World Travel Guides

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Plaka , Greece

Pedestrian street near Ermou (Ερμού) Street.

Walking around the City

While many of the modern parts of Athens are architecturally unremarkable -- a jungle of concrete apartment buildings -- there are a few very walkable neighborhoods. One such neighborhood is Plaka, an old section of town with stone streets, neoclassical architecture, and lovely restaurants with outdoor seating. Another is Monastiraki, the site of many shops and a well-known flea market. The very long, centrally-located Ermou Street, is a shopping haven.
Plaka (Πλάκα), an old neighborhood in Athens.

Pláka (Greek: Πλάκα) is the old historical neighborhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, and incorporating labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture. Plaka is built on top of the residential areas of the ancient town of Athens. It is known as the "Neighbourhood of the Gods" due to its proximity to the Acropolis and its many archaeological sites.

Plaka (Πλάκα), an old neighborhood in Athens, at night.
Name
The name "Plaka" was not in use until after the Greek War of Independence. Instead, the Athenians of that time referred to the area by various names such as Alikokou, Kontito, Kandili, or by the names of the local churches. The name Plaka became commonly in use in the first years of the rule of King Otto. The origin of the name is uncertain: it has been theorized to come from Arvanite "Pliak Athena", meaning "Old Athens", or from the presence of a "plaque" which once marked its central intersection.

Plaka (Πλάκα), an old neighborhood in Athens
Location
Plaka is on the northeast slope of Acropolis, between Syntagma and Monastiraki square. Adrianou Street (running north and south) is the largest and most central street in Plaka and divides it into two areas: the upper level, - Ano Plaka - located right under the Acropolis and the lower level - Kato Plaka - situated between Syntagma and Monastiraki.

Plaka (Πλάκα), an old neighborhood in Athens.
Modern neighbourhood
Plaka is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists around the year, and is under strict zoning and conservation regulations, being the only neighborhood in Athens where all utilities (water, power, cable television, telephone, internet, and sewage) lie underground in fully accessible, custom-made tunneling. Motor vehicles are not allowed in Plaka, and most streets are too narrow, thus not being able to accommodate them anyway.


Museums in Plaka include the new Jewish Museum of Greece, the Museum of Greek Folk Art, an annex of which is the Old Public Baths building, the Frissiras Museum, the Museum of Popular Music Instruments, the Museum of Pavlos and Alexandra Kanellopoulou and the Athens University Museum. Excavations have proven that Adrianou Street is the oldest street in Athens still in continuous use with exactly the same layout since antiquity.

Girl wearing a shirt for the Communist Youth of Greece. It says "Πρωτοπόρα θεωρία Πρωτοπόρα δράση για το μέλλον μας το σοσιαλισμό," which translates as "Pioneering theory Pioneering action for our future socialism.
 Athens viewed from Mount Lycabettus (Λυκαβηττός).

Monastiraki (Μοναστηράκι) Square.
Flea market in the Monastiraki (Μοναστηράκι) neighborhood. This market seems to have a preponderance of camouflage clothing.
Ελαια restaurant. Rooftop dining area with the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη) behind it, at night.
Ελαια restaurant. Rooftop dining area at night.
Restaurant overlooking the Ancient Street of the Tripods (αρχαίας οδού των Τριπόδων).
Flea market in the Monastiraki (Μοναστηράκι) neighborhood.
Dogs resting in the street in Plaka (Πλάκα), an old neighborhood in Athens.
Restaurants at night in Plaka (Πλάκα), an old neighborhood in Athens.
Plaka (Πλάκα), an old neighborhood in Athens.
Ermou (Ερμού) street.
Street vendors. Ermou (Ερμού) street.
Ermou (Ερμού) street.
AN Greece

Acropolis , Athens , Greece

The Parthenon (Παρθενώνας) at the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη).

Acropolis (Greek: Ακρόπολις) means "high city" in Greek, literally city on the extremity and is usually translated into English as Citadel (akros, akron, edge, extremity + polis, city, pl. acropoleis). For purposes of defense, early people naturally chose elevated ground to build a new settlement, frequently a hill with precipitous sides. In many parts of the world, these early citadels became the nuclei of large cities, which grew up on the surrounding lower ground, such as modern Rome.

