia, Colombus Arcade


While dancing seems to have gone out of vogue in recent years in Thessaloniki, this is the city’s only dance club proper, hosting parties featuring popular DJs. • 30 Katouni

Cocktail Bar

The bartenders know their cocktails and aren’t shy about it. An uber-hipster hangout, it organizes frequent electro parties, though much of the action, or people-watching, takes place outside. • 17 Polytechniou

Coo This may be the only bar in Thessaloniki where people still dance. Alternative in the right sense of the word and with nothing mainstream about it, this is the kind of place created by owners with a penchant for the job, with good service and great drinks, so they could have fun with their friends. Its laid back and absolutely unpretentious environment quickly made it the talk of the town. • 4 Vassileos Irakliou

EIGHT BALL This is the absolute club for the metal, goth and death metal crowd. The live music stage hosts local and international talent playing different genres, including disco and new age. • 1 Pindou,

Omilos Its privileged location has made it favorite among visitors to the city for nearly

a decade, as it has the Thermaic Gulf right in front and the city’s lights on the right. Open from the morning, the best time to visit is at twilight. The music is loud, the crowd interesting, the wine list extensive and the cuisine Mediterranean. Reservations are a must on Fridays and Saturdays. • 12 Megalou Alexandrou, tel (+30) 2310.869.950

Palio Hamam Very central yet wellhidden among the ruins of Thessaloniki’s Ottoman past, this bar is located inside an old bathhouse and has a rooftop area with nice view of the city. Tends to be preferred by youngsters for its cheap drinks and flirty buzz. • 11 Mitropolitou Gennadiou

Rover Old and worn by time, this is a classic with indie and rock music, and an easygoing vibe, in a threeG R E E C E IS

story neoclassical mansion. The upper seating areas are popular for their views over the city’s hustle and bustle. Events and bazaars with handmade objects are held every Sunday. • 6 Salaminos, Ladadika

Spinte Thessaloniki’s first whisky bar has a very comprehensive and interesting selection of spirits. Perfect for an afterdinner drink, accompanied by a cigar from the cigar bar. • 5 Aristotelous Square

Tabya Art The renovated neoclassical edifice that houses this bar has a lovely courtyard, while the indoor areas are used to host art, comics and collage exhibitions by young artists, a vinyl store and a rich cultural agenda. The music has attitude, the crowd is a mixand-match bunch, the coffee is good and the cocktails imaginative. • 14C Melenikou T H E SS A L O N I K I 2 0 1 5 - 2 0 1 6


What is Greece Is? A one-stop source for inside information on what Greece is all about, showcasing destinations, culture, history, experiences, authenticity and creativity in all its forms, from the captivating past to the riveting present. A reference point for discerning travelers who want to delve below the surface and tourism professionals alike. An effective print and online medium for advertising products and services, that reaches out to eclectic readers not just through an attractive, useful website but also through a wide print distribution network. This includes major tourist attractions such as the Acropolis Museum and key archaeological sites, selected hotels, embassies, the Greek National Tourism Organization’s branches around the world, the Athens International Airport’s Press Point and municipal information bureaus. Greece Is magazines are also distributed with the International New York Times in Greece and Cyprus and to the subscribers of the Sunday Edition of Kathimerini, Greece’s leading newspaper.

Greece Is publications explore not only destinations but also specific fields of interest for which the country is renowned, such as Democracy, Gastronomy, Wine, Shipping, the Olympic Games and more. A team of expert local and international journalists, accomplished authors and scholars, sagacious bloggers and inquisitive insiders provide valuable, in-depth knowledge, refreshing perspectives and useful, accurate information, in a colorful and eclectic selection of unique style and content. Greece Is looks forward to forging partnerships and sharing its expert knowledge with tourism professionals looking to enhance their product, advertise their services or simply join our distribution network. Benefit now from our new advertising and sponsorship opportunities to reach a discerning international readership.



Greece Is: Santorini, Athens, Democracy, Peloponnese

Editorial inquiries:

COMING SOON Greece Is: Athens Winter Edition, Gold, Gastronomy and more Advertising: (+30) 210.480.82.27, Distribution: (+30) 210.480.81.99,

Profile for GREECE IS



Profile for greece-is