THESSALONIKI

THESSALONIKI

Thessaloniki (pop. 1,830,000), a jumble of ancient, Byzantine, European, Turkish, Sephardic, and contemporary Greek culture and history, fans out from its hilltop fortress toward the Thermaic Gulf. From its peak, the fortress overlooks the Old Town’s placid streets which stretch down to the city’s long, congested avenues. Golden mosaics, frescoes, and floating domes still gleam in the industrial city’s Byzantine churches. Most travelers spend a couple of days in Thessaloniki checking out the sights, going to clubs, and enjoying the tranquility of countryside hikes.

TRANSPORTATION

Ferries: Buy tickets at Karacharisis Travel and Shipping Agency, Koundouriotou 8 (2310 524 544; fax 2310 532 289), across from the Olympic Airways Office. Open M-F 8:30am-8:30pm, Sa 8:30am-2:30pm. During high season, from mid-June to early Sept. ferries travel to Chios (20hr. Su lam, ‚31; 9hr. W 9:30am, ‚62) via Lesvos (14hr. Su, ‚31; ehr. W, ‚62); Iraklion (24hr.; Tu 3pm, Th 7:30pm, Sa midnight; ‚41) via Mykonos (15hr. 3 per week, ‚31); Naxos (16hr. 1 per week, ‚29); Paros (17Vihr. 2 per week, ‚31); Santorini (192hr. 3 per week, ‚33); Skiathos (4hr. 2 per week, ‚16); Skopelos (6Vhr. 3 per week, ‚17); Kos (20hr. 1 per week, ‚39), Samos (16hr. 2 per week, ‚32), and Rhodes (24hr. 1 per week, ‚46).

Trains; Main Terminal (2310 517 517), on Monastiriou in the western part of the city. Take any bus down Egnatia (‚0.50). To Athens (8hr. 5 per day, ‚15). The Travel Office (2310 598 112) can provide updated schedules.

Buses: Most KTEL buses leave from one central, dome-shaped bus station west of the city center. To: Athens (2310 595 495; 6hr. 11 per day, ‚28); Corinth (2310 595 405; 7hrž 11:30pm, ‚32); Patras (2310 595 425; 7hr. 3 per day, ‚30). Flights: The airport (2310 408 400), 16km east of town, can be reached by bus #78 or from the train station or PI. Aristotelous, or by taxi (‚10). There’s an EOT tourist office branch ( 2310 985 215) at the airport. The Olympic Airways office at Koundouriotou 3 (2310 368 311), is open M-F 8am-3:45pm. Call for reservations (2310 368 666; M-Sa 8am-4:30pm). To: Athens (lhr. 9 per day, ‚90); Chios (3hr. 4 per week, ‚60); Corfu (50min. 2 per week, ‚64); Iraklion (2hr. 2 per day, ‚109); Lesvos (2hr. daily, ‚63); Rhodes (3hr. daily, ‚116); and Samos (lhr. 4 per week, ‚70). Public Transportation: Local buses cost ‚0.50 and run throughout the city. Buy tickets at periptera or at depot ticket booths. Taxis ( 2310 551 525) have specific queues at Ag. Sophia and Mitropoleos.

ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Egnatia, an old Roman highway, runs down the middle of town and is home to the cheapest hotels. Running parallel to the water, the main streets are Ermou, Tsimiski, Mitropoleos, and Nikis, which runs along the waterfront. Inland from Egnatia is Agios Dimitriou and the Old Town beyond. Intersecting these and leading into town are I. Dragoumi, El. Venizelou, Aristotelous, Ag. Sophias, and Eth. Aminis.

Tourist Office: EOT, inside the port at the Passenger Terminal (2310 222 935). Open M-Sa 7:30am-3pm.

Banks: Banks with currency exchange and 24hr. ATMs line Tsimiski, including National Bank, Tsimiski 11 (2310 230 783). Open M-Th 8am-2pm, F 8am-l:30pm.

Tourist Police: Dodekanissou 4, 5th fl. (2310 554 871). Free maps and brochures. Open 24hr. For the local police, call 2310 553 800 or 100.

Telephones: OTE, Karolou Diehl 27 ( 134), at the corner of Ermou, 1 block east of Aristotelous. Open M-F 7am-3pm, W also 7pm-9pm.

Internet Access: There are several small Internet cafes along the western end of Egnatia. Interspot Cafe, Tsimiski 43, inside the mall, offers access for ‚1.50 per hr. E-Global, Egnatia 105, one block east of Arch of Galerius, sports over 50 terminals. ‚2-3 per hr. Open 24hr. Meganet Internet Cafe, 5 PI. Navarinou, overlooking the Palace of Galerius, offers access for ‚2 per hr. Open 24hr. The British Council, Eth. Aminis 9, offers free access. Open M-F 9am-lpm.

