In Veria, part a

And somehow, after a ton of images, tastes, acquaintances, knowledge and experiences we reached our last destination, Veria. From Elatochori we returned again further north, at a distance of 39 km, 50 minutes by car.

In the first part of our last travel article from the tribute to Western and Central Macedonia we are staying in Veria, in the Kokkino Spiti, take walks in the streets of the city, photograph its numerous churches, visit the Step of the Apostle Paul, try the famous revani and eat in the excellent 12°grada restaurant.

The road from Elatochori to Veria is really very beautiful. The reason? Because it passes next to Aliakmonas, the largest river in our country that originates within its borders. A unique place for stopping and photography is the Aliakmonas Dam, close to Veria. The landscape is beautiful, green and blue, with an amazing view. The lakeside area of Aliakmonas is an area of the Natura 2000 Network, and rightly so of course!

The Aliakmonas river
The Aliakmonas River Dam
View to Aliakmonas from a point of the route

With these wonderful images in mind we reached full of fun Veria. Veria is the capital of the Regional Unit of Imathia in Central Macedonia, built at the foot of Vermio. It is a lively city, with so many attractions that unfortunately in two days we would not have time to visit them all… In Veria we would be hosted by the Kokkino Spiti Boutique Hotel, in the Jewish Quarter of the city.

Walking to our hotel we passed over the city river, Tripotamos. Veria is a city endowed with plenty of water. The large Aliakmonas and the small Tripotamos have been flowing non-stop near it and inside it for centuries, rivers that provided the water supply and irrigation of the city, as well as the energy from the waterfalls. Especially Tripotamos is formed by three streams, which join in one near the last houses at the southwestern end of Veria.

Passing over one of the streams that form Tripotamos

So our first image of the city was its Jewish Quarter. As we were told in our hotel, the coexistence of Greeks, Jews and Turks made from the 16th century onwards Veria an important commercial and cultural path. The town mansions and the beautiful Jewish Quarter testify to the rich past. The Jewish Quarter is located next to the site Barbuta, which as we read owes its name to a fountain in the area that is still preserved today, northwest of the city, next to the river Tripotamos.

The Kokkino Spiti in the Jewish Quarter of Veria

The Kokkino Spiti Boutique Hotel that would host us is a fantastic building of the 19th century, a mansion completely renovated to house a modern hotel, the creation of Christos and Anastasia Sioukiouroglou. At the hotel we were welcomed by Mrs. Anastasia and she gave us an introduction to what we would meet in their beautiful city. She told us that she manages the hotel herself, together with her daughter Mrs. Vera, and we have to say that they really do a fantastic job!

Mrs. Anastasia stressed that Veria has a history of thousands of years, from at least 2000 BC is located next to Aigai, the great kingdom of the Macedonians. The first settlements of the newer city were the Christian and Jewish Quarters in which we were located. In fact, as Mrs. Anastasia told us, the Jewish Quarter is one of the two purely Jewish quarters in Europe – the second is in Seville.

The entrance to Kokkino Spiti
Inside the rooms of Kokkino Spiti (source)

Kokkino Spiti, like all the buildings in the area, was, therefore, a Jewish house, and a rich one, in fact, as can be seen from its characteristics, the windows, the glass that they were able to maintain. They made a great effort to bring the building exactly to its old image. The rooms have, for example, 200-year-old chestnut woods!

Happy in the yard of our hotel

At a very close distance from Kokkino Spiti is the Jewish Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Northern Greece and one of the oldest in Europe. It was built in 1850 and today continues to operate occasionally. It is, therefore, a living monument of the timeless presence of the Jews in the city. In fact, as we read, one of the points that the Apostle Paul taught, apart from the Step of the Apostle Paul that we would visit later, is the ancient synagogue that they believe was located in the same place as today.

The Jewish Synagogue functioned as the center of life of the city’s Jewish community until May 1, 1943, when most of the Jews of Veria were captured by the occupying forces and taken to concentration camps. Thus, dramatically, their long presence in the city ended.

The Jewish Synagogue
The Jewish Synagogue (source)

Continuing our walk around our hotel, we saw another very beautiful building, the Beka Mansion, which houses the committees of Primary and Secondary Education and the Archive of Professor Moutsopoulos with material of traditional and ecclesiastical architecture. As we later learned, the mansion was built in 1859 and belonged to a wealthy Jewish merchant. It has rich architectural decoration, in baroque and rococo rhythms and abroad we saw original murals that are preserved to this day.

