Secrets of Thessaloniki

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Photography - Ivan Andrejic


Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and capital city of Central Macedonia administrative district, bearing all the structure that constitute a modern urban center with a population of one million residents. Adittionaly, its port being the second largest commercial port of Greece, and its location, closed to the Balkans, betwen east and west, are significant factors, that contribute, both economic growth and its cosmopolitan characteristics. It is a welcoming, relaxing city, ready to spoil you by its countless visiting options, beeing full of life, day and night, due to its thousands of students studying in its universities. In contemporary Thessaloniki, you will come across with history, art and different cultures of 2300 years of city history, you will have opportunity to taste its rich traditional gastronomy, with a reputation far beyond Greek borders, you will relax on the beautiful coast watching the sun disappear in the Aegean sea and you will let yourself in the evening rhythms of a city where nightlife ends just before the first light of the day. Thessaloniki was capital of culture in 1997and remains a city with intense cultural activity. As evidence by dozens of museums, theaters, Concert Hall, the outdoor sculpture and music heritage, Thessaloniki produces culture and moves with strength and versatility, creating and many times pioneering at the cultural life of Greece.

Waterfront of Thessaloniki The favorite walk of the Thessalonians which will surely become yours too! Few cities in Europe have so large as Thessaloniki’s seafront and has been regenerated so that residents and visitors can enjoy walking or cycling a unique route by the sea. The coastal route, from the port to the Concert Hall of Thessaloniki, includes some of the must-see sights of the city such as: The White Tower, the imposing symbol of the city, the Statue of Alexander the Great on horseback. The umbrellas, a special sculpture which is one of the most photographed and romantic places in the city ,the 12 thematic gardens to relax and work out, with lakes, small waterfall, tennis courts, a skateboard track, playgrounds, cafes, refreshment stands, kiosks. So, while the walk or the ride in Thessaloniki’s Seafront will touch your romantic strings, we suggest you enjoy the beautiful sunset with the sun disappears into the sea or take a mini cruise on Thermaikos Gulf admiring the city view from the beach up on the Castles.

White Tower Descending towards the sea and via Filikis Etairias Street, you will meet the White Tower. The White Tower, the emblem of Thessaloniki, which dominates the port area, was built in late 15th century, as the south-east tower of the city’s fortification. It is an imposing six-storey, cylinder shaped structure, with 22.70 meters in diameter and 33.90 in height. During its course over the centuries, it changed names and operations multiple times. It was used as a fort enhancing the harbors defenses, as a garrison and a prison. Because of its fame as a notorious prison it was also known as “Tower of Blood” (Kanli Kule) or “Red Tower”. It was renamed to White tower (Torre Blanca) after it was whitewashed possibly in 1891. Today the tower is open to the public while the visitors will have a chance to enjoy a wonderful panoramic view from its highest level. The permanent exhibition of White Tower displays the city’s history in a concise way, from its foundation period in 316/15 BC until today, via multimedia applications, videos, projections, interactive and audio applications, printed graphic compositions (photo-banks), with a thematic differentiation for each floor. The White Tower is the most commonly known monument of Thessaloniki and the symbol of the city because of its prominent position, long history and imposive architecture. The tower was built in 15th century in order to replace an older 12th century Byzantine fortification while it was later recontsructed by the Ottomans.

Statue of Alexander the Great The largest in height statue in Greece pays tribute to the Great Greek King. The imposing artwork is accompanied by a frieze ornamented with relief figures, eight Macedonian sarissas (spears) and equally numbered shields. You can come across and take a photo of Alexander during your stroll down the Waterfront of Thessaloniki.

The Aristotelous square is the

connection link between the architectural history of Thessaloniki and its modern style. After the fire of 1917, the French architect Ernest HĂŠbrard was assigned to redesign the whole area of the city center and due to the historical significance of this central point he put Aristotelous Square in the heart of the new plan. The Aristotelous square is the point where the sea meets the land in the most central point of the city and the starting point of a place full of open spaces to the public

Kamara The Arch of Galerius (Kamara) is perhaps the most distinctive and interesting roman structure of Thessaloniki. It is also one of the most popular destinations of the city along with the White Tower for both locals and tourists. The arch was commissioned as a triumphal monument by emperor Galerius in order to celebrate the victorious campaign against the Sassanid Persians in 298 A.D. and the capture of their capital Ctesiphon. As an excellent sample of the roman monumental architecture of the 4th century A.D., it has wonderfully crafted marble panels on each pillar. They have decorative and narrative characteristics.

