Thessaloniki, photos and comments

A blog-post presenting a detailed description of the beautiful city I was born and spent most of my early life in, a post for Thessaloniki. Lots of photos of famous landmarks of the city and places I consider beautiful.

As promised in a previous post, before I leave for Japan I am making a post about Thessaloniki the city I was born and grew up in. As a warning to any potential reader a lot of photos will be included so don’t be frustrated if it takes up a lot of time to load.As a side note a blog redesign is planned to match with the main site redesign which itself is a work in progress. That will happen when I manage to find the time to do it so back on topic!

The city was built around the 3rd century BC by the Macedonian king Cassander and was given the name of Alexander the Great’s half-sister Thessaloniki. Its history is long and rich. Suffice to say that it went through the hands of many different civilizations including the classical Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. For the history geeks among the readers who, like me, want to know more historical details you can visit the wikipedia link on Thessaloniki.

Today 25/03/2010, a Greek national holiday the weather was very nice and the streets were full of people, so I grabbed my camera and went for a walk around Thessaloniki to gather material for this post. Even though this post will have some personal commentary due to the whole situation with me leaving for Japan it can also serve as a form of tourist’s guide to Thessaloniki since I took photos of many famous landmarks a visitor could go and see. To that end each photo will be a link to Google maps pointing to the exact geographical location of the place that the photo depicts.

And what would be a better place to start than the white tower? Built in the 15th century it is now the symbol of the city. Whenever you see some event having to do with Thessaloniki or any logo of the city it will definitely have that tower on it.
White tower of Thessaloniki

The white tower is located by the sea. Thessaloniki has a beautiful albeit a bit smelly (due to an awful sanitizing system) coastal road that you can walk along. Especially in a sunny day like it was today, walking along the sea is invigorating. I can not count the times I walked that road either alone or with friends. It serves as a very good way of forgetting the anxieties and problems of daily life and provides a means of clearing your head. As I am a computer programmer many times I was stuck in god knows how awfully difficult to debug code. Taking this walk by the sea always cleared my mind and helped me pinpoint the root of the problem. All of that without ever looking at the code itself, but just by clearing my head and breathing in some “fresh” air.


Seaside walk

On the picture above you can see a view of the coastal road with the white tower appearing in the distance on the left. It was a sunny day and many people were out walking. Below is a picture of a statue of Alexander the Great. That statue is located in a central point of the road and in a day such as this you can see people trying to sell their wares to passerbys.

Statue of Alexander the Great

Further down the road, walking towards eastern Thessaloniki the coastal road widens. Many bicycles pass by a recently re-created area and the road leads to Thessaloniki Music Hall in the distance where various concerts take place. Walking along the coastal road from the white tower to the music hall would take around half an hour with an average pace. As I said above such a walk is invigorating and I would recommend it to anyone living in Thessaloniki who can find the time to include it into his daily routine

Coastal road

Walking back towards the center of the city one can find another very central point, the XANTH square. This is a youth organization, something akin to YMCA but in Thessaloniki it is best known for this big building depicted in the picture below which has given the square its name. In the distance the white tower is visible.

xanth square

Exactly opposite to this building, still in the same square one can locate HELEXPO. HELEXPO is a place where all kinds of exhibitions both domestic and international take place. Anyone remember the showcasing of the mazebot? That took place inside HELEXPO grounds. As for that big tower, it is called the OTE telecommunications tower belonging to the Hellenic telecommunications organization.

Helexpo

As a final mention of seaside Thessaloniki I could not omit Aristotelous Square, taking its name from Aristotle, Alexander the Great’s teacher. This is considered a very nice place to go out in Thessaloniki with lots of cafes to sit and relax at and lots of people to see. The only downside is that compared to other areas it can be considered a bit expensive. I remember that as a kid my parents brought me here often even though I can’t say I remember any details since it was a long time ago. All I can remember is chasing doves, since going out for a cup of coffee was not in my agenda back then 🙂

aristotelous square

A lot closer to the place I live is Navarinou Square. It is built around the palace grounds of Galerius, a Roman emperor who lived around the 3rd Century AD. Back then the Roman empire was divided and he got the eastern part, that is why he had a palace in Thessaloniki, a strategical location in the Balkans. For more history stuff visit the Wikipedia link I posted above.

Galerius palace in Navarinou

Today Navarinou square is bustling with all sorts of activity. Many cafes to sit and relax, interesting people to meet and generally a place where many young people tend to hang out. Even though we call it a square it is not a square per Se but just some areas built around the palace of Galerius. If anyone visits Thessaloniki I would definitely suggest going by Navarinou just to check out the young crowd and of course if interested in historical monuments a visit to the palace is also possible.

navarinou square

As for me Navarinou is practically the place where I grew up. Playing soccer and other games as a kid, going out with friends as a teen and falling in love as an adult. I can definitely say that I lived all kind of experiences and felt all kinds of emotions here. If I would pinpoint an area where I got ties to this would be the one.