The Beka Mansion

Passing through these important buildings of the district we reached our destination. The Kokkino Spiti Boutique Hotel also has a second mansion, next to the red mansion. In total, three listed buildings in the area have been restored and they have become area’s jewelry again, as they were in the past.

The second preserved mansion of the Kokkino Spiti

The restoration of the second mansion, as Mrs. Anastasia told us, was accompanied by an archeological research, which shows the previous houses that existed at this point. They even found a Byzantine pipeline in the city.

In this wonderful mansion was also the beautiful room where we would stay. Like all spaces of the hotel, the reception area was elegantly decorated, with stone and wood, with warm carpets and genuine antiques that adorned the space.

As soon as we saw our room, we went crazy! With earthy tones, wooden ceiling and floor, stone walls, comfortable beds, clean and well-kept bathroom and all the comforts it was just wonderful, truly classy! Going out on its balcony we found that its beautiful interior is accompanied by an equally impressive view… What more can we ask for!

Our room at the Kokkino Spiti Boutique Hotel
In the bathroom of our room

As you can understand, we were very much looking forward to walking the streets of the city, to see its daily life, its people, its sights and its beauties. The rest of our article is dedicated to our long walk in the city.

A walk in the streets of Veria:

Veria is a city full of life. Public buildings, shops, cafes and restaurants compose a diverse image, full of life and color. It is a pedestrian-friendly city, with many sidewalks and two large squares, Orologio Square and Elias Square, which are crowded. We wanted to get a taste of everything, so we started a walking tour and captured the points that caught our interest in our photos.

Scattered throughout the city are buildings of the city’s Ottoman past. Veria remained under Ottoman occupation from 1430 to 1912 and was one of the cities with the largest percentage of Turkish inhabitants. The Greeks lived in the Christian mahalades around the churches, while the Turks in the Muslim mahalades around the mosques.

In the background one of the mosques of the city

One of the buildings that impressed us is the Courthouse of Veria. We learned that it was built by the Turks in the last years of the occupation of the city and served as a Command Office. In the square in front of it, the city was handed over by the Turkish Commander to the Greek army on October 16, 1912, a national holiday for Veria.

Orologio Square, or Raktivan Square, where the Courthouse is located, is one of the two large squares of Veria. Its name is due to the fact that there used to be a clock on it, built into a tower of the northwestern wall of the city. Based on what we have read, its construction is attributed to the king of Serbia Stefano Dusan between 1345-1350, who after the conquest of Veria restored much of the city walls. Today, a new fountain adorns the large, beautiful square.

The old clock of Veria (source)
The recent fountain in Orologio square

Another stop we made on our walk was the Twin Baths of Sinan of Alata, which we read were built before 1640, year during which they were repaired according to written sources. Until the middle of the last century they functioned as public baths, since the houses did not have a bath. One bath was for men and the other for women. Today they have been preserved and host periodical exhibitions, as well as a collection of marble sculptures from the Byzantine and Ottoman periods.

The Twin Baths

One of the characteristic landmarks of modern life in the city is its City Hall. Every year, the parade that celebrates the national holiday of October 16, the day of the liberation of Veria, passes in front of the City Hall.

The parade of October 16 (source)

A tour of the city of Veria must definitely end at Elia Square, which has an incredible view of the entire plain of Imathia. The plain, as we mentioned in our article about Naoussa, presents a unique phenomenon in spring… It turns all pink from the blooming peaches! In fact, many efforts are being made by the Veria Tourist Club for its promotion, with very satisfactory results, Mrs. Anastasia told us at the Kokkino Spiti.

Monument of the National Resistance
The plain of Imathia is painted all pink in spring!

We reached the edge of the city and continued our walk in its streets, this time wanting to pay attention to its shops, with the ultimate goal of reaching our favorite item: the patisserie of course!

In the pedestrian shopping center of the city

One of the things that should not be missed is to try the traditional revani of Veria. Revani is a delicious, syrupy traditional dessert, one of our favorites. Especially when it is made by such an experienced company. In the patisserie of Hochliouros we found exclusively revani, and we did not need anything more! Hochliouros revani is so delicious that queues are formed all day outside the store. But it is really worth the wait!