Post Office: Aristotelous 27, just below Egnatia. Open M-F 7:30am-8pm, Sa 7:30am- 2pm, Su 9am-l:30pm. A branch office (2310 229’324), on Eth. Aminis near the White Tower, is open M-F 7am-8pm. Both offer Poste Restante. Postal Code: 54101.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Most budget hotels cluster along the western end of Egnatia, between PI. Dimokratias (500m east of the train station) and Aristotelous. Egnatia can be noisy and gritty, but you’ll have to pay more elsewhere.

@ Hotel Atlantis, Egnatia 14 (2310 540 131). Offers standard budget furnishings and well-maintained hallway bathrooms. Singles and doubles ‚20, with bath ‚30.

Hotel Augustos, El. Svoronou 4 (2310 522 955). Walking down the western end of Egnatia, turn north at the Argo Hotel; Augustos is 20m straight ahead. Cozy rooms. Singles with bath ‚25; doubles ‚30, with bath ‚40; triples with bath ‚50.

Hotel Pella, Dragoumi 63 (2310 524 221). North on Dragoumi 2 blocks up from west Egnatia’s budget strip. Comfortable rooms with desk, TV, telephone, and bath. Singles ‚35; doubles ‚50.

Hotel Tourist, Mitropoleos 21 (2310 270 501). An excellent location. Rooms with TV, telephone, AC, and bath. Singles ‚50; doubles ‚70; triples ‚90.

FOOD

Ouzeri can be found in tiny streets off Aristotelous; the innovative places a block down from Egnatia between Dragoumi and El. Venizelou cater to a younger clientele. Ouzeri Melathron , Karypi 21-34, in an alleyway at El. Venizelou 23, has a humorous menu and delicious food. (Entrees ‚3.50-12.) A meal at Dore Zythos , Tsiroyianni 7, behind the grassy triangular plot across from the White Tower, includes sea breezes, superb views, and an avant-garde menu. Try the ‚7 its pilaf for an Anatolian treat. (Entrees ‚6-8.)

SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

The streets of modem Thessaloniki are littered with the reminders of its significance during both the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. EiAgios Dimitrios, on Ag. Dimitriou north of Aristotelous, is the city’s oldest and most famous church. Although most of its interior was gutted in a 1917 fire, some lovely mosaics remain. (Open daily 6am-10pm.) South of Egnatia, on the square that bears its name, the magnificent domed Agia Sophia features a splendid ceiling mosaic of the Ascension. (Open daily 7am-lpm and 5-7pm.) Originally part of a palatial complex designed to honor the Roman Caesar Galerium, the Rotunda became the church Agios Georgiou in late Roman times. Its walls were once plastered with some of the city’s most brilliant mosaics; unfortunately, very few remain. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 8am-7pm.) A colonnaded processional once led south to the Arch of Galerius, on the eastern end of Egnatia, which commemorates the Caesar’s 397 AD Persian victory. Further west down Egnatia, don’t miss Bey Hamami, a perfectly preserved 15th- century bath house that served the Ottoman governor and his retinue. (Open daily 8am-9pm. Free.) The Heptapyrgion, a 5th-century Byzantine fortress, is the main attraction of the city’s modest acropolis. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 8am-7pm.)

All that remains of a 15th-century Venetian seawall, the White Tower presides over the eastern edge of the waterfront like an overgrown chess piece. (Tower open M 12:30-7pm, Tu-Su 8am-7pm. Free.) Thessaloniki’s Archaeological Museum, at the western end of Tsimiski, across from the International Helexpo Fairgrounds, is full of discoveries gleaned from Neolithic tombs, mosaics from Roman houses, and a dazzling display of Macedonian gold. (Open Su and Tu-Sa 8am-7pm, M 12:30-7pm; off-season reduced hours. ‚4, students ‚2. EU students free.) Just across the street at Stratou 2, the Museum of Byzantine Culture displays an impressive array of artifacts from both the Early and Middle Byzantine eras, from church mosaics and elaborate tombs to 1500-year-old personal effects. (Open Su and Tu- Sa 8am-7pm, M 12:30-7pm; off-season reduced hours. ‚4, students and seniors ‚2. EU students and under-18 free.)

There are four main hubs for late-night fun: The bars and cafes of the Ladadika district, the renovated mill factories of Mylos behind the harbor, the waterfront’s cafes, and the open-air discos near the airport exit (‚8-9 by taxi). Rodon 2000, 11km east of the city along the main highway, is a sophisticated hot spot filled with Greek music. (‚10 cover includes 1 drink.)

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