So from central Greece, I went further north to the ancient city of Thessaloniki. Although Peter was there around 50 AD, it didn’t become a Christian city until 300 years later when Romans declared that the official religion. Across the centuries it was invaded by the Turks and its prominence as a major trading port brought in many Asian religions as well. This diverse city was peacefully cosmopolitan long before other cities stopped killing each other for differing beliefs. My plan was to spend a night and two days exploring it.
I arrived by train along with Matt, a guy from the previous hostel with the goal of seeing as much as possibly could before he had to leave. He was going to be taking a night bus, and though I had time the next day I wanted to take in all I could.
Our first stop was the seafront, on the Aegean Sea where I could see Mount Olympus off in the distance. We walked along to the White Tower, which is the symbol of the city. It had served in many capacities over the years and takes its name from when it was a prison. An inmate whitewashed the whole thing in exchange for his freedom. Inside was a very informative museum about the history of the city, the people, and the local culture. We were able to get a good gander from the top.
From there we zigzagged through the streets with plans to hit a few of the old churches and monuments. As we started back towards the center of the city, the gray skies grew darker and the wind picked up. We were able to fit in an old gate from the ancient city walls and a 2000 year old church that started as a temple to Zeus before the guests and rain really came.
We took shelter in a supermarket and chatted with the guy working there until the weather subsided enough to walk home. We picked up an 8 pack of Alpha and some Greek cheeses to enjoy back at the hostel. We were being pestered by an abundance of stray cats, but the time there was nice. He took his leave and I finished out the night chatting with some Germans who were staying there long term on a Greek language program. I also talked with a girl from the Netherlands and we made plans to continue exploring the next day. That night was hot and humid, and I definitely feel bad for whomever was going to be sleep in my bed next, because I bombed it out. Exterior of a random Byzantine church.
I enjoyed a lazy morning before the two of us set out. We started at the bus station where I got sorted for that night’s voyage and then walked back through town to catch the churches that I had missed the day before on account of the inclement weather. Agria Sofia was the most famous of the bunch, but it was closed. We made it into Agria Dimitrous though, named after Thessaloniki’s patron saint. It looked similar to the monasteries in Meteora, both in terms of the architecture and artwork.
After again walking down to the water to admire the promenade, I directed us over to the Museum of Byzantine Culture. This place was once identified as being the best museum in Europe, and I would definitely agree. The English explanations were short, and didn’t use all sorts of obscure words. That is, I would finish the passage and actually understand what it was that I read. We sauntered slowly through all 11 exhibit rooms, looking at a variety of artifacts and, I think, learning a lot.
When we left, dutch wanted to meet a friend and so I headed off to the hostel alone, taking the long walk up through the hills. This is the part of the city where the ruling Turks lived and is filled with crazy streets and remnants of the past. Also at the top were some remaining sections of the once impressive city wall. The elevation offered the best view yet over the city and the harbor.
Back at the hostel, I sorted myself and got over to the bus station. It was however about three kilometers away and because I could spare the time, I couldn’t justify the dollar to take a bus there.
One if the things that Greece and Italy shared in common was how ubiquitous the graffiti was. Every surface would be blanketed and though most of the meaning was indiscernible, there were a few pieces that were incredibly well done. For example: