Thessaloniki Part 2 – for lovers of the arts, history and gastronomy
Travel out from the city to Vergina to visit the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Another ‘must see’, this is an amazing museum above the actual burial chambers. A fantastic collection of artefacts in gold and other precious metals, all displayed to perfection. I think that few people in UK have heard of these finds, even if they have studied Ancient Greece, or aware of the historical importance of the region. Absolutely worth a visit. www.visitgreece.gr
Not far from this site is the Moni Prodromou Monastery, set high up on the steep sides of honeycombed cliffs and a myriad of caves used by monks for rest and contemplation. Walls of the central church are covered in murals depicting biblical and historical scenes. We were warmly welcomed with a cup of rich, black coffee and a traditional sweet of crystallized green fig with honey – difficult to get into with a fork but worth the struggle!
Still in this region of northern Greece is the historically important city of Veria. The starting point for a tour is the mosaic-covered memorial to the Apostle St Paul who preached from the steps in the square to the first Christians in the region. It is a fascinating town with narrow twisting streets in the Christian Quarter, to escape persecutors more easily, and a strong Jewish Quarter with a beautiful synagogue now, sadly, rarely used. This once housed the sacred scroll in a gilt-lined cabinet but now lost as it was taken during WWII.
A highlight of our visit was the Gerovassiliou Domain winery. What a spectacular setting, with new buildings housing ultra-modern winemaking equipment, landscaped gardens, and exceptional artworks indoors and out by internationally known Greek artists. Not only do they produce smaller quantities of high quality wines, using only their own grapes, but these wines consistently win recognition and awards, ranking 6th in the world for some of their red wines. Yet we would never instantly think of Greek wine as the quality one to buy.
Having tasted 5 of them, including a sweeter dessert wine I would not normally enjoy, I can confirm that they really are remarkable. Not only can you enjoy a tour of the winery and sample a range of their wines, they also have one of the biggest collections of corkscrews in the world – you would not believe there could be so many ways to open a bottle of wine! www.gerovassiliou.gr
Clearly, for lovers of food wine, art and culture, Thessaloniki and this region of northern Greece is an exciting place to explore and should be listed as an exciting travel destination for the future. The city has 15 UNESCO monuments, 29 museums, festivals and concerts happening every year. Public transport is frequent and includes travel further afield. There are thermal baths available around the region and Kerkini Lake is a centre for lots of outdoor activities, so whatever holiday experience you prefer Thessaloniki seems to be an excellent option.
Also see the first part of the blog and the full reports at