The Acropolis of Athens as seen from Mount Lycabettus (northeast). The wooded Hill of the Nymphs is half-visible on its right, and Philopappos Hill on the left, immediately behind. Philopappos Monument stands where, in the distant background, the coast of Peloponnese meet the waters of the Saronic Gulf

The word acropolis, although Greek in origin and associated primarily with the Greek cities Athens, Argos, Thebes, and Corinth (with its Acrocorinth), may be applied generically to all such citadels, including Rome, Jerusalem, Celtic Bratislava, many in Asia Minor, or even Castle Rock in Edinburgh. An example in Ireland is the Rock of Cashel.

The Theatre of Dionysus (Θέατρο του Διονύσου) at the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη).

The most famous example is the Acropolis of Athens, which, by reason of its historical associations and the several famous buildings erected upon it (most notably the Parthenon), is known without qualification as the Acropolis. Although originating in the mainland of Greece, use of the acropolis model quickly spread to Greek colonies such as the Dorian Lato on Crete during the Archaic Period.

The Acropolis (Ακρόπολη) at night, viewed from Mount Lycabettus (Λυκαβηττός).

Because of its classical Greco-Roman style, the ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano's Great Stone Church in California, United States has been called the "American Acropolis".

Inscribed stone at the Theatre of Dionysus (Θέατρο του Διονύσου) at the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη).

Other parts of the world developed other names for the high citadel or alcázar, which often reinforced a naturally strong site. In Central Italy, many small rural communes still cluster at the base of a fortified habitation known as La Rocca of the commune.

The term acropolis is also used to describe the central complex of overlapping structures, such as plazas and pyramids, in many Mayan cities, including Tikal and Copán.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus (Ωδείον Ηρώδειον Αττικού) at the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη).
Herodes Atticus Theatre (Ωδείο Ηρώδου Αττικού) at the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη).
Three adjacent structures: The Erechtheum (Έρέχθειον), the Pandroseion (Πανδρόσειον), and the Old Temple of Athena (Παλαιό ναό της Αθηνάς) at the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη).
Hadrian's Arch (Αψίδα του Ανδριανού), with the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη) behind.


 The Pandroseion (Πανδρόσειον) at the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη).
 The Parthenon (Παρθενώνας) at the Acropolis (Ακρόπολη).
AN Greece
Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the periphery of Central Macedonia  as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. Its honorific title is Συμπρωτεύουσα (Symprotévousa), literally "co-capital", a reference to its historical status as the Συμβασιλεύουσα (Symvasilévousa) or "co-reigning" city of the Byzantine Empire, alongside Constantinople.

Ancient Greek inscription reading "To Queen Thessalonice, (Daughter) of Philip".

According to the 2014 census the municipality of Thessaloniki today has a population of 322,240, while the Thessaloniki Urban Area (the contiguous built up area forming the "City of Thessaloniki") has a population of 790,824; making it the fifth largest and most populated city in the Balkans and the second most populated city that is not a capital. The Thessaloniki Metropolitan Area extends over an area of 1,455.62 km2 (562.02 sq mi) and its population in 2014 reached a total of 1,006,730 inhabitants.

The Roman forum.

Thessaloniki is Greece's second major economic, industrial, commercial and political centre, and a major transportation hub for the rest of southeastern Europe; its commercial port is also of great importance for Greece and the southeastern European hinterland. The city is renowned for its festivals, events and vibrant cultural life in general, and is considered to be Greece's cultural capital. Events such as the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair and the Thessaloniki International Film Festival are held annually, while the city also hosts the largest bi-annual meeting of the Greek diaspora.

The School of Education of Aristotle University.

