I’ve noticed that relatively well maintained fortifications tend to become prisons later on. At least that was the case with the places I’ll write about today. It’s sad, but history often is.
The first one will be recognized by anyone that’s been to Θεσσαλονίκη (Thessaloniki): Ο Λευκός Πύργος (The White Tower). A tower was originally constructed on the site as a Byzantine fortification. Later on, the Ottomans built the current tower which is thought to have been built in the early 1500s.
During the Ottoman rule, it was used as a prison, and was called the Red Tower. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this name was due to the executions.
When Thessaloniki was ceded to Ελλάδα (Greece), a prisoner white-washed it in exchange for his freedom, and it got its current name. White being a symbol of purity was meant to cleanse (but not forget) the misery the tower evoked. Now, it’s viewed as a symbol of the city.
It’s open for visitors, and quite a few tourists (both foreign and local) visit it (especially students that get in for free). It was good to go inside, and look around. However, the plaques are all in Greek. As much as I enjoy learning the language, my skills aren’t good enough to read museum exhibit signs. If you want to visit, see if you can get a local to go with you and translate. Actually, I might be able to bribe one to do that another time…. An idea is born.
A far less popular destination is Επταπύργιο (Eptagyrgio Fortress). I stumbled upon this while I was wandering around the άνω πόλη (upper town) of Thessaloniki. Hardly anyone was there. I suspect this is because 1) no one knows it exists, 2) it’s a long way up, and walking there is a workout.
Travel hack: if love less crowded, but still history packed places, take the hike and find this.
The walls that are part of the ακρόπολη (acropolis or citadel) were built in Roman times. It’s believed the remaining walls were built in the 12th century (during Byzantine rule). Then, it passed and was maintained by the Ottomans as a fortress.
Finally, the Greeks turned it into a prison in the 1890s. The interior reflects this latter purpose as everything within the fort’s exterior walls was demolished and rebuilt. Walking around the inside started off normally enough, but then I found the museum.
This plaque greeted me, and I instantly turned somber. Through the use of ‘modern’ photography, one’s able to create a far more vehement reaction than the ‘normal’ plaques and ruins I encounter in ancient civilizations. I was caught completely off guard….
And it was fantastic! I travel to learn, to grow, to feel. Mission accomplished…for now.