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Season 2010/11

Aris v City: A local history lesson

  • 14 February 2011 16:52
  • Posted by Tim Oscroft

We all know that Manchester is this country’s capital of cool, so City fans should feel right at home in Thessaloniki.

The home of our next opponents in the Europa League, Aris FC, Thessaloniki has been dubbed “Greece’s hippest city” by those in the know. There’s culture and history to spare – isn’t there always in that part of the world? – as befitting the former capital of ancient Macedonia and the biggest city in the Byzantine empire after Constantinople.

There’s a sophisticated, laid-back feel to the place with the focal point for many locals and visitors the two main squares of Platia Elefterias and Platia Aristotelous on the waterfront. There are stacks of restaurants and bars in the area, but it’s also worth a short walk to the Ladadika district for even more of the same.

Thessaloniki was founded around 315BC and named after the half-sister of Alexander the Great. The influence of Rome and then its role in the Byzantine Empire is reflected in the architecture that is still visible in many parts of modern Thessaloniki, but try the Archaeological Museum for a one-stop-shop hit of ancient artefacts before the game.

If art is more your thing, Thessaloniki has plenty at either end of the age scale. There’s the White Tower Museum, with Byzantine art and excellent views of the city, or if modern art is more your bag then head for the State Museum of Contempory Art, built in 1997 when the city was the European Capital of Culture.

The house where Kemal Attaturk, father of modern Turkey, was born is also in Thessaloniki and can be visited – but remember to bring your passport to get in!

The excellent online travel guide from Matt Barrett describes Thessaloniki as a shopper’s paradise, so if retail therapy pushes your buttons, prepare to indulge – but remember that some shops shut in the early afternoon!

Footballing rivalries are split in this big city, with Aris battling for attention alongside PAOK and Iraklis.

The former are also still in the Europa League and face CSKA Moscow at home on Thursday – hence our game being shifted to Tuesday.

As for the weather, I wouldn’t be packing the Speedos (although that’s your choice...) as it’s only set to be a maximum of eight degrees.

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