Thessaloniki – Cultural Walk

As you come out of the hotel, in the end of the horizon is the sea. The sea is the easiest way to orientate yourself. As you turn left via Valaoritou Street you go upwards and meet Bey Hamam (Alcazar), a mosque built in the 1400 during the Ottoman years, that has been used originally as a mosque and later as a cinema and trade center. As you go upwards you meet the picturesque Bit Bazaar square. Check out the antique stores, the cobbled alleys and the cozy cafes. As you walk towards Archea Agora (ancient Agora), you see the ruins of a Roman town. This Roman Agora was built in 200AC and it was the meeting point of the men where they discussed about politics, philosophy, they were doing business and they entertained themselves in the conservatory and theaters. In the full moons during the summer you can catch concerts in this very ancient theater. You then go upwards (the sea at your back) and meet the church of St Demetrius (St Jim to you) that is the patron saint of Thessaloniki. Underneath the church is the crypt of St Demetrius, where he was transferred after his death and one could find myrrh running from the marble faucet underneath. As you go towards the sea (you can always follow the slightly downhill direction to find the sea), you meet the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos, a very influential and charismatic Greek politician, credited with being the “maker of modern Greece”. Next to his statue you will find Ottoman baths and ruins of the Roman empire. Walking along Egnatia Street, to your left you find the Acheiropiitos, 500AC church that is a monument protected by UNESCO. As you follow Egnatia Avenue you will find the Galerian triangle consisting of the grand church or Rotunda, the Galerian Arch (Kamara) and the Galerian palace. Rotunda is a circular well-preserved site of worship, originally erected by the Roman emperor Galerius as a precinct to his palace. Throughout the years, Rotunda, that was originally a polytheist temple, was turned into a Christian basilica, a Muslim mosque, and again a Christian church (and archaeological site). In our days it is an open museum full of beautiful mosaics. A straight line is linking the Rotunda to arch of Galerius, a Roman arch erected in 300AC to commemorate the emperor’s victory over the Persians. On the arch, you find depictions of the battles of Galerius and parts of the life in Roman times. As you walk towards the sea you meet the massive palace of Galerius, a complex with a wide atrium, a hexagonal throne hall, a royal session hall and many areas of the palace.

By now you will have seen a lot. We would advise going back upwards to meet the outer wall of the Roman city, and while walking by (or through) the Thessaloniki International Fair (HELEXPO). You can have a coffee there among the myriad of students or enjoy your coffee in the revolving coffee-bar at the top of the Tower of Telecommunication (OTE Tower) where you can see all of the city from the top. You are now in the museum area. In walking distance, you can visit the State Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Byzantine Culture, the Teloglion Foundation of Art and the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. All of them hold treasures from the ancient world to the contemporary Thessaloniki, all of which are worth discovering at your own leisure. Walking towards the Thermaikos Gulf, you find the White Tower, the emblem of Thessaloniki. This tower, originally built as a fortification of the Roman waterfront, was later reconstructed by the Ottomans and used as a prison. Inside, you will find a modern museum of the history of Thessaloniki. In front of the White Tower you can catch the Cultural Line (bus number 50), that operates in a hop on- hop off fashion to drive you around all the cultural sites of Thessaloniki.

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