Thessaloniki is no Athens — at least in efforts to unify its ancient sites

The successful unification of the archaeological sites of Athens, despite the obstacles that had to be overcome, could prove to be a model for Thessaloniki, according to the Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE)’s Central Macedonia Department, which is rallying local organizations in order to form a united front in its campaign to convince the central government of the idea. A symposium held in Thessaloniki last fall raised the issue for the first time, not so much as a cultural issue as a subject for scientific debate. Representing the state at the symposium was the general director of the Culture Ministry, Christos Zachopoulos, an encouraging sign for the organizers. Less promising was the absence of a representative from the 16th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, although an invitation had been issued. A few days later, it became clear why. The Association of Greek Archaeologists issued a statement to the effect that «the country’s archaeological sites come under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Culture Ministry.» Conflict had broken out during the unification process in Athens, when archaeologists felt that architects were intruding on their turf. Yet the issue is chiefly political and there has been no official statement yet, although all local organizations are in favor of the idea. Makis Nikolopoulos, an architect and member of the TEE of Central Macedonia, said that the experience of Athens should be utilized. There is no question of duplicating the Athens model given the differences between the two cities. In Thessaloniki, the main archaeological sites cannot be linked in one continuous pedestrian route as in Athens. Two separate routes follow the city wall, while the central sector is the only one with any morphological and conceptual homogeneity. In 1997, when Thessaloniki was Cultural Capital of Europe, there was an initial attempt to highlight the three routes, but plans eventually focused solely on the central one from the Egnatia to Mitropoleos Street, and even that only in a fragmentary way.

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