The patisserie of Hochliouros

Mr. Sophocles Hochliouros found some time and left his shop to talk to us and we thank him very much for that. He told us that their story begins in 1886, with his great-grandfather, Georgios Hochliouros, who had built a small dairy-pastry shop. He was known for his yogurt, and he also made some syrupy sweets. Mr. Sophocles and his brothers, George and Nicholas, are the fourth generation to now run their highly successful business. They are in the patisserie from young children, they have literally grown up there.

Inside the patisserie of Hochliouros

The store slowly evolved and experienced great growth after the occupation, in the 50’s and 60’s. Then there was a real explosion, with a lot of work, customers from all over Greece and from all over the world. After the 60’s the patisserie made exclusively revani, and this is what its customers, who came every year, were looking for. The revani stood out, since it was made with a special recipe of the great-grandfather, based on yogurt, which evolved over the years. Now, with so much work to do, even if they wanted to make something other than their revani, they would not have time!

Hochliouros revani is made entirely by hand, in the traditional way, and that is why they do not have the possibility for a very large production. As Mr. Sophocles told us, it is a very tedious job, which starts at dawn so that their revani is fresh every day. Every day they sell from 40-50 to 100 kilos of revani!

With Mr. Sophocles Hochliouros outside the family business

Hochliouros revani was really delicious! We warmly thank Mr. Sophocles for the treat, it was wonderful!

Our walk in the city was fantastic! But what really characterizes the city of Veria are its ecclesiastical sights, the great Step of the Apostle Paul and its numerous Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches. So, we went on our tour to see as many as we could!

In the religious monuments of the city:

Of course, the first part we wanted to see up close was the Step of the Apostle Paul, located at a short distance from Orologio Square. As we read in a brochure given to us by the most kind Mr. Petros, who has a souvenir business opposite the Step of the Apostle Paul, Apostle Paul visited Veria at least twice, in 56 AD and at the beginning of 57 AD during his journey from Asia Minor to Greece. Both the people of Veria and the Jews of the city welcomed his sermon with great warmth, compared to other parts of Greece.

The passage of the Apostle Paul through the city and the repercussions of his sermon show the importance that Veria had for the first steps of Christianity and the role it played in its spread.

The Step of the Apostle Paul

The monument called the Step of the Apostle Paul preserves the Roman tablets of the 1st century on which, according to tradition, Apostle Paul stood during his sermon on the Gospel, faith, salvation and love. The monument, therefore, has a huge historical, religious and emotional value and we really felt awe and emotion that we were standing at this point…

The Roman tablets of the 1st century on which Apostle Paul stood

Something very interesting that we learned is that every year, every June, for 20 years the Holy Diocese of Veria, Naoussa and Campania organizes in honor of the Apostle Paul the “Pavlia”, artistic and cultural events culminating in the International Scientific Pavlia Conferences, with the participation of scientists from Greek and foreign universities, as well as the evening service held at the Step of the Apostle Paul on the day of his feast, June 29th. We would love to be in June at these events!

The statue of Apostle Paul, Apostle of the Nations, donated by the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Academy of Arts
The souvenir shop of Mr. Petros, who with great love distributes to the visitors information leaflets about the monument and the city! We thank him very much for such important information!

The monument of Apostle Paul is one of the most important sights of the city, but it has many more… The Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches that are preserved in Veria are 48! In fact, they have designated the city “Little Jerusalem”. We tried to see as many as we could, and the ones we chose to show are selected indicatively, the religious wealth of the city is honestly huge… Come and see them together again! We got the information about the churches from the rich website Discover Veria.

First stop, Panagia Faneromeni. The temple was built around the end of the 16th century. It took its name from the icon-pilgrimage of the Virgin Faneromeni which dates back to the 13th century and is located in the deaconry of the church.

The Virgin Faneromeni

Next stop, Christ or the Monastery of the Savior Christ of Kalothetos, one of the most impressive and well-preserved Byzantine temples of the city, which was inaugurated in 1315. The temple is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ. Both internally and externally, it is adorned with rare murals. The interior hagiographies are the work of the great Thessaloniki painter of the Paleolithic Renaissance, Georgios Kalliergis, one of the most important hagiographers of the time.