Thessaloniki is home to numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. With a history of over 2,300 years, it is one of Europe's oldest cities. The city's main university, Aristotle University, is the largest in Greece and in the Balkans

Panoramic view of Aristotelous Square, one of Thessaloniki's most recognizable areas, which was designed by Ernest Hebrard.
Climate
Situated next to the sea, the city's climate is directly effected by it. The city has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification "Csa") that borders on a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification "BSk" or "BSh" depending on the system used) with annual average precipitation of 460 mm. Snowfalls are sporadic, but happen more or less every winter. Fog is common in the city, with an average of 193 foggy days in a year.

The Acropolis of Thessaloniki, reconstructed during the Byzantine and Ottoman years, which is part of the Walls.

The city lies in a transitional climatic zone, so its climate displays characteristics of continental and Mediterranean climates. Winters are relatively dry, with common morning frost. Snowfalls occur almost every year, but usually the snow does not stay for more than a few days. During the coldest winters, temperatures can drop to −10°C (14F). The record minimum temperature in Thessaloniki was −14°C (7F).On average, Thessaloniki spends 32 days a year below 0°C (32F). The coldest month of the year in the city is January, with an average 24-hour temperature of 6°C (42F). Wind is also usual in the winter months, with December and January having an average wind speed of 26 km/h (16 mph).

Typical architecture of the Ano Poli (Upper Town) district.

Thessaloniki's summers are hot with rather humid nights. Maximum temperatures usually rise above 30°C (86F), but rarely go over 40C° (104F); the average number of days when temperature was above 32°C (90F) was 32. The maximum recorded temperature in the city was 42°C (108F). Rain is seldom in summer, and mainly falls during thunderstorms. In the summer months Thessaloniki also experiences strong heat waves. The hottest month of the year in the city is July, with an average 24-hour temperature of 26°C (80F).The average wind speed for June and July in Thessaloniki is 20 km/h (12 mph).

View from Thessaloniki's Ano Poli and its walls. Part of southeastern Thessaloniki can also be seen on the left
Cityscape

Arch
Architecture in Thessaloniki is the direct result of the city's position at the centre of all historical developments in the Balkans. Aside from its commercial importance, Thessaloniki was also for many centuries, the military and administrative hub of the region, and beyond this the transportation link between Europe and the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel / Palestine). Merchants, traders and refugees from all over Europe settled in the city. The need for commercial and public buildings in this new era of prosperity led to the construction of large edifices in the city center. During this time, the city saw the building of banks, large hotels, theatres, warehouses, and factories.

The church of Hagios Demetrios, built in the 4th century, is said to be the largest basilica in Greece and is one of the city's most prominent Paleochristian monuments

The city layout changed after 1870, when the seaside fortifications gave way to extensive piers, and many of the oldest walls of the city were demolished, including those surrounding the White Tower, which today stands as the main landmark of the city. As parts of the early Byzantine walls were demolished, this allowed the city to expand east and west along the coast.

The expansion of Eleftherias Square towards the sea completed the new commercial hub of the city and at the time was considered one of the most vibrant squares of the city. As the city grew, workers moved to the western districts, due to their proximity near factories and industrial activities; while the middle and upper classes gradually moved from the city-center to the eastern suburbs, leaving mainly businesses. In 1917, a devastating fire swept through the city and burned uncontrollably for 32 hours. It destroyed the city's historic center and a large part of its architectural heritage, but paved way for many modern buildings and changed the city into a thriving European city center.

The upper seaside promenade as it was before work commenced in August 2014
City Center
After the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917, a team of architects and urban planners including Thomas Mawson and Ernest Hebrard, a French architect, chose the Byzantine era as the basis of their (re)building designs for Thessaloniki’s city center. The new city plan included axes, diagonal streets and monumental squares, with a street grid that would channel traffic smoothly. The plan of 1917 included provisions for future population expansions and a street and road network that would be, and still is sufficient today. It contained sites for public buildings and provided for the restoration of Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques.

The MS Westerdam at the port of Thessaloniki.

Today the city center of Thessaloniki includes the features designed as part of the plan and forms the point in the city where most of the public buildings, historical sites, entertainment venues and stores are located. The center is characterized by its many historical buildings, arcades, laneways and distinct architectural styles such as Art Nouveau and Art Deco, which can be seen on many of its buildings.