Rotunda The Rotunda is one of the most imposing monuments of Thessaloniki and one of the most important of the Roman period in Europe. With its architectural power and the unrivaled art internal mural mosaics, constitutes a special monument, unique balancing between the pagan and the Christian world. It was founded in the early 4th AD century, probably as a temple of the ancient worship or mausoleum of Constantine (306-337) located on the axis of the processional route, which connected the triumphal arch of Galerius with the palace complex, near the present Navarinou Square. The circular and dome roofed emblematic monument has a height of 29.80 m., diameter 24.50 m., width of walls 6.30 m.. Architectural can only be compared to the Pantheon in Rome. Shortly after its construction, it was converted into a Christian church dedicated to the Aghioi Asomatoi or the Archangels. It was Metropolis of Thessaloniki from 1524 to 1591, when it was converted into a mosque by the Ottoman conquerors until the liberation of Thessaloniki in 1912. The dedication of the monument to Saint George is due to the neighboring, small, homonymous church. Today the Rotunda, with history of more than 1700 years, is at once church and cultural - archaeological monument, in which the tourist visiting, the ecclesiastical liturgy and hosting cultural events are all combined, matching the monument’s character and history.

Church of Saint Dimitrios Dedicated to the patron Saint of the city, the majestic church of Aghios Dimitrios is one of the holiest pilgrimage churches of Christendom and the most important early Christian Church of Thessaloniki. It was built on the ruins of a Roman bath complex, the place where was imprisoned and martyred the Saint in 303 AD. The holy place of martyrdom, the Crypt, located beneath the transept of the church and in the late Byzantine years was the center of the Saint’s miraculous myrrh production. The miraculous myrrh gushing from the grave (that’s why the Saint’s nickname is Myrovlitis) and his reputation as a protector that protected Thessaloniki by the relevant invaders with His Divine intervention, overcame geographical boundaries of the city, and millions of pilgrims around the world who come to honor his grave for seventeen centuries.

The Crypt is also open and visitable for pilgrims at the point of martyrdom and operates as a museum of antiquities Moreover, the access to the silver reliquary with the relics of St. Demetrius in the church is free, while the believers who will be in Thessaloniki during the days of celebrations for the feast of St. Demetrius (October 26), can watch the suggestive litany of the Saint’s skull and relics on the city streets accompanied by military music band, members of the political and military leadership, local government and of course numerous believers (October 25). The first church of Aghios Dimitrios was built after 313 AD. In 1493 it was converted into a mosque. After the liberation of the city in 1912 re-opened, but in 1917 the temple was almost destroyed by the great fire that burned the biggest part of the historical center of Thessaloniki. The church in its current form is a five-aisled basilica with narthex and transept, characterized by rich painting, mosaic and marble decorations, while in the southeast corner is annexed the chapel of Ag. Efthymiou.

Church of Aghia Sophia Almost untouched in time, the Church of Aghia Sophia, dedicated to Christ, the true Word and Wisdom of God, Aghia Sophia constitutes for centuries spiritual beacon for Thessaloniki. It was built in the late 7th century and is a typical sample of transitional cruciform church with a dome and an ambulatory, in imitation of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. The beautiful mosaics, the 11th century wall paintings and its sculptural decoration are considered masterpieces of religious art. During the Latin occupation in Thessaloniki (1204-1224) the church became a cathedral of the Latins and after the restoration of Byzantine domination of the city formed again the Orthodox Bishop of Thessaloniki until 1523/24, on Maktoul Ibrahim Pasha, when it was converted into mosque.

