Evi Karkiti is a journalist with several decades of experience working in radio, newspapers and magazines. About a year ago she decided to take her work a step further. Inspired by the walks she made around the city on her own, and also by her travel experiences, she had the idea for thematic tours. She presented the idea to friends of hers, who supported the concept, and shortly thereafter "Thessaloniki Walking Tours" was created.
"Thessaloniki Walking Tours" offers the most exciting and innovative sightseeing and tours in Thessaloniki, and is focused on historical trivia and fascinating details about the city which are often ignored.
What is Thessaloniki Walking Tours?
Thessaloniki Walking Tours suggests thematic tours as a way to connect the past of the city with its modern side. In many tours we emphasize the "small things," those which are not mentioned in the official history, but are connected with important facts that have formed the character of Thessaloniki as it is today.
We aim at enjoying the city through walking and connecting with it in a way that is factual, but also entertaining. We started preparing for the project in October of 2013 and in March 2014 we realized our first historical tour in the area Ano Poli.
What are the thematic tours exactly?
The thematic tours are a series of strolls in different areas of Thessaloniki that each have a specific focus. For instance, certain times in history, the city’s gastronomy, the theatre, the literature, and the nightlife are some of the themes that have interested us. We have organized some of our tours around these concepts.
Share with us more about what you do. What is your philosophy?
The first thing that we addressed and we still do is how one should show a city, as there are many ways to do this. Among all these different methods we could theoretically use, we started abstracting things and emphasized walking and the simplicity and the immediacy that walking can offer.
What we wanted and what we are striving for is to find those "strings" that connect the past with today and also diverse people to one another.
It doesn’t matter what we are going to show to them, but how we are going to do that and especially the way that we are going to narrate each story, so that the people that join us are connected not only with the place but also one to another. We want these people to connect so that if some time they meet randomly on the street, they will be able to reflect on their shared experience.
How many people does your team consist of? Who are the guides? How long do the tours last and how much do they cost?
Thessaloniki Walking Tours is a team of people who cooperate closely and with great enthusiasm. Each one of us has invested our own knowledge and skills to make our cooperation successful.
Apart from me, the team consists of George Featham, who is an art historian and certified guide who plans and realizes the historic tours in a very original way. There is also Kostis Zafeirakis, who is a journalist, radio and television producer and also has great experience in travel footage. Last but not least, Alkistis Charsouli who is an archaeologist.
Our team works with Philip Chatzissimou, a man with extensive knowledge about wine and organizes related seminars. We also cooperate with Christos Ananiadis, who is a climbing instructor and mountain guide, for those who want to have a special experience out of town.
The price for our tours starts at 8 Euros and they last from 1.5 to 3 hours.
For whom are the tours organized?
We address our tours to citizens of Thessaloniki and also to visitors. The first people who joined us were fellow citizens. In the near future we expect to welcome the first visitors, as the tours can now be conducted in Greek and also in English.
Tell us a few thing about the last tour you organized. I’m referring to the infamous "Ego o Galerios" (meaning "I, Galerius")
Such an amazing tour! We have already organized it three times in Greek and we are preparing it in English. Some of the busiest spots of the city, Kamara, Rotonta and the ruins of the Palace in Navarino are so triggering for George Featham that, by using the word "I," he is able to tell the story of the person who built all these magnificent monuments. He also narrates the life of the emperor Galerios, and gives plenty of information regarding that time that marked the end of the ancient world and the beginning of the Middle Ages.
Which are the most popular tours?
The "I, Galerius," a gastronomical tour for children that is organized by Kostis Zafeirakis, who emphasizes playing, and a cultural after-sunset tour that was planned by Alkistis Charsouli and caught many people’s attention.
Is Thessaloniki a walking friendly city?
I wouldn't say that it is, at least not everywhere. This is the reason we had to explore all our ingenuity in order to create routes that can pass by the places of interest and also be pleasant rather than tiring. The people who have decided to participate in a project like this want to learn, but the way we execute our tours is not at all instructional.
Finally, share with us five of the most interesting places or trivia of the city that we often ignore?
Our Top 5 are:
- The sign at the eastern walls, where it is mentioned that the Persian engineer called Ormisdas "built walls with clean hands," meaning that he had nothing to do with the slaughter that took place that period of time in the hippodrome.
- The small church of Saint Eythimios, next to the church of Saint Dimitrios, has frescos painted by Emmanouil Panselinos, who was one of the most important painters of the late Byzantine period.
- Pasa’s Gardens, which is an area that has been connected with legends and stories that are completely harmonized with the odd sculptures and the clairvoyant symbols that one may see during a walk there.
- The building that houses the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace. About 100 years ago, Alexandros Sxoinas, the assassin of King George A, was thrown out of this building’s window.
- And lastly, Kamara. A few meters away from this monument, on the flooring, one can observe two big squares on the marble. On those two squares another Kamara, facsimile to the one we have today, used to stand there.
Are there any Walking Tours organized in the city you live? Would you enjoy participating in one of them?
The original article, published in Greek, can be found here.
Credits: Data and Images linked to sources.