The building of the National Bank of Greece.

The city center, or as its also called the historic center is divided into several districts, of which include Ladadika (where many entertainment venues and tavernas are located), Kapani (where the central city market is located), Diagonios, Nauarinou, Rotonta, Agia Sofia and Ippodromio (white tower), which are all located around Thessaloniki’s most central point, Aristotelous Square.

Thessaloniki's old market (Kapani), in the city centre

The west point of the city center is home to Thessaloniki's law courts, its central international railway station and the port, while on its eastern side stands the city’s two universities, the Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center, the city’s main stadium, its archaeological and Byzantine museums, the new city hall and its central parklands and gardens, namely those of the Palios Zoologikos Kipos and Pedio tou Areos. The central road arteries that pass through the city center, designed in the Ernest Hebrard plan, include those of Tsimiski, Egnatia, Nikis, Mitropoleos, Venizelou and St. Demetrius avenues.

Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.
Ano Poli
Ano Poli (also called Old Town and literally the Upper Town) is the heritage listed district north of Thessaloniki’s city center that was not engulfed by the great fire of 1917 and was declared a UNESCO heritage site by ministerial actions of Melina Merkouri, during the 1980s. It consists of Thessaloniki’s most traditional part of the city, still featuring small stone paved streets, old squares and homes featuring old Greek and Ottoman architecture.

Olympion Theater in Aristotelous Square

Ano Poli also, is the highest point in Thessaloniki and as such, is the location of the city’s acropolis, its Byzantine fort, the Heptapyrgion and the city's remaining walls, with many of its additional Ottoman and Byzantine structures still standing. The area provides access to the Seich Sou Forest National Park and features amphitheatric views of the whole city and the Thermaic Gulf. On clear days Mount Olympus, at about 100 km (62 mi) away across the gulf, can also be seen towering the horizon.

Makedonia Palace at night
Southeastern Thessaloniki
Southeastern Thessaloniki up until the 1920s was home to the city’s most affluent residents and formed the outermost suburbs of the city at the time, with the area close to the Thermaic Gulf coast called Exoches, meaning ‘the countryside’. Today southeastern Thessaloniki has in someway become a natural extension of the city center, with the avenues of Megalou Alexandrou, Georgiou Papandreou (Antheon), Vasilisis Olgas, Delfon, Konstantinou Karamanli (Nea Egnatia) and Papanastasiou passing through it; and the area extending to Kalamaria and Pylaia, about 9 km (5.59 mi) from the White Tower in the city centre.

Part of the coastline of the southeastern suburb of Peraia in Thermaikos, with views towards Thessaloniki.

Southeastern Thessaloniki is characterized by is modern architecture and apartment buildings, home to the middle-class and more than half of the municipality of Thessaloniki population. Today this area of the city is also home to 3 of the city’s main football stadiums, the Thessaloniki concert hall, the Posidonio aquatic and athletic complex and to many restored mansions of past affluent residents of the city, which today serve as museums or cultural centers. The municipality of Kalamaria is also located in southeastern Thessaloniki and has become this part of the city’s most sought after areas, with many open spaces and home to high end bars, cafés and entertainment venues, most notably on Plastira street, along the coast.

The planetarium at the Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum.
Northwestern Thessaloniki
Northwestern Thessaloniki had always been associated with industry and the working class due to the fact that as the city grew during the 1920s, many workers had moved there, due to its proximity near factories and industrial activities. Today many factories and industries have been moved further out west and the area is experiencing rapid growth as does the southeast. Many factories in this area have been converted to cultural centres, while past military grounds that are being surrounded by densely built neighborhoods are awaiting transformation into parklands.

Thessaloniki Olympic Museum.

