One of the liveliest places in Thessaloniki..
Aristotelous square is just beautiful. It's full of cafes and shops and the best place to meet friends..it's a large square that connects the bigest street in Thessaloniki, 'Egnatia Odo' with the sea 'paralia', so you can view the city unfolding from the upper part of the square and the beautiful sea, sparkling from the reflection of the sun on the other side.. There is a lot to do nearby Aristotelous square apart from cafes and shops. You can find just next to the square, the biggest street market in Thessaloniki, with a huge variety of foodstuffs, clothes, toys, traditional art articles and whatever you can imagine. You name it and they will find it for you.. A really good experience if you want a different angle of today's Greek culture.
Another interesting thing to see while at Aristotelous square, is 'Olympion' Cinema, that is usually the one that shows the less commercial and more controversial movies, as well as documentaries and short films..
A cultural city...
Thessaloniki is surely an artistic city. It is famous for the international film festival, which is held every November (and also for its commercial exposition, the most important in Greece, every September).
The National Theater of Northern Greece is housed at a nice place next to the White Tower. You can visit the Municipal Gallery, the Museum of Photography or enjoy a performance inside the new and luxurious Concert Hall (26.000 square metres!).
There are also many summer festivals (with concerts and theatrical performances).
My journey to Mt Athos starts...
My journey to Mt Athos starts with an early rise to catch the 6am bus from Thessaloniki to Ouranoupolis. The bus was quite full, a mixture of monks returning to Mt Athos, passengers for other towns along the way and 'pilgrims'. I sit next to a young Greek boy who was interested in why I was going to The Holy Mountain.
I have had an interest in the area since I visited the monasteries in Meteora back in 1997. Maybe it is a fascination with the monastic way of life, maybe because Mt Athos is a rather unique area. Whatever the reason, I was about to realise a long held ambition.
A couple of days previously I had made my application for entry to the Pilgrim Bureau at Thessaloniki. I had expected perhaps a more thorough process, but all they wanted to know was my passport details, what my religion was and when did I want to go.
There are restrictions on the number of people admitted to Mt Athos - up to 120 Orthodox Christians and 14 people of other religions are admitted each day. Only men are allowed into the area!
We reached Ouranoupolis after a journey of about two and a half hours. Here I line up at the Mt Athos office and pay my thirty euros and receive my official entry certificate. Then it is a wait on the dock for the 9.45am ferry to Daphne, the main port on the peninsula.
I look around me at my fellow passengers as the ferry leaves. No women on board of course, but groups of men sharing the pilgrimage together, monks, fathers with their sons, and some solo pilgrims like myself.
I try to focus my thoughts but it is difficult with the hubbub of excited talk, mobile phones ringing and the noise of the boat. A monk approaches me with some trinkets for sale - I decline gracefully and he wanders on.
The boat travels down the coast. Soon the peak of Mt Athos comes into view as we call in to a few of the monasteries. Firstly the port for Zographou Monastery, then the monasteries of Docheiariou, Xenofontos and Panteleimon.
Panteleimon is one of the monasteries that I intend to visit but my plan is to go to the port of Daphne and then walk back up the coast.
We arrive soon enough, and I sit for a while. Daphne is a small place, a few buildings, a restaurant and some souvenir shops. A little way up the road a group of new arrivals are gathered around the bus that will take them onto the administrative centre of Karies, and then by taxi to their monastery of choice.
But my journey is to be a solitary one. The bus leaves, and I shoulder my pack and start off up the road. According to my map, a path to Panteleimon should branch off the road to the left. I find one track but it is not sign posted. I walk along it for a while but it goes no-where, so back to the road and I walk on. Ah - here it is, sign posted (in Greek) and heading in the right direction.
I take it slowly. It is a pleasant walk closely following the coast. Then there is an old stone bridge crossing a dry creek bed and I take a couple of photos.
It is early spring, and the wild flowers are starting to come out, dotting the sides of the path. It is peaceful.
The monastery is now in view ahead as a young monk passes me going the same way. We exchange 'hello' as he walks on.
You can read more at my personal web site
Thessaloniki in a nutshell SIGHTSEEING LINE No 50
The Thessaloniki Urban Transportation Organization recently announced the launch of the new Cultural Line No 50 of 1.9.2009.
It is a route to the "history of our city, with stops at many monuments that mark the long history from antiquity to the present.
The attitudes of the cultural line fitted special labeling, as well as printed in rolls with the map of the route and points of interest.
They give for free a brochure in Greek and English, available to each passenger, which contains a map of the central region Thessaloniki with the bus route and points of interest to passengers. They were given information about the monuments and other points of interest and place their approach at each stop.
For best information to passengers of the cultural line inside the bus where 2 screens displayed by computer, presenting the Greek (and soon in English) with its monuments and other points of interest which will pass the bus during the route.
Also syggested to the passengers 3 hiking trails, as users of cultural routes are allowed, on the same ticket, valid for 24 hours to disembark at any stop of the journey and after completing their tour, to continue with the next route.
There is a bus attendant, who isavailable to passengers for any further information.
Beginning and end of the cultural line is the White Tower (LEFKOS PIRGOS)
Departure times: 08:00 - 21:00 (June - September every hour exactly) Every 1 hour
09:00 - 16:00 (October - May at just one hour) Every 1 hour
Duration: 50 '- 60'
Ticket price: 2,00 € normal
1,00 € reduced
Not valid Travelcards or other free cards
Local cuisine by an historic setting
Ta louloudadika (The Little Flowers) is named after the Jewish baths across from which it is located. Actually, that's one of the reasons why this restaurant is so special: you can enjoy your meal while looking on one of the monuments of Ottoman Turkish rule in Thessaloniki. The food is standard Greek fare, heavy on meats with some but not much fish. Check the chalk-board out front for specials of the day. The waiters are almost entirely older Greek men and, as a result, the service is like all old Greek men: they're gruff at first, but after a while they warm up to you and become friendly. Try a little Greek and they're extra nice: I order in Greek the first time I went and they ended up bringing me a free crème brûlée. The souvlaki chicken is good, but be aware that it comes with fries (so order a salad and not a plate of fries as an appetizer). The moussaka was also quite tasty, but it was a dish of the day, so I'm not sure if it is available all the time.