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A visit to Thessaloniki and then to Olympiaki Akti

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Saturday 17 June, a visit to Thessaloniki and then to Olympiaki Akti

Square in Thessaloniki On the market in ThessalonikiWe are nicely acclimatised the past few days and are now on the road for a tour through Greece. Tonight we will be sleeping near the Olympus Mountains but on the way we stop first in Thessaloniki, after Athens the largest city in Greece with over 300,000 inhabitants. Last year we have been walking around here for a day and we found it a fascinating city. Then we showed a lot of pictures of archaeological sites, this time we will put some pictures of monuments on the site, the city is full of them. But when we have parked our car, we first look for a square to drink coffee.
Fish on the market in Thessaloniki Nuts on the market in ThessalonikiThis time we find a parking space that is not far away from the markets of Kapani and Mondiano. They are partly covered markets and are reminiscent of oriental souks: narrow alleys with stalls on the street and really everything is for sale, although on the Mondiano market you can find mainly food. A mix of smells is in the air and I always find it surprising that meat just hangs above the street with these temperatures. The fish is at least cooled with ice blocks. But personally I always like to walk around such markets even though we usually do not buy anything.
Statue of Chrysostom or Smyrna, ThessalonikiThessaloniki has many squares and parks and there are statues or memorials everywhere. The city has a turbulent history since its foundation in 315 BC. by King Cassandra of Macedonia who named the city after his wife Thessalonike, a half-sister of Alexander the Great. In 1922 many refugees from Asia Minor came to the city after the Greek army was defeated there and the largest Greek city, Smyrna, was set on fire. Almost 150,000 Greeks lived in Smyrna and a large part was slaughtered by the Turks. But believe me, the Greeks had been as brutal as the Turks before, it was almost a mutual genocide. This statue is from Chrisostomos Kalafatis, the bishop of Smyrna who was a fanatic nationalist and after his death (he was mistreated and murdered by a group of Turks in Smyrna) he was declared a saint. Greeks are pretty proud of their nation and their warlike history (they remind me a lot of the Scots!). We think this is a statue that belongs more in a museum with information about what happened than standing here in the middle of the street.
Square Agia Sofia  in Thessaloniki The Agia Sofia church in ThessalonikiThe sculpture is situated in a park at Agia Sofia square, named after the church that stands here, and was built with the Hagia Sofia in Konstantinople as an example and the largest in Thessaloniki. Part of the current building has been there since the 8th century and during the Ottoman period (1430 - 1912) it was, naturally, changed into a mosque. The church should be open daily but is closed today. I am no longer surprised when information in Greece is not correct, that is more the rule than the exception. But inside we could see very old frescoes, we were curious about that.
Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, ThessalonikiAnother, much smaller, church we see as we head towards the harbor, the Holy Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary as the building is fully named. Almost all churches have the letters ag. before their name and that is the abbreviation for agia or agios, the feminine and masculine word for holy. There are also many place names in Greece starting with Ag. We would probably translate that with St. or Saint. The building is on the corner of a pedestrian zone and surrounded by modern buildings.
Cretan-Macedonian warrior Memorial monument in ThessalonikiMore monuments can be seen in the Memorial Park, which is located near the White Tower and the harbor. Why there is a statue of a Cretan-Macedonian fighter, is not entirely clear to us (left photo). The monument on the right photo is for Ioannis Papafis, a benefactor of the city in the 19th century. He founded orphanages but we wonder if he ever would had a monument if he had not given large sums of money for the Greek war of independence between 1821 and 1829.
The Pavlos Melas Monument in Thessaloniki The White Tower of ThessalonikiGreece eventually became an independent nation, but Thessaloniki would still fall under the Ottoman Empire until 1912. A Greek who did his best to liberate Macedonia from the hands of the Bulgarians and Turks was Pavlos Melas and is now revered as the symbol for the struggle to integrate the Macedonian territory in Greece. He did not live to see it, though, because he was murdered by the Turks in 1904. A bit further we reach the White Tower on the harbor side, which is now often used as the symbol for Thessaloniki. Last year we already told you a bit more about it ( 10 June 2016).
Monument to Gregory Lambraki, ThessalonikiA monument that we ourselves find much more beautiful than all those warlike sculpture groups is that for Grigoris Lambrakis, a Greek politician and athlete. In the 2nd World War he fought against the Germans and after the war he became a convinced pacifist. He is best known for a pacifist rally from Marathon to Athens where all demonstrators were arrested except for himself because he was inviolable as a member of parliament. He walked the entire route on his own until the end. A month later, in May 1963, he was murdered in Thessaloniki on the site of this monument. His death led to important political changes throughout the country.
On the beach at Archaia Pydna On the beach at Archaia PydnaWe search for a restaurant along the water for something to eat and then walk back to the car. We have another hour to drive to our next destination and stop en route at Archaia Pydna where some ruins are to be seen. The place is best known for the Battle of Pydna where the Romans defeated the Macedonians and added the area to the Roman Empire. But we also come to see how the beach looks like here. Well, it looks fine, mostly sand, although it is a bit misty and there is a lot of wind.
A house for sale at Archaia PydnaOn our way to Olympiaki Akti (that means 'coast of the Olympus') we encounter a lot of houses that are for sale. We take a few photos to look at the broker's website later on. Imagine, your own house in Greece, that would be nice! It will never happen for us, we like to travel around too much and not stay in one place, but dreaming about it is fun.
Then we drive to the hotel on the outskirts of the village that seems to be built only for tourists and is not very cozy even though there is a tourist promenade with shops.
But we come mainly to the Olympus Mountains, the place where the ancient Greek gods live. Or at least, where they used to live.


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