Thessaloniki is the second largest city of Greece and the most important center of the area. Built near the sea it is a modern metropolis bearing the marks of its stormy history and its cosmopolitan character, which give it a special beauty and charm. The surrounding Macedonian towns are also of utmost importance to the history of the Greeks.
At the turn of the 20th century, Thessaloniki boasted a population of more than 80,000 Jews – about one half of the city’s total population – and supported a full array of Jewish institutions. We will visit the Museum, Synagogue, Cemetery and Holocaust Memorial, in order to understand just how vibrant this community once was, before the Holocaust ravaged it apart.
March 15 Depart Tel Aviv in the afternoon, to arrive to Thessaloniki early evening. Upon arrival in transfer to hotel and enjoy a welcome kosher dinner and overnight.
March 16 After breakfast we spend time immersed in the Jewish history of the city. Visit the Monastir Synagogue, built by Jews from Monastir, a town in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This is the only synagogue in Salonika that was not damaged during World War II, since it served as a warehouse for the Red Cross. The building was damaged in the earthquake of 1978 and was repaired with the help of the governmental authorities.
Today, the synagogue is the central place of worship of the Salonika Jewish Community and an official historical site. The synagogue is open during the High Holidays and services are held on Friday nights and Shabbat mornings.
Continue to the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki. Representing the historic center of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, this museum serves to acquaint the public with the city’s Jewish historic and cultural heritage. The museum’s permanent exhibition features headstones from the old Jewish cemetery destroyed by the Nazis during the Greek Occupation, family and religious heirlooms, as well as old Jewish newspapers and costumes. The Holocaust Room, an emotionally charged space, includes items from the Nazi crematoriums, yellow stars worn by Jews in the ghettos, and the authentic metal press used to make these.
Enjoy lunch at the top of the city, the Heptapyrgion fortress, and enjoy the vista of the city below. Conclude the day with a panoramic bus tour, stopping at important sites, such as the White Tower and the Arch of Galerius.
Enjoy kosher dinner.
March 17 After breakfast, leave town for a full day tour to Veria and Vergina.
Veria was the second most significant town, after Aigai, during the blooming ancient Macedonian years. From the 11th to the 14th century it was the third most important city of the Byzantine Empire, after Istanbul and Thessaloniki. Stroll through the Jewish Quarter next to the river with its cobblestone streets and imposing mansions. The quarter is located next to Barbouta area, whose name comes from an old fountain. The Jewish Synagogue, with its rich interior decoration, was built in 1850; it’s the oldest in northern Greece and one of the oldest in Europe.
Continue to Vergina to see the historical site of Aigai. The city of Aigai, the ancient first capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia, was discovered in the 19th century near Vergina, in northern Greece. The most important remains are the monumental palace, lavishly decorated with mosaics and painted stuccoes, and the burial ground with more than 300 tumuli, some of which date from the 11th century B.C. One of the royal tombs in the Great Tumulus is identified as that of Philip II, who conquered all the Greek cities, paving the way for his son Alexander and the expansion of the Hellenistic world.
Afternoon return to Thessaloniki and kosher dinner.
March 18 After breakfast continue learning about ancient Macedonia and visit the ancient site of Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great. Recent extensions to the site, the attractive restoration of many parts of the city and the opening of the new museum have made Pella an important and must see spot.
Drive towards Aristotle’s school. A place of universal interest, the ruins of Aristotle’s School, is a found only 2 kilometers away from the contemporary Naoussa, at the district of Isvoria. Here is the place with the racing water and the deeply-shaded caves, mentioned by the ancient writers, where the greatest philosopher of the antiquity taught the greatness of classical Greek thought and the ideals of the Platonic philosophy to Alexander the Great and the other nobles of the Macedonian court.
Continue to Edessa town for some free time around the cities famous waterfalls. The city is filled with little bridges and the sound of running water will accompany your strolls around the town.
Return to Thessaloniki for kosher dinner in a restaurant.
March 19 After breakfast conclude our lovely tour in Thessaloniki. Visit the Jewish Cemetery, an anchor of the long standing Jewish community of the city. The cemetery was established at the end of the 15th-century, when Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal arrived in Greece.
Visit the Holocaust Monument in Freedom Square. Since 1997, a monument in the center of Thessaloniki commemorates the city’s murdered Jews. Only a few hundred members of what was once the largest Jewish community in Greece lived to return home.
After lunch, spend time strolling around the Modiano and Bezesteni covered markets. Modiano market was built by architect Eli Modiano. Coming from a renowned Jewish family of Thessaloniki, Eli was the son of the banker Jacob (Yako) Modiano. He studied architecture in Paris, France and returned to Thessaloniki where he created some of the city’s most important buildings, including the Modiano Market.
The essence of the East passes through the multi color market of Bezesteni, one of the most characteristic structures of Ottoman period, and simultaneously one of the few markets worldwide, maintaining their original use for more than 500 years. Most of the stores currently occupying the market, still sell textiles and jewelry.
Transfer to the airport for departure in the afternoon. Arrive to Tel Aviv via Athens around 10PM.
Price: AACI members 1,795 Euro per person in a double room Non-AACI member 1,870 Euro per person in a double room Single supplement 250 Euro / Credit for not taking the flights: 300 Euro Currency converter
Round trip flights from Israel
4 nights 5 star hotel
All entrances listed above
Kosher Breakfast and dinner, packed lunches
Transportation in air conditioned coach
Local guides for the excursions and visits
Porterage at hotels and tips for drivers and guides