A 2 minutes walk from Navarinou, considered by many an extension of it as an area lies Kamara. If you look closely in the above picture you can recognize Kamara which will be in the following pictures. In Greek it means an Arch. And that is what it basically is, a victory arch. Remember the Roman emperor Galerius? He built it to celebrate and commemorate his victory against the Persians in the East. If you clicked on the wikipedia Galerius link you could read more details about that. In the picture below you can see it from the side, with Rotunda behind it. More on Rotunda later.

Kamara and Rotunda

Nowadays Kamara serves a much humbler but more practical purpose. It is THE meeting place of young people. I don’t know how it came to be so but whenever two or more people want to meet in Thessaloniki this is the landmark they set as their meeting place. As a result, just like Navarinou close by the surrounding area is bustling with activity.

Kamara in Thessaloniki

Just next to Kamara lies Rotunda. This was also built by Galerius and it was intended to be his tomb. It was not meant to be though and later with the christianization of the Roman Empire it became a church. A lot later it became a mosque under the Ottomans. Now it is a museum accessible by all. Definitely a place to visit as a tourist. Below you can see a picture of Rotunda and if you want more historical details just visit the link I posted.

Rotunda of Thessaloniki

Since Thessaloniki is surrounded by hills and small mountains the further you get from the sea the elevation changes. So going a little higher one can see the city walls of the old Thessaloniki. Unfortunately the seaside walls were demolished so the walls higher up are the only ones that remain. It is definitely a very nice place for a walk especially if you come and visit as a tourist. Not to mention the breathtaking view of Thessaloniki that you can enjoy at the end of the walk.

Walls of Thessaloniki 1

The walls stretch a long way around the city and even though some parts are missing the castles and garrisons built on the walls are still there so walking and following the walls would be a great way to see part of Thessaloniki while at the same time sightseeing too. Below you can see a Garrison located in the old city, or Upper City as we call it.

Walls of Thessaloniki 2

As you can see from both pictures it is located in a corner of the walls joining two different wall parts. It dates from the Byzantine period of the city and is very well preserved. Many tourists visit the particular Garrison. I have to admit that I have never gone inside so I have no idea about any additional details concerning its history.

Walls of Thessaloniki 3

As I said above this part of the walls is located in the Upper city, basically the old city. We call it Ano Poli, meaning Upper City in Greek. This area has maze-like small streets and graphical little buildings. It is a very nice place to visit and walk if you like but beware since it is very easy to get lost in between all these small roads. Just remember that everything that goes downwards leads to the sea (or a dead end).

Thessaloniki old city 1

As a kid I used to love to come and visit my friends who live in the old city. Playing a game of hide and seek in maze-like streets such as these close to the old city walls are some of the best memories I have from my childhood.

Thessaloniki old city 2

I think this is getting too big for a single blog post. Maybe I should have made two blog-posts on this topic so that I could post all the pictures I took. But this will have to suffice. I can not think of a better way to end this post than with pictures of Thessaloniki taken from the old city providing a panoramic view of the city.

The pictures are posted from left to right. Left:
Thessaloniki Panoramic view Left

Center:
Thessaloniki Panoramic view Center

Right
Thessaloniki Panoramic view Right

Customized kids superhero capes
superhero capes|Kids can play comfortably with our double sided satin capes
superhero capes| If you are not absolutely thrilled with the reaction your young ones will get when they see this superhero dress-up set
cartoon capes| This awesome cap and mask set will have you child fighting crime in no time.
cosplay masks|
Cartoon hero capes & masks
batman capes|

Justice league boys batman DC superhero childs halloween costume.
spiderman capeswe provide Spiderman cape & mask, Children just love the feel of this fabric – perfect for superhero parties and birthdays.

I am very happy to have made this blog post. It put some things about my home city into perspective and makes it a bit easier to think about my future endeavors in Japan. This place holds most of my childhood and early adult life memories. I will never forget it and I am sure I will be coming back at least as a visitor. My final opinion/consensus about Thessaloniki? All I know is that the city I was born and grew up in is beautiful.

Studying abroad in Japan, hopes and fears

This is just a small post where I express my hopes and fears for the future, a few days before I set out for my new research student life in Japan

This is more or less a personal post detailing my thoughts,fears and hopes as I am preparing to leave Greece, my home country, in order to go and study abroad in Japan for at least two and a half years. I knew this was coming since I made it happen, but now it’s right around the corner. I will be flying for Tokyo,Japan on the morning of April 1st 2010.

