Thessaloniki is more than 2300 years old city and this fact itself gives it a certain charm that enriches many other things that exist in this city. Since the earliest years it has been multi-ethnic because of its position, but in the last few centuries this epithet came to the fore. By the beginning of the 20th century, the city walls were surrounding what we consider today as the city center, which includes the area between the eastern walls, which descend following the imaginary line from the fortress to the White Tower, and the western ones that follow the direction from the port to the hill.
East of the White Tower, along today’s street Vassilisas Olgas (Queen Olga) at the end of the 19th century, the rich Thessalonians, mostly Jews, are beginning to build their summerhouses, luxurious villas, some of which still resist time. I will talk more about them on some other occasion, and here I will present the ones I have learned about today attending free tours that have been organized by the Municipality of Thessaloniki for their citizens, to get them to know the history of the city. People are so interested in these tours that for the last two or three years I’ve been trying to get the ticket, although unsuccessfully.
Today’s tour is called “Villas 2”.
It starts at the corner of Botsari and Vasilisas Olgas streets, from the villa of the Kapantzi family and what was interesting to us is that it was in the possession of the Jews who were islamized and managed to avoid deportation to Turkey during a large exchange of population because they had Serbian citizenship? The guide did not know the source of that information, but I’ll dig it up somewhere eventually. The next in line is the villa in which the Ethnographic Museum of Thessaloniki is located. You should certainly visit this museum, once I followed excellent seminars with different themes here. Today at 7p.m. for those who happen to be in the city, or those who live here, a live music program on the topic of the wind will be performed, with performances of the greatest contemporary composers such as Hatzidakis (do not miss to look up some of his tracks on YouTube) and the famous Theodorakis. Entry is free.
Next in the line is the abandoned building of the former Italian consulate, still owned by the state of Italy, as well as the building that belonged to and belongs still to Michailidou family (the villa is renting). The next one is a former Jewish villa where the school for blind people is located.
Then, there are two completely abandoned villas bought by the owner of a theater, but still abandoned. A new mosque, called Yeni Cami was built and used for religious rites to the Jews who were also islamized and therefore it resembles a synagogue. An archaeological museum was located in it before.
It is used as an exhibition space and at the moment you can watch the exhibition about the common ritual sites of the Balkans. The last four villas are from the same period, two have been occupied, and one is still being used as the first male gymnasium, the third one is unfortunately occupied by the anarchists (a special category of people, I will write about them other time), and belonged to the Bulgarian family Hadzimisev. The same family possessed the villa in which I’m currently enjoying coffee and writing this to you. An excellent café called Dendro is also located in this street and here you can often see one of our members :).
Text and photos: Ivana Stanojevic