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DSC04294iThessaloniki.

A city. A legend. A daughter. A wife. An original, idiosyncratic beauty.

Daughter of Philip II, powerful King of Macedonia from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC by Pausanias – one of his bodyguards. Philip II was the originator of the principle of ”divide and rule”, from the Greek ”διαίρει καὶ βασίλευε” – (diaírei kaì basíleue), a rule that has been consistently put to effect with great results, from the Roman Ceasar to the French Emperor Napoleon, then passed down through generations of European settlers, to be applied cunningly in their colonies all over the world.

Wife of Cassander, who married her thus securing his position into the Argead Dynasty, ruling House of Macedonia, a first step to becoming later a King himself. When, during his reign, Cassander decided to strengthen his Kingdom by founding a city, he named it in honour of his wife. It was to be his most significant and lasting deed.

Thus 315 BC marked the beginning of a long, turbulent but uninterrupted life of Thessaloniki, carrying her legacy through the centuries, growing to be a modern city that today expands from the foothills of Mount Chortiatis to the seemingly endless coastline that embraces the Gulf of Thermaikos.

A true crossroads where Europe meets Anatolia, the Balkans dip into the cool deep blue waters of the Aegean, still showing traces of her glorious multi -ethnic -religious  and -cultural past; a melting pot and a city of contrasts.

Major, yet always coming second: formely ”co-reigning” city of the Byzantine Empire, alongside Constantinople – συμβασιλεύουσα (Symvasilévousa), now “co-capital” alongside Athens – συμπρωτεύουσα (Symprotévousa).

A natural beauty, cultivated, cosmopolitan, her charm somewhat dampened by years of abuse, urbanization and total absence of city planning – so typical of modern Greece – yet still utterly alluring, forever young despite her 2.330 years of tempestuous history.

Balancing on a tightrope that connects East and West, flirting with the North but dependent on the South. A port city: stylish, relaxed and welcoming, with a quirky attitude, wild parties and nightlife, so typical of seabound cities.

A university city, home among others to Aristotle University, the largest of its kind in Greece and the Balkans, welcoming every year thousands of students – a constant flow of life, energy and fresh ideas, a regenerative infusion of youth.

The city I left thirty years ago aiming for northerner climates; first the golden cage that is called Switzerland, then the cooler and more convivial Belgium.

Going back always feels strange yet familiar; melancholy yet uplifting – I can’t be called a resident, neither am I a tourist. Walking, seeing, smelling, touching, brings back pieces of my childhood and memories of my rebellious adolescence and this is when I know; no matter how much it evolves and changes, Thessaloniki is still the place I was born and grew up in, the one place I will always call home.

***

Views from the waterfront in all its colourful splendour and diversity, my extended neighbourhood and the city centre:

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From a trip in September, still very hot – enough to give me a sunburn – but mellower than the main summer months, which made walking really pleasant. More from home, coming up!

Photos (mostly) by Konstantinos Implikian

Thessaloniki,  8 – 15 September 2014

 

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10 thoughts on “HOME

  1. I’m sold! Your words so fluidly written. I’ll make plans to visit it when Summer hits.
    Weee! I can totally read the Greek words. 🙂 Thanks for the head’s up with this awesome tour. Lovely, expert pictures by the way.

    • Thank you so much for all your kind remarks! And how awesome you can read Greek – I’m sure that comes handy especially in rural places where they wouldn’t bother with translation… If you do visit, try early June or late September or else you will boil. You have been warned! 🙂 (Although there’s always Chalkidiki nearby for some cool dips). I’ve been on a lovely trip to Spain for some time, but back now and will be posting a few more about Thessaloniki soon.

  2. My home as well 😀 I must admit i felt quite emotional while enjoying your photos! Since i moved to Vienna, i haven’t allowed myself to look back cause there is no reason to feel homesick just when i moved to a new place… I try not to think of all the friends i left back but those warm sunsets at the waterfront are connected with so many memories, i can’t help but miss them…I cannot imagine how it must be for you, since you’ve been away for so long…

    • I do miss my family but I can’t say I miss the city – I had 30 years to work on this 😉
      Then again, every time I go back – which is not often enough – I get this overwhelming feeling of familiarity and belonging and retracing my steps and that’s it! I’m home! Some things never change…

  3. I once visited the city when I was still young, travelling Europe by Interrail. I slept on the beach, loved the city, loved the heat, and loved the water melons (they were huge). Thanks for the post!

    • I never managed an Interrail trip myself – and to think how much I like travelling… They were still swimming then? It must have been early 60s, I have photos of my parents swimming close to where we lived (which is considered central), it was still possible in their time. But in the late 60s they decided to extend what has now become our beloved waterfront promenade by reclaiming land, so no swimming for me. Just as well cause the water became so polluted it would have been a health hazard. The watermelons are still huge though!

  4. I remember reading or hearing a story of a nomad culture that required a person to go back and visit their birthplace each year (out on the steppes) to connect with the land and rejuvenate their soul. I find that happens when I go back to the US Midwest, see the horizon and breathe deeply. I’m home. XO

    • I know I should be doing this more often but I can’t seem to manage it even once a year. Because I usually combine Greece with summer holidays and that means I’m headed to the islands and they are usually reached via Athens. So I sort of made Athens my second home 😉

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