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36 Hours in Thessaloniki

36 Hours in Thessaloniki

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Published by Peter Minaki

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Published by: Peter Minaki on Jul 14, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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By: Peter MinakiMost travellers explore Athens and the Greek islands but few go off the
beaten track to visit what many consider to be Greece’s food capital. Athens
may be the heart of Greece but Thessaloniki, a six-hour drive north ofAthens, is its stomach!Begin the day by grabbing a koulouri, a sesame seed-coated bread ringresembling a thin bagel, from one of the street vendors before heading towardthe White Tower
the city’s signature landmark, located on the harbour. T
Lefkos Pirgos, as it’s known in Greek, was a prison where the Ottomans
executed their prisoners. Thessaloniki was taken from the Turks in 1912 andthe Greeks adopted the White Tower as a symbol of the city. The panoramicview from the top is not to be missed. Next, walk to the ArchaeologicalMuseum of Thessaloniki, where Macedonian artifacts from the eras of Philip IIand the better known Alexander the Great are proudly exhibited.
Easily found in the city centre are the
Kapani and Modiano markets. You’ll hear vendors’ cries as they tout their
goods and as an honourary Greek, you will be encouraged to haggle and bargainfor produce or examine the catch of the day. You will delight in the aroma oflocal cheeses, cured sausages and the exotic scent of spices wafting throughthe air, competing for your attention with the smell of roasting coffeebeans. The neighbouring region of Halkidiki produces delicious salt-curedblack olives, cracked green olives and olive oil that is too precious to besold elsewhere.Bordering the market is the Serraikon Bougatsa café, where you can take abreak and enjoy a Greek coffee along with a bougatsa slice. A specialty ofnorthern Greece, bougatsa consists of layers of buttered phyllo pastry,filled with anything from cheese and meat to chocolate or custard. The most
popular is the krema (custard) that’s cut into forkfuls and finished with a
sprinkle of icing sugar and cinnamon
perfect as a late-morning treat.
Thessaloniki is a pedestrian’s city and Aristotle Square one of
its most
lively centres. Lined with cafés, this arcade is considered the city’s main
piazza for strolling and people-watching. Ask for directions to nearby
Venizelos Street and you’ll reach the Bit Pazaar –
where most of the city’s
antique shops are locate
d. The shops close at night but that’s when the
cafés, bars and tavernas come alive
catering to students, artists andanyone on a budget looking for a good time.Ladadika (the former olive oil trading district) is a good bet for lunch.After years of neglect, Ladadika was revitalized through an influx of EU
funds and became the ‘it’ place for a decade. Although it’s now mostly a
tourist haunt, some eateries like the Bakaliario tou Aristou remain popularwith locals. This long-established family restaurant has been sellingdelicious battered and fried salt cod since 1910. Come early as seats fill upquickly.Thessaloniki is also known for its rich, syrupy desserts, and you can enjoythese at Hatzi, one of my favourite patisseries. Gaze into display caseslined with several kinds of baklava filled with an array of nuts soaked inhoney and syrup, or behold the galaktoboureko
a semolina-based custardsandwiched between layers of buttered phyllo and finished with syrup. Orderthe kazan dibi, which is sometimes called a Byzantine crème brulée, a dessertmade of a sugar crust topped with custard. At the Hatzi in the town of
Paralia Nea Epivaton, you’ll see Thessaloniki from across the bay and be able
to partake in the afternoon ritual of Greek coffee and sweets as the sun setsover Mount Olympus.For dinner, the Kourdisto Gourouni (the Wind-up Pig), located within sight ofthe Hagia Sophia Church, offers a selection of European beers plus a fine

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