The Monastery of the Savior Christ
Inside the church (source)
The newest Church of Agion
Anargyron

Saint Nikolaos of Gourna was built at the beginning of the 15th century, with frescoes in the niche of the sanctuary dating to the first years of its construction. Inside, there are also later frescoes of the 17th century.

The entrance to Saint Nikolaos of Gourna (source)

And a cultural stop on our religious journey, the Vlachogianni Museum of Modern History and Art. It is housed in a preserved building, donated by the Vlachogiannis family to the Holy Diocese of Veria, Naoussa and Campania. Initially it functioned as a Museum of Modern History and Art, while today it functions as a Museum of the Macedonian Struggle and houses the collection of military uniforms and equipment of Mr. Kanellos Dodos.

The Vlachogianni Museum of Modern History and Art

Continuing our religious tour, we came by Agios Fanourios or Agios Nikolaos Psaras. This church was built at the end of the 16th century and in the sanctuary one can see 17th century frescoes.

Agios Fanourios or Agios Nikolaos Psaras
On the feast of Saint Fanourios (source)
The Church of Saint Georgios

We had the pleasure to find the Holy Temple of Agios Antonios open! The church was built in the years 1869-1862 and is dedicated to the patron saint of Veria, Saint Antonios the Younger. It is a representative example of the ecclesiastical architecture and art of the 19th century.

The Church of Saint Antonios the Younger

Saint Anthonios the Younger, as we have read, lived with restraint and exhausting fasting in order to avoid the pride with which the devil tried to drag him into the fall. His fame had spread so much that so many people visited him in his cave to enjoy his blessing. The Saint, however, sought absolute silence, so he left his cave and retired to a deserted place near the river. After much suffering and rigorous practice he returned to the cave, where he received the faithful until his old age. After he passed, he remained in the cave for sixteen days, with a light burning over his relic, until hunters found him unharmed and full of fragrance.

There was a great disagreement between the clergy and the people about where Saint Antonios would be buried. So they decided to place his holy relic on a cart pulled by oxen and let it find its destination on its own. The cart ended up in the city of Veria, in the courtyard of the church of Panagia Kamariotissis, where the paternal home of Saint Anthonios was located. The Saint was buried there and in the middle of the 19th century the majestic church that honors his memory was erected.

Inside the Holy Temple of Saint Antonios
Saint Anthonios the Younger
The holy relics of Saint Antonios

The last small church that we will host in our article is the Church of Agia Paraskevi. It was built in the 14th century and received significant interventions between the 15th and 18th centuries. The monument preserves valuable frescoes from the time of its construction, in the 14th century until the 18th century, which stand out for their originality and bright colors, as well as the strong style of the figures they represent.

Agia Paraskevi

Unfortunately the Byzantine and post-Byzantine churches of the city were closed and we could not see their beautiful frescoes up close. We hope we were able to give you an idea of the religious wealth of the city of Veria. Walking in its streets, the evening came, and we found ourselves back at the Step of Apostle Paul, which is beautifully illuminated at night.

At the Step of Apostle Paul at night

For dinner we had arranged to visit a very good restaurant in the city, the 12° grada, an alternative proposal of Mediterranean flavors and quality Greek wine. With a wonderful exterior and interior, in an elegant building by the river Tripotamos, the restaurant had impeccable service, a friendly atmosphere and of course great food and wine!

The restaurant 12° grada

The 12° grada is a family business of the three Samouka brothers, chef Giannis, in charge of the menu and dishes, Manolis, in charge of the store with a role in the bar, and Thanasis, in charge of the wine list with local wines, but also from all over Greece. Mr. Thanasis had the kindness to introduce us to their philosophy. He told us that they are very interested in pairing the wine with the food, so that the customer has a good experience thanks to the location, the space, the music, the atmosphere in general.

The restaurant started in 2012, in the midst of the crisis, when the three brothers joined forces to build a nice place, in a non-commercial part of the city, opposite their father’s refugee paternal home. They identified a shortage in the city of Veria for the type of gourmet cuisine they offer and so seized the opportunity. Veria, Mr. Thanasis told us, is a place that serves as a base for the surrounding points of interest and in the last ten years has developed very touristically with good hotels and restaurants. Its cuisine is influenced by Pontic and Vlach cuisine and old local recipes; the city has always been a patchwork of cultures – locals, Jews, refugees, Pontians, Vlachs, people with roots from Metsovo, Samarina, the mountains, with their animals, their meats, their cheeses… There was a great gastronomic tradition!

