Chantal's Riviera Adventure travel blog

Building graffiti art

Building graffiti art 2

The White Tower

gardens at the lights

Byzantine Museum ladies

Byzantine Museum cctv

corinthian style column tops

mosaic flooring under reconstruction



Our flight landed just on dusk into Thessaloniki, up in the North of Greece in the region of Macedonia. Thessaloniki starts the road tour part of our holiday and with the many kilometres in the coming days, we went with the comfort style of a station wagon – a Volvo no less. The girl at the airport rentals desk mentioned a few times that it was a BIG car... I was almost concerned the last time she mentioned it but after the first minute or two of familiarisation we were out on the dark roads in the rain on our way to the city and our hotel. The first abortive attempt at locating it was verging on the three drink stress level but eventually gave the navigation program a whack around the ears and it located it on the third try. Of course road works running the length of the run off roads caused mild annoyance but finally found the next right, right, right and down an alleyway to find the parking garage entrance blocked by someone moving out. After waiting for their third trip to fill their car, we managed to get the BIG car into the garage and up to the hotel Vergina. Tomorrow we could deal with getting the car out again....

Vergina has apparently been in the cultural news in Greece of late due to some excavations and archaeological findings which point toward something rather important, of which has slipped my memory...

Anyway, we took the advice of the reception about finding the heart and soul of the restaurant district called Ladadika. The instructions seemed almost too easy, 3 lights down turn right and you are there... of course it depends if you are counting the zebra crossing lights as lights or just the crossroad lights only... we stopped a nice local to ask where it was and only when he had corrected my pronunciation did he understand what we were looking for. Nice bloke, walked us some of the way as we obviously still looked lost after he indicated where to go.

Thessaloniki is a busy and thriving modern city, which counts its Byzantine and ancient sites as its major attractions. A short list include the White tower which in 1826 was the site of a bloody massacre of rebellious janissaries by an Ottoman Sultan but after 1913 and the Greek reconquest the ‘bloody tower’ was whitewashed to expunge this grisly past, The arch of Galerius which celebrates a victory over the Persians AD 303, the Rotunda built by Galerius as his future mausoleum but made into Thessaloniki’s first church by Constantine the Great and the Church of Agia Sofia, an 8th century church modelled on its Istanbul namesake. The old Byzantine walls still stand in places but we only managed to see parts in the museum.

In the morning we took a walk along the water front, first passing through Liberty square where luxury hotels abounded in the first world war and the only mention of the Jewish population so far. The waterfront path skirts the Gulf of Thessaloniki and far out to the horizon can be seen large container or gas carriers wallowing on the greasy small swells left after the rain. We walked toward the White Tower – an impressive little hulk on the shoreline almost like a half built lighthouse. With a busload of people blocking the door, we hot footed it over to the Byzantine Museum which had multiple floors filled with over 3000 objects, including frescoes, mosaics, embroidery, ceramics, inscriptions and early Christianity to late Byzantine icons. Floors and floors with such little time or explanation (museum shop had sold out of all the guides...) as you can see, I did get a lot from the modernised signage for the ladies and also the safety signs.!!!

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