Thessaloniki, the Greek city which is usually known as the birth place of Mustafa Kemal, Turkey’s first president is also host of many Ottoman works of art most of which are scrambling to survive despite lack of restoration. ‘The Pearl of Balkans’ Thessaloniki experienced outflow of its Turkish population due to the destructive effects of Balkan Wars and population exchange between Turkey and Greece, but the reminiscent of Ottoman times are still standing.
Alaca İmaret mosque, built by İshak Pasha, one of the grandvezirs Sultan Fatih, the conqueror. The construction of the mosque was completed in 1484 when İshak Pasha was the local governor of Thessaloniki. Having been damaged following the earthquake in 1978 the mosque was renovated by Greek Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Today, Alaca İmaret Mosque is closed for Muslims who want to pray inside it, however, it has served as an exhibition center run by the municipality since 1986. Despite long and insistent demands from Muslims, the mosque only opened its doors to Mıslim prayers in the last Ramadan, Muslims’ holy month.
Another historical monument New Hamam was sponsored by Hüsrev Kethüda who lived in the city in the second half of 16th century. After 1919, the Hamam was used as cinema, storehouse and restaurant respectively. Today it is a cultural center.
The city named after influential Ottoman statesman
Hamza Bey Mosque is another reminder that the city had been ruled by Ottomans. Senior governor of Anatolia Hamza Bey who also led Ottoman army took over Thessaloniki gave his name to the mosque which was completed in 1468 eight year after Hamza Bey died. Despite it was damaged after earthquakes with renovations the mosque survives till day.
The largest hamam of Greece is in Thessaloniki. Built in Murat the second era, the hamam was known as the ‘Cennet Hamamı’ which means hamam of the paradise. The other hamam in the city is the Yahudi Hamamı (Jewish Hamam). The hamam is partially renovated and open to visitors.
The symbol of Thessaloniki, White Tower is estimated to be built when the city was under Venice control. Destructed numerous times and rebuilt again, the tower was lastly renovated by legendary Ottoman architect Sinan. In Ottoman times, the tower was used as a prison. The reason why it is called as White Tower roots back to 1878 when it was painted white. The White Tower is today a museum, one of the most visited touristic points.
Located on crests of the city, another tower, this one built by Ottoman commander Çavuş Bey inside the Byzantine castle in 1431, is Zincirli Kule. Also having been used as prison, Zincirli Kule is now an open air museum and mesmerizes visitors with unique view.
Derya Koseoglu - Kuzey News Agency