ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Northern Greece: Unknown Joy

Updated on February 7, 2008

Little-known Northern Greece is the True Greece

Normally when people travel throughout Greece, they aim for the well-known sites such as Kerkira (Corfu), Thira (Santorini), Crete, the multitude of other islands (of which there are over 3,000 to choose from (though more than half are uninhabited), and of course, mighty Athens. Yet strangely enough, people rarely venture away from these well-known hot spots, into lesser-known, more intriguing places, particularly on the mainland. For a taste of the unknown yet truly exciting, when traveling Greece give hearty consideration to the northern mainland.

As Greece is such an antique land, the ideas and customs of each region have become highly evolved and ingrained, giving each region its own special flavor. So while an outsider might think of all things Greek coming down to the likes of Alexis Zorba, the hero of Nikos Kazantzakis’ famed “Zorba the Greek,” the truth is that all Greeks do not necessarily identify with Zorba, or even necessarily participate in his famous dance (which is a relatively new phenomenon anyway). This is, to reiterate, as each region is as clearly distinct as France is from Belgium, or in some cases, as Italy is from Ethiopia. For this, Greece is all the more interesting then, as each region has its own identity to share with the lucky traveler who happens by.

So, to try a new flavor of adventure ice cream, head north. The history of Greece, like many nations, has shown a great variety in both the histories and attitudes between the north and the south. In the Golden age of Greece and thereafter, northern Greece was often left in the shadow of the south, which produced places such as Sparta and Athens. However, nearly 400 years Before the Common Era (B.C.), a king named Phillipus II came into power and united the north, only to, in turn, reign in the power of the illustrious south of Greece, under his direction. This caused much anxiety and resentment from the south, especially under the drawn-out military campaign of Phillip’s son, Alexander. A similar north-south issue arose in World War I when the two regions could not decide whether to join the war at all, or join the English side (though the King of Greece favored Germany) The rest, as it is said, is history. However, the south and north have never really come completely to terms with each other. So it goes.

The second city of Greece, found in the north, is Thessaloniki, oft known as Salonika to many Europeans. Philip’s son-in-law, Cassander of Macedon founded this beautiful town in approximately 315 BCE after a battle with the Thessalians, and the name of the city boasts just this, meaning “Victory over the Thessalians.” It claims a modest population of just over a million people in the greater metropolitan area and is nestled right against the Thermaic Gulf leaving her weather, even in the winter, relatively comfortable. Like other cities, Thessaloniki is rather metropolitan in spirit, with plenty of places to visit, and even has one of the finest universities in Greece, and also its largest, Aristotle University. The town’s symbol is the Lefkos Pyrgos, The White Tower.

This tower has a history dating back to 16th century Ottoman Empire, when it was originally known as the red tower for its formerly bloody history. The social scene in this modest city is pleasant, as with most places in Greece, as cafes are ubiquitous for the coffee-loving Greeks. In addition to all of its other sites, Thessaloniki makes an excellent soft landing into northern Greece.

When speaking of coffee in Greek culture, few towns come quicker to mind that Ptolemaida. This town is found in the periphery of Western Macedonia, about 2 hour’s driving distance west of Thessaloniki. There, one can discuss life with one’s friends, drinking a Greek Coffee (known as Turkish Coffee to most people) or a “Nes” –a Nescafe instant coffee that tastes better than any instant coffee imaginable. Also absolutely outstanding for the cafes of Ptolemaida specifically, are the hot chocolate drinks, comparable only to the hot chocolates of Paris. There are many flavors, such as hazelnut, caramel, and even coconut. Try one of these and you will never forget Ptolemaida.

Ptolemaida is also known for its sweets shops. Here one can find chocolate of a quality that will raise the eyebrows of even Belgians and the Swiss. If you enter such a shop with thoughts of only purchasing a modest amount, you might just surprise yourself at what you walk away with, for “'Tolie” chocolate is simply divine. The town itself is a fun place to visit for at least a few weeks. The heart of the town is the town square or plateia, where social and political happenings occur, as well as social gatherings during times like Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

While Ptolemaida is not considered outstanding by many of the Greeks in the region, it does make the perfect hub to launch short trips from as around Ptolemaida are many exciting places to visit during the day, such as Florina, Pella, Vergina, Kozani (the capital of the prefecture of the same name), the very lovely Kastoria (nestled within the cleft of a U-shaped lake), and the amazingly charming and beautiful Nimphaeo, a stone village high atop a mountain, voted the second most beautiful village in all of Europe. For more information on these towns, see my upcoming hubs on each of these towns, as well as a more detailed tour of Ptolemaida and Thessaloniki. Happy travels!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)