This has been my goal for the last 6 years. To leave Greece and go to Japan to pursue graduate studies in the topics I am interested in. Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. I am very fond of the Japanese culture and have already been to Japan 3 times. I would be lying if I said I am not excited to be going back there. The Japanese people have something that makes them special. I am not 100% sure but If I had to point it out I would say that it is their idiosyncrasy and the way they function as a society. Those who have been to Japan will know what I am talking about. Not to say that Japan does not have its bad sides but they are out of the scope of this post.

On the other hand as the time draws closer I am beginning to realize what I am giving up in order to make my dream a reality. It is not such a trivial matter to just put everything and everyone you know aside and go to the other side of the globe. I have friends here in Greece with some of whom I spent my days since I was a little boy and others with whom I shared many of my ups and downs for the last 6 years. The thought that I won’t be seeing them every day any more, at least in person, is really bearing down on me.

Friends aside, Greece and more specifically Thessaloniki is the place I lived all of my life until now. I have gone through every possible experience a person goes through his life in this place and as such I am in a way connected to it. Some buildings, some areas, some other Greek cities all correlated with specific events of my life. For some unknown reason even though I have not paid any attention to such things until now, it is becoming more and more evident the closer I get to my departure date that the connection to the place one lives can have a very strong effect on a person. All my life, or at least my recent life, I remember wanting to get out of here and now that the time has indeed come all these strange emotions and thoughts come rushing into my head. I am planning another blog post about Thessaloniki my home city, before I go, just to put all these thoughts to rest. I guess it will include lots of photos I will take myself along with description of various nice things Thessaloniki has to offer.

As far as family is concerned I am sure they are going to miss me. I am sure I will too. But the thing with family is that you know you will see them again. They will do whatever they can, even travel to Japan in order to see me in regular intervals. My family has done a lot for me and for that I am grateful. They supported me all the way towards my goals and ,expected nagging aside, they have always been there for me. It is a good thing that I have been preparing them for this for a long time so they have kind of accepted the idea that I will be living in the other side of the globe. The last thing I needed right now would be emotional breakdowns and pleas to stay. I think the reason they are taking it so well is that I taught them how to use a computer with an internet connection. So now they are confident that they can contact me any time, anywhere. I am sure going to miss them 🙂

But the feelings are mixed. There is also a sense of excitement in the air. Going to Japan to study the things that I like in one of the most prestigious universities of that country seems like a great adventure to me. Tokyo is a metropolis. I have already been there once and to think that I will be staying there for years and have all that it has to offer at my disposal daily makes my heart pound fast. Moreover the Japanese society is a very intriguing one. As a foreigner you can “study” them and learn a whole lot from them. I am very glad that I have been given the chance to do so.

The university I will be going to is Tokyo University located …well … in Tokyo :P. It is considered a very demanding place to study so I am in for a rough ride but it is also a great opportunity to gain all the knowledge a top-level university has to offer on my field. I plan to take full advantage of this chance that has been given to me. There are many issues a foreign student (Japanese: 留学生-ryuugakusei) has to face. Such as housing, adjusting to life in Japan, meeting new people while at the same time studying for exams and attending classes. I have heard lots of horror stories about people who just couldn’t take it anymore and returned to their home countries. I guess it depends on the person and how motivated he/she is. What I do know for sure is that I plan to do my best in order to succeed in what I set out to do.

And what better way to end this post than with some info about the university of Tokyo?
This is the logo of the university:

University of Tokyo Logo

The university of Tokyo was established by The Meiji government of Japan in 1877. Until the second World War it was known as “Tokyo Imperial University”. But after the American occupation the name was changed to its present-day one. It has 3 campuses in the Tokyo area with the main one being the Hongo campus. Many famous Japanese have graduated from there, including most of their prime ministers. It is considered the most prestigious university of Japan and ranks as the 3rd best in the world. For more information you can visit the wikipedia article on Todai.

This is the Yasuda Auditorium located at Hongo Campus. This clock tower along with the one in Komaba Campus are considered characteristic landmarks of the University of Tokyo:
Yasuda Auditorium

Finally here is the other clock tower, the one in Komaba. One can easily understand why these two became synonymous with the university’s name
Komaba Clock Tower

Well I guess this is a quick sum up of all the thoughts that I have in my head these days. All feelings and anxieties aside, I am excited as this new “adventure” is about to begin. I am trying to focus on the positive things and prepare for the trip to Japan. I expect I’ll have to be ready for anything that might be thrown my way. Because I am certain lots of unexpected things will happen, as they always tend to. Focusing on the good things and new experiences while at the same time trying one’s best to succeed is the way to go. And this is what I plan to do. Let’s see what the future will bring…