Rose from Xinomavro of 2020 from the estate of Apostolos Thymiopoulos, from the vineyards of Trilofos, Imathia, PDO zone Naoussa

In the 12° grada they try to represent the tradition with an extra touch, with the vision of the chef, as the chef Mr. Giannis told us, to marry the tradition of the area, but not only, with modern techniques. They are looking to find the deep flavor, something you will not easily cook at home. They try to keep prices at a level so that one can come, despite the difficult times, although it is not always easy. The restaurant operates with ISO and has taken all precautionary measures against Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. The customer at the restaurant is a friend and guest, he comes and goes again and of course they remember him. In winter, inside the restaurant, everyone becomes a company, as it functions as a wine bar. Also, in the 12° grada, wine pairing events take place, which are a celebration for Veria. They have stopped them due to the pandemic, but as soon as the situation improves they will start again!

Enjoying our wine next to the wonderful view

Mr. Thanasis told us that the products they use they try to come mainly from producers of the area and the surrounding areas. They have been collaborating for years with producers and gardens that bring them what they produce extra. When, of course, there is a lot of demand garden products do not suffice, but again traders they try to be from the area. For meat, they visit the production units to find out where they come from; they do not work at all with imported and frozen meat. This is one reason they do not have fish on the list. Once upon a time they had fish of the day from friends who did snorkeling and even when they find fresh fish they put it on the menu as a dish of the day.

A wonderful meal together with a quality wine, what an enjoyment!

The restaurant menu is seasonal with seasonal vegetables and seasonal dishes. For example, in summer it has no soups. In winter it has chestnut, pumpkin, while in summer eggplant. The wine list is dynamic and has years that are considered important for the producer, with Greek and foreign varieties from Greek wineries. This is a difficult process that requires space to properly age the wines; fortunately at 12° grada they have a large cellar, half of which is in the soil. People have welcomed this effort very well. In the summer no one wanted the wine of the year that was running, everyone was asking for wines from previous years. These wines are hard to find, we must note!

Cheers!

Excellent wine, and respectively a quality and full of flavor food! See everything we enjoyed, it was honestly delicious…

Tomato salad with tomato, cherry tomatoes, baby arugula, tomato bread croutons, anthotiro cheese, walnut dressing and tomato emulsion
Pontian Perek, a pie that the grandmothers made in large ovens and kept dry in their cupboards. To consume it, they watered it, put stuffing and quickly prepared it in the pan. Here with Imathia sour cheese, beef pasturma, sumac, sun-dried tomatoes and red pepper powder.
Cabbage dolmades, a traditional dish of Imathia, with millet instead of rice, bantzo (salty cheese produced in Naoussa) and Cretan siglino in a leaf of Xinomavro grapes with white Xinomavro sauce
Homemade pork chops with pastourma butter, seasonal vegetables and dressing
Varenika, handmade Pontian pasta, a vegetarian dish with feta and walnut, in pepper sauce and walnut pesto

In the 12° grada you can try very tasty cocktails, for which Mr. Manolis is responsible. They were not so much interested in making their own signature cocktails, as in achieving the taste of the classics very well, the same as drinking them abroad, they told us.

Revani with Chios mastic cream and sweet sour cherry
Armenovil, a traditional dessert of Thessaloniki, which is becoming more and more famous, here in a restaurant version: semifreddo with caramelized nuts, chocolate and caramel
Brothers Samuka, Thanasis, Giannis and Manolis outside their excellent restaurant

After this wonderful meal we will say goodbye to you at night in Veria and we will return soon with the continuation of our stay in this beautiful city, in the last article of our great tribute to Western and Central Macedonia. Do not miss it!

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Giannis Pit says:

    Ευτυχώς που μπορούμε και εμείς οι ταπεινοί, να βλέπουμε τις ομορφιές της πατρίδας μας, μέσα από τέτοιες μαγικές δικτυακές περιπλανήσεις. Καλησπέρα.

    Like

  2. Willow Croft says:

    Love the photos, too! That one of the hills and fields with all the pink was amazing! Another fascinating post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words dear!

      Liked by 1 person

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