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Thessaloniki, Greece

Thessaloniki is the capital of Macedonia. Greece's second largest city is fast becoming the powerhouse of the Balkans.

The population of the city of Thessaloniki with the suburbs is 1048151 (NSSG,2001) with about 500000 of them living in the center of the city. The city (Geographic latitude: 40 39´N, Geographic longitude: 23 07´E, Altitude: 2 m) is surrounded by the Thermaikos gulf from one side and the mountains from other side which gave the city a longitudinal shape with traffic volume coming from the East and West sides of the city. It is also for this reason, the traffic network system is built to serve East West traffic volumes with traffic management focusing on one-way control of main arterials of the city.

The main arterial of the City are Egnatia which carries a daily traffic of about 110,000 vehicles. Other main arterials are Tsimisky, Vas. Olgas, Nikis with the range of daily traffic from 60,000 to 80,000 vehicles.

History

Thessaloniki, is one of the oldest cities in Europe.It was founded about 315 B.C., on a site of old prehistoric settlements going back to 2300 B.C., by Cassander, King of Macedonia, and was named after his wife, Thessaloniki, sister of Alexander The Great. Since then, Thessaloniki has become the chief city of Macedonia and its most important commercial port. In Roman times it was visited by Saint Paul, who preached the new religion, and who later addressed his two well-known epistles (the oldest written documents of Christian literature) to the Christians of Thessaloniki. In Byzantine times, Thessaloniki became a cultural and artistic centre second only to Constantinople in the whole empire. Great names are closely associated with the city's Byzantine past - the jurist Peter Magister, the epigrammatist Macedonius Hypatus, the Hymnographer Archbishop Joseph, Leo the Mathematician, the historian John Cameniates, the prolific Homeric scholar and humanist Eustathius ( Archbishop of Thessaloniki), the philologist Thomas M. Magister, the teacher of law and editor of the "Hexabiblus" Constantine Armenopoulos, the theologian Gregory Palamas ( Archbishop of Thessaloniki), to mention but a few prominent scholars. The missionary brothers Cyril and Methodius also have a special place in the history of the period; they invented and used the Cyrillic Alphabet to bring literacy and Christianity to the Slavs.

After the fall of Thessaloniki (1430) and later of Constantinople (1453), the two major cultural centres of the East, two of Thessaloniki's greatest humanists, Theodore Gazes and Andronicus Callistus, sought refuge in the West where they transplanted the Greek language and literature. Despite the unfavourable conditions prevailing during the Turkish occupation, there were Greek schools in Thessaloniki that struggled, successfully to a large degree, to preserve the Greek language and literature until the city was liberated in October 26, 1912, the anniversary of its patron saint, St. Demetrius. In the nineteenth century the long scholarly tradition of the city was continued by Margaritis Demetsas, a historian, archeologist, and geographer as well as headmaster of the city Grammar School and his pupil P. Papageorgiou, later a prominent philologist. Today Thessaloniki is a thriving city and one of the most important trade and communications centres in the Mediterranean. This is evident from its financial and commercial activities, its port with its special Free Zone, which provides facilities to the other Balkan countries, its international airport, its important industrial complex, its annual International Trade Fair, etc.

Culture

Many other institutions besides the University have contributed to the development of the wider intellectual climate in Thessaloniki: the Higher School of Industry; the Archaeological, Ethnological and Folklore Museum; the Macedonian Struggle Museum; the White Tower collection; the Society for Macedonian Studies; the Institute of Balkan Studies; the State Theatre; the State Orchestra; the Municipal Art Gallery; the 'Vafopoulio' Cultural Centre; the Municipal Orchestra; the Macedonian Museum of Modern Art, and numerous other cultural societies, as well as established festivals such as the 'Demetria', the International Music Days, the Film Festival, and so on.

Characteristic features of the flourishing economy of Thessaloniki, which has developed into one of the most important commercial and communication centres in the Mediterranean, are its port (which through its 'Free Zone' also serves other Balkan cities), its international airport, the industrial area and the Intennational Trade Fair (Helexpo).

The Monuments of Thessaloniki: Numerous archaeological testimonials to the city's historic past have been saved, including the remains of prehistoric settlements in the area of Thessaloniki - the first organised settlements date back to the middle of the fifth millenium B.C.-which provide valuable architectural and archeological information about the civilisations of that time.

The most impressive of the ancient monuments of Thessaloniki, however, are those of the Roman and Byzantine periods. Indeed, the Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki have made it the second best preserved Byzantine city in the world. Besides the impressive exhibits in the Archaeological Museum (excavated units and individual items from Prehistoric to Roman times) and in the White Tower (from pre-Christian times to the end of the Byzantine Empire) as well as the exhibition in the Crypt of Sainl Demetrius, one can also see the remains of the Roman market and of the Roman Palace of Galerius in the centre of the city, and parts of the ancient walls and the Acropolis (Seven Towers) in the old town. Many renowned Byzantine churches, which date back from the 5th Century to the 14th Century, have also survived (among them the Acheiropiitos, Saint Demetrius, Saint Sofia, St. David, etc. ) as well as the landmark of the city, the White Tower, and many post-Byzantine monuments.

Because of its cultural, historical and economic features, Thessaloniki was chosen as the Cultural Capital of Europe in 1997.

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Images of Thessaloniki

  
   
 


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