Northwest Thessaloniki forms the main entry point into the city of Thessaloniki with the avenues of Monastiriou, Lagkada and 26is Septemvriou passing through it, as well as the extension of the A1 motorway, feeding into Thessaloniki's city center. The area is home to the Macedonia Central Bus Station (intercity buses terminal), the Zeitenlik Allied memorial military cemetery and to large entertainment venues of the city, such as Milos, Fix, Vilka (which are housed in converted old factories). Northwestern Thessaloniki is also home to Moni Lazariston, located in Stavroupoli, which today forms one of the most important cultural centers for the city

OTE Tower is the tallest telecommunications tower in Greece.

Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments (UNESCO)
Due to Thessaloniki's importance during the early Christian and Byzantine periods, the city is host to several paleochristian monuments that have significantly contributed to the development of Byzantine art and architecture throughout the Byzantine Empire as well as Serbia. The evolution of Imperial Byzantine architecture and the prosperity of Thessaloniki go hand in hand, especially during the first years of the Empire, when the city continued to flourish. It was at that time that the Complex of Roman emperor Galerius was built, as well as the first church of Hagios Demetrios.

The School of Philosophy of Aristotle University, the oldest building in the campus

By the 8th century, the city had become an important administrative center of the Byzantine Empire, and handled much of the Empire's Balkan affairs. During that time, the city saw the creation of more notable Christian churches that are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Hagia Sophia of Thessaloniki, the Rotunda of Saint George, the Church of the Acheiropoietos, the Church of Panagia Chalkeon. When the Ottoman Empire took control of Thessaloniki in 1430, most of the city's churches were converted into mosques, but have survived to this day. Travelers such as Paul Lucas and Abdul Mecid document the city's wealth in Christian monuments during the years of the Ottoman control of the city.

View of the railway station.

The church of Hagios Demetrios was burnt down during the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917, as did many other of the city's monuments, but it was rebuilt. During the Second World War, the city was extensively bombed and as such many of Thessaloniki's paleochristian and Byzantine monuments were heavily damaged. Some of the sites were not restored until the 1980s. Thessaloniki has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites listed than any other city in Greece, a total of 15 monuments.They have been listed since 1988.

Thessaloniki 2013 Program
The upper seaside promenade as it was before work commenced in August 2014.In regards to the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of Thessaloniki into Greece, during 1912, the government announced a large-scale redevelopment program for the city of Thessaloniki, which aims in addressing the current environmental and spatial problems that the city faces. More specifically, the program will drastically change the physiognomy of the city by relocating the Thessaloniki International Exhibition Center and grounds of the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair outside the city centre and turning the current location into a large metropolitan park, redeveloping the coastal front of the city, relocating the city's numerous military camps and using the grounds and facilities to create large parklands and cultural centers; and the complete redevelopment of the harbor and the Lachanokipoi and Dendropotamos districts (behind and near the Port of Thessaloniki) into a thriving business district,with possible highrise developments.

Macedonia International Airport passengers' terminal.

The plan also envisions the creation of new wide avenues in the outskirts of the city and the creation of pedestrian-only zones in the city center. Furthermore, the program includes plans to expand the jurisdiction of Seich Sou Forest National Park and the improvement of accessibility to and from the Old Town. The ministry has said that the project will take an estimated 15 years to be completed, in 2025.

Commemorative stele in Melbourne.

Part of the plan has been implemented with the revitalization of half the eastern urban waterfront (Greek: Νέα Παραλία, Nea Paralia, literally new beach), with a modern and vibrant design. The municipality of Thessaloniki's budget for the reconstruction of important areas of the city and most notably the rest of the waterfront, is estimated to be around €28.2 million (US$39.9 million) for the year 2014 alone. As of August 2014 work on the rest of the plan for the revilatization of the waterfront has began, stretching from the Thessaloniki yacht club to the White Tower. It is estimated that the new parks will be completed within the next two years
View of Yeni Mosque, built during the ottoman period.
Detail from the Arch of Galerius.
Aerial view of the City Centre.
The Metropolitan Church of Saint Gregory Palamas.
Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum (also known as NOESIS).
Art Nouveau building at the center of the city.
View of the seafront.

View of Thessaloniki center.
Part of Thessaloniki at night.

AN Greece