Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Thessaloniki - a surprisingly exciting city destination
Despite a cool evening breeze, though still very warm to us, the bars and cafes along the promenade are packed with locals enjoying the balmy evening, chatting and drinking with friends. There is a lively buzz and friendly, vibrant atmosphere, a feeling of being relaxed and safe in the city.  Thessaloniki is an ideal base to explore the area, particularly for those interested in the history and culture of Ancient Greece, as well as the superb food and wines.
The 7 km- long promenade is focal point for people to walk, jog, cycle or simply stroll along by the sea, passing the White Tower - an emblem of the city, its name referring to a prisoner painting it white in exchange for his freedom, covering up the walls blood-stained from executions. 

First impressions as you drive into the city – old buildings, not architecturally beautiful as many are 20th century rather than older styles, and everywhere covered in graffiti. However, this first impression should be ignored! Walk around narrow, cobbled streets down to the sea, the old port having been revived with new museums, photography gallery, cinema and various cultural centres for different exhibitions, events and celebrations throughout the year. This is also the favourite spot for dreamy-eyed young (and old?) lovers to stretch out and talk into the night. Sounds good to me.

So many bars and restaurants to choose from, especially the cool shaded tables set out in the street. What we associate with southern European countries – envy really – is the opportunity to sit, eat and drink with friends without huddling in boots, coats and woolly hats! Take a half-day city tour and you will really get a feel for the history of Thessaloniki and Greece from ancient times. Clearly a strategic position in the Aegian sea, there were three distinct ages of occupation from Romans, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Given this history, looking more closely at the city, there are fantastic churches, synagogues and mosques that contain preserved sections of frescoes and finely-detailed mosaics. 
The last major fire was 1917 – curtains set fire in the kitchen of an old wooden-construction house, the fire spreading rapidly and destroying huge areas of the whole city. Best to avoid working in the kitchen I think.  It really is worth having a guided tour, although you can explore on your own using the hop on- hop off bus number 50 @ 2 Euros for the day (when we were there). Their leaflet also suggests short walks you can do from the bus stops. www.expertguides.gr 
This is a big, bustling city full of life and plenty to see. Traffic is a bit hectic, so you have to have your wits about you, but it is fine if you keep to the proper crossing places. It is not ideal for anyone with mobility issues or wheelchair-users, although across the Bay it is quieter and easier to get around. However, if you love to explore during city breaks, this is a great place to visit. Next blog is about places to see in the area
Full reports can be seen www.silvertraveladvisor.com  , via their link on their Facebook page 26th August 2017, and were also featured in 50+ Magazine

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