Ano Poli (Upper Town) The balcony of Thessaloniki! Walking up from the city center, leaving behind the dense construction and apartment buildings for discovering a different Thessaloniki, a nostalgic city, something out of the past. On your walk you will pass by picturesque neighborhoods with small houses and beautiful mansions of Macedonian architecture, flower-filled gardens, narrow cobbled streets, winding alleys, squares with traditional cafes and taverns serving delicious local delicacies that will take you back in time and at the end of your path, you will face from above the amazing view of the sunset. Starting essentially from Agioy Dimitrioy Str, you will pass by important monuments and churches, among them UNESCO World Heritage, such as the Church of Saint Catherine, the Vlatadon Monastery, The church of Agios Nikolaos Orfanos, Saint David, the temple the Archangels, the Alatza Imaret mosque, the mausoleum of Musa Baba. In your route you’ll be accompanied by the walls of Thessaloniki, eternal defenders of security, the Eptapyrgio or Yedi Koule as was the Ottoman name, in the northeastern part of the Acropolis and the Trigonioy Tower (Triangle Tower), haughty and imposing while a panoramic image of the city hugging the sea will remain to you unforgettable.

Walls of Thessaloniki The Walls of Thessaloniki are the city walls surrounding the city of Thessaloniki during the Middle Ages and until the late 19th century, when large parts of the walls, including the entire seaward section, were demolished as part of the Ottoman authorities’ restructuring of Thessaloniki’s urban fabric. The city was fortified from its establishment in the late 4th century BC, but the present walls date from the early Byzantine period, ca. 390, and incorporate parts of an earlier, late 3rd-century wall. The walls consist of the typical late Roman mixed construction of ashlar masonry alternating with bands of brick.

Roman Forum Its construction was completed in two phases (mid 2nd and mid 3rd centuries A.C.) and includes the large rectangular square, the ground floor of the double underground Cryptic Galleria (functioned most probably as a warehouse), the odeon, the mint, the city’ s registry, as well as the circle baths. A contemporary Museum has been established displaying the process of the excavation, the place’s history since the Hellenistic era, and data concerning the construction of the Museum. When walking the Roman Forum, the visitor came across the famous Magemenes (The Enchanted Ones), or as the Hispanic Jews living in the area used to call them, Las Incantadas. It’s about the upper part of a two-storey colonnade, decorated, on its two main sides, with eight sculptured mythological figures: that of a Maenad, Dionysus, Ariadne, Leda, Nike, Aura, one of the Dioskouri, and Ganymede, all of which were detached in 1864, and can be admired today in the Museum of Louvre, Paris.

Archaeological museum of Thessaloniki Close sights of the civilization developed in Macedonia, especially in the area of Thessaloniki and the counties attached, since the dawn of prehistory up to the late antiquity, are highlighted through the exhibition activity of the Archaeological museum of Thessaloniki. Its collections contain artifacts and findings during excavations held by the Archaeological Service throughout Macedonia since 1912 up until today. The exhibitions’ perspective is entirely focused on humans, depicting everyday life and habits in ancient societies. The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki is a place of culture, education, science and communication. It implements educational programmes, periodical exhibitions about ancient or more contemporary times, promotes archaeological research and organizes special workshops, lectures, seminars and entertainment festivities. It is housed in a 1962 building, designed by architect Patroklos Karantinos, and has been a listed monument of modern heritage, as it is one of the most representative examples of architectural modernism in Greece.

Museum of Byzantine Culture The 11 galleries of the permanent exhibition display the different views of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine culture, through authentic artifacts, audiovisual material and touchscreens. The Museum has several conservation workshops and archaeological store rooms, both fully equipped, as well as, a lecture’s hall, a wing for temporary exhibitions, a multipurpose hall, two amphitheatres, a museum shop and a café-restaurant. It is housed in a historic building, considered as a “work of art”, constructed between the years 1989-1993 on the awarded designs of architect and painter, Kyriakos Krokos. For the first time in the history of a Greek public museum, the Museum of Byzantine Culture has been awarded the Council of Europe’s Museum Prize for the year 2005, after the unanimous decision by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Council of Europe.

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