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:
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