Perched around Thessaloniki’s acropolis, Ano Poli, or Upper Town, is a charming historical district that opens a window to the past of the city. Turn off the GPS, put your mobile phone in your pocket and let’s get lost in the enchanting alleys of the Upper Town.
Travelling through time had always been one of the most sincere desires of the scientific community and of human in general. Though we are still far from such an invention, there are some places in the world shaped by the conditions to operate as natural time machines.
Upper Town, Thessaloniki 2020
A visit to the fairy-tale and colourful neighbourhood at the northwest part of the city is equaled at the same time to a free journey through the long past of Thessaloniki. We are transferred to an era long before the Great Fire of 1917 that largely destroyed the appearance of the city. This area is the only part of Thessaloniki untouched by the fire, maintaining all these years unchanged its street planning and by extension the elements and the way of life of the people that lived in it. From the early Christians, during the 4th and 5th c. who, due to the location and the altitude, remained isolated from the centre, the Ottoman era and the Turks, mostly higher officers and rich lords that settled in the area seeking for control by distance and the healthy conditions of living due to the microclimate of the area, to the tortured refugees who were uprooted and built the so-called “by-the-wall” houses in the Upper Town after the Asia Minor catastrophe of 1922.
Walking on the cobblestone and mazy streets, if you are silent you’ll listen around you a narration of the stories that make the neighborhood an amalgam of many different cultures. At Terpsitheas square, you’ll find turbe Musa Baba, a burial mausoleum, heritage of the Ottoman past of the city, together with Alatza Imaret, the small district of Koule Café with the oriel windows, the Pasah Gardens, Tsinari and of course imposing Genti Koule, or Eptapyrgion, which used to be a prison.
As you continue your walk into the Upper Town labyrinth, with the narrow alleys and the repeated cul-de-sacs which end to blossoming, colourful yards and picturesque neighbourhoods featuring Macedonian architecture, you will meet many monuments from the early Christian and Byzantine period. Ascend along the Byzantine Walls, one of the many listed UNESCO monuments of world heritage featured in the area, together with Moni Vlatadon, the church of Osios David, of Aghios Nikolaos Orfanos and Aghia Aikaterini among others.
Complete your tour at this unique area tasting side dishes (mezedes) accompanied by ouzo or tsipouro at the traditional small taverns and coffee shops such as Tsinari and Igglis tavern. Finally, before you walk away and return to today, you have to stand on a high spot to gaze the impressive panoramic view of Thermaikos, which combines the blue of the Aegean and the snow-clad peaks of Olympus in one image.