Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, a combination of old and new, a western Jerusalem, with the most beautiful promenade…
History of Solun
Ever since its establishment, many Empires laid clame to it: Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman Empire, there was at one time a significant Jewish community that also left its influence.
Thessaloniki is also one of the first cities to receive Christianity. Thessaloniki is a mixture of everything, but it is complemented by youth energy, as the second university center in the country.
Here, the wind from the northwest, which the Greeks call vardaris, mixes with the freshness of the sea.
Thessaloniki has been counting its years from 316 b.c when it was founded by Kassandar.
The city either got its name from Kassandar’s wife, the half sister of Alexander of Macedonia, Tesalonica, or possibly, from the victory over Tesaliah.
It’s not difficult to orient oneself in Thessaloniki because the main streets are parallel to the coast. This planning was accompanied by a fire that almost destroyed Solun. The recovery of the city lasted a long time but the worke was done very prudently. During construction, it was decided that they won’t raise skyscraper in Thessaloniki for two reasons:
- In case of an earthquake
- So that the spectacular view of the sea from all parts of the city isn’t spoiled
Solun was then re-designed by renowned French architect Ernst Hebrard. He was also an archaeologist and thanks to him, all of the excavations that have spread all over Thessaloniki have been preserved.
The protector of Thessaloniki is Saint Dimitri and to him is dedicated the most important church in Thessaloniki.
Solun is too big to be circled in a short time. That’s why it is necessary to start with some of the routes (Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Jewish), otherwise everything will mix, like the wind i mentioned in the beginning of this story.
The Roman Route
In the Roman route, you would hear the story of Emperor Galerius, as well as the excavated Roman brothel, and about some of the objects that the Romans brought to the temples so that the gods would bless them with heeling powers. Yet for all of this stories, Thessaloniki is still a port city.
The Byzantine Route
On the Byzantium route, you would hear the story of King Theodosius who implemented democracy in the following way. His subjects were very dissatisfied with the introduction of taxes that were supposed to cover the war expenses of their emperor. Commander of the Guard arrested the leader of the protest.
The disgruntled commoners killed the commander, so the king, as he could not find the culprit, called on his subjects to come and watch the games, to have fun and unwind. It is not known how many people came to the games, but it is known that 7,000 people were killed under Theodosius command.
The Ottoman Route
The Ottoman rout also has its own charm, from its characteristic architecture, alleys and cafes, to the home of Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turkish nation. In the yard there is still a pomegranate tree planted by Ataturk’s father.
This mix of many cultures resulted in the churches in Thessaloniki having a distinctive appearance. They look a bit like mosques and a bit like normal churches.
Don’t get me started about cakes, hammams, teas and other Turkish delicacies.
The Jewish Route
The Jewish tour will tell us that here lived about 120000 Spanish Jews, the Sefardi, for which Thessaloniki was then called the Jerusalem of the Balkans. After World War II, only 15,000 remained. The city center museum offers a better insight into the Jews who lived here.
Viewpoints of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki also has three main viewpoints. I can climb some of them and some I can’t.
The white or “bloody tower” a former casamat, the point where all walks are starting or ending, is unavailable to me, but I recommend it.
The 360 degree view is spectacular.
OTE tower, whose dome turns 360 degrees in 1 hour. It is disabled friendly, but when I arrived there was a fair, so I couldn’t get in. The food and drinks on the tower are very expensive but the view is free.
At Aristotle’s square is the glittering hotel Elektra Palce, where they say you can have coffee, even though you are not a guest of hotel. When the weather is fair, it is said that Mount Olympus can be seen from the top.
There is also a monument to the most important person of Solun, Aristotle. The legend says you should rub his thumb in order to gain wisdom…
Thessaloniki also has a place of special importance for Serbians, which is the Zeitinlik cemetery about whom I wrote here.
I personally wouldn’t go farther then the promenade, which was flat, straight,long and most importantly accessible.
The best thing, in my opinion, is to bring food and eat it on one of the benches.
Now what to eat?
Like all the locals, I would like to start my day with a famous bugaca that is topped by coffee or chocolate milk. Only the homemade bugaca is the real one. It came with the refugees from little Asia, at first it was empty pie with thin layers dough, and then they began to be filled with sweet cream, meat, and chocolate. Only the real bugaca has 12 sheets of dough atop and 12 sheets down while the sweet filling is between them. A bugaca with cinnamon and powdered sugar is a good way to start the day. You will find the best bugace only in the stores that serve only it and nothing else, the best stores only work until 12h because the main chef always goes home at that time. In Athens, all bugaca are sweet, all the rest are pies.
Then I would have to look at the local market. In this case, the Kapani market (the Turkish word for flour) is where you can best get the feel of the city.
With the accumulated delicacies that Solun is proud of, I begin my conquest of this great city.
The locals finish their days with a kind of stew called Patsas. I mean, the offers are great, but if you want to know what the real local cuisine of Solun is, it’s some sort of Greek stew, made from pork legs and intestines, served after a lot of cooking.You can also add mashed onion, lemon or powdered pepper.
It is full of collagen and serves to rejuvenate after a long night of partying. It was once a food for the poor, and it came from Melanos Zoumo (black soup), which was eaten in ancient Sparta. It has been used to give energy but not to burden the Spartans that went to battle. Today it is eaten to cure hangovers after a long nigh of fun.
Luckily, I did not drink anything alcoholic since I didn’t want to leave the beautiful promenade, so this time I was devoted to junk food and it was not bad.
And finally, though Thessaloniki has a PHENOMENAL pastries selection, I came to try the trigonas (trigonas panoromatis), a crunchy triangle filled with cream, the trademark of Thessaloniki.
Solun has lowered curbs, but it can also negatively surprise you like every big city, which won’t prevent me from coming back.
Did I miss anything?
What do you think about Thessaloniki?
Traveled and enjoyed,