Planning the visit.
Based on what I saw yesterday during my quick tour and according what I’ve read in my travel guides, there is plenty of things to see in Thessaloniki. So I need to plan carefully the day also considering that, as usual, I prefer to walk and not to use the public transport. First of all I define the set of sights to see then I pin them on the map and lastly I divide the day in two halves and associate two different walks to each half. Maybe this could appear a bit manic approach but it avoids to discover one day that I missed some important site. According the outcome, during the morning I will stay closer to the seaside while in the afternoon, when the climate is expected to be milder, I will climb up the inner walls.
Today seems to be a better day than yesterday for what it regards the weather. Sky is blue and clouds are completely missing. My walk starts with the two important sights that are very close to my apartment, both due to the roman emperor Galerius: the arch and the rotunda. The arch, here known as Kamara, can be found along the Egnatia street and it was built at beginning of 4th century to celebrate a victory over the Persians. Second and much more imposing sight is the Rotunda, built more or less at the same time of the arch, it should have been the mausoleum of Galerius but in the end he was never buried here but in Serbia where he died of a terrible disease. The monument is really interesting. I pay the 2 euro ticket to enter even if already the view from outside is nice. There are very few tourists. Inside the dome was painted with frescos using a golden paint but only a part of it remained. There is an altar that gives to the entire site a mystic atmosphere. On the other side of the Via Egnatia there are also ruins of the Galerius’ palace but they’re not so interesting. I walk back to the via Egnatia, seeing often byzantine churches, some of them included in the Unesco lists, surrounded by modern buildings and I would say that this is a peculiarity of Thessaloniki. In one case a small church is really in the outer courtyard of a condo. In another part of the town there is a building site and there are ruins visible under the street level.
Market & Ladadika.
Next stop is the city market. On its way I have the chance to see the Roman Agora and also the Bey hammam, the latter remains from Turkish domination time. It is not possible to visit it so I go through. Modiano market, this is the name of the central market of Thessaloniki, is located just next to Plateia Aristotelous. There is a predominant presence of fish stalls but on some side street you can find other kind of food and some homeware. I take some picture of the fish and then I move in the direction of Ladadika district. This is a very interesting area in which former warehouses are now hosting café, venues for concert, theatres and restaurants. It is one of the cultural centre of the town and its streets are also improved by some great wall painting. After this part it’s time to walk back in the direction of the apartment and I do that going by the seaside. People are enjoying the beautiful day sitting on the dock (of the bay). Today is a working day so the boulevard is not so crowded as it was yesterday. Getting closer to the white tower there are many trendy cafes hosting the local nightlife. Before going home for a rest, I ate a huge souvlaki.
In the afternoon the temperature lowers a bit and then it’s a good moment to climb up the walls. This inner part of Thessaloniki is much quieter than the sparkling downtown. Going uphill I see a graveyard and directions for the zoo. Finally I see the tower of Trigoniou and some walls. There were three layers of walls, two of them built by Romans and the third one later during Byzantine age. During Turkish domination, instead, the lower part of the fortifications was destroyed to allow the sea breeze to refresh the town. By the way, talking about Turkey, did you know that Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey was born here in Thessaloniki? No? Well, me neither. The Trigoniou tower is closed but from its level there is fantastic view of the town with the other more famous tower down there by the sea, surrounded by the town. Close to the walls there is the peaceful Vlatadon monastery that had a crucial role in a movement called Hesychasm whose main goal was to achieve an interior peace as a step to have the knowledge of God. There’s no one here. Only some peacock and other poultry quacking in a big bird cage. I walk down to town taking a look again at the arch of Galerius that is better in the afternoon light.
Missing sunset and consolation dinner.
I try again to see a passable sunset but even tonight there are clouds on the horizons so no chances to take some great picture. I need to confort myself with the dinner. I avoid the trendy places in the white tower area and I head to a little square near to my apartment where I saw a quiet “meze” place with tables outside. It comes out as a good choice. Even if they don’t have english menu I’m able to order some fried sheep cheese from the town of Florina and Dolmadakia the famous dish made of grape leaves stuffed with rice, that are cooked also in other countries but called in different way and sometime prepared with cabbage. It’s a good way to say hello to Thessaloniki. Tomorrow I will move further east.
Meanwhile, if you like, take a look at the pics of this very interesting town.