The second most populated city in Greece is located in the northern part of the country. Named after the sister of Alexander the Great, Thessaloniki is a city rich in history. But it’s also one of the most mysterious places in Greece. After discovering the mysteries of Athens and the Greek islands, today we unearth the most exciting, peculiar, and dark parts of the “nymph of the Thermaic Gulf”, as the city is called. Keep in mind that these are real locations in Thessaloniki; but the stories surrounding them are based on rumors, rather than facts.
4 Mysterious Places in Thessaloniki, Greece:
- Kipoi tou Pasha (Pasha’s Gardens)
- Odos Mavris Petras (Black Rock Street)
- The Red House of Thessaloniki
- The Roman Hippodrome
The Cursed Roman Hippodrome
June 20, 1978, was unusually hot. People in Thessaloniki were already preparing for the night. Some were returning home after meeting with friends. Others were getting ready for bed and way too many were already sleeping. Or, perhaps, the heat kept them restless, tossing and turning for hours. But that summer night gave them another reason to stay awake.
At 23:03, the whole city was shaken to its core. Literally. An earthquake of 6.2/6.5 magnitude, which was later described as “severe” (VIII Mercalli intensity), had hit Thessaloniki. Hundreds of people were injured and thousands of buildings either collapsed or appeared to have irreparable damages. But this earthquