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City of Thessaloniki - Part 1 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

Thessaloniki was founded in 315bc by Cassander, the king of ancient Macedon and named after his wife. Thessaloniki is the capital of Macedonia and the second largest city of Greece. , Thessaloniki, half-sister of Alexander the Great. It means Victory in Thessaly. It is here that the Apostle Paul first brought the message of Christianity (50 A. D. ) and that Demetrius, a Roman officer died in martyrdom (303 A. D. ), thus becoming the holy patron of the city.

Thessaloniki was the second most important city of the Byzantine Empire, next to Constantinople, and is full of beautiful examples of Byzantine art and architecture. In the 15th Century, Thessaloniki became a haven for Jews exiled from Spain, who became an important part of the culture, until they were sent to the concentration camps during the Nazi occupation, thus ending a period of four hundred years of Jewish influence both socially and economically. This period roughly corresponds with the occupation of Greece by the Ottoman Turks Thessaloniki became a part of the modern state of Greece in 1913, but burned in 1917 creating a homeless population of 70, 000. Add to this mix the influx of refugees from Asia Minor after the ' population exchange treaty' signed in Lausanne in 1923 between Turkey, Greece and her former allies who abandoned Greece after their defeat in Asia Minor, and you have the makings of a social revolution.

The city was rebuilt in the 1920s and today Thessaloniki is a lively modern city bustling with life and movement. Large avenues, parks and squares, lines of trees that frame commercial streets with showy shop windows. Old houses, neoclassical buildings, stand side by side with modern dwellings which makes a walk through any section of the city an interesting journey. The past and present merge at old taverns, 'ouzeries', restaurants next to hotels and luxury bars, 'bouzouki halls', Thessaloniki is the cradle of modern Greek popular song, 'rembetika', cinema halls, theatres and sidewalk cafes on street pavements and squares. Small family run taverns and basement pastry shops offer a delicious variety of famous Macedonian specialities, next to stalls of ice-cream sellers for busy pedestrians.

The main squares are Plateia Elefterias and Plateia Aristotelous, both on the waterfront and alive with cafes and restaurants, children playing or people just strolling. This is the place to be in the summer at sunset if you enjoy people watching. Afterwards walk a few blocks to the Ladadika neighbourhood, which was the old Red Light district and before that the Egyptian market and later the oil market from where it got its name. This is to Thessaloniki as Psiri is to Athens, full of ouzeries, bars, cafes and bistro-style restaurants and tavernas. The old port area is being renovated with warehouses being turned into large restaurants and clubs and even an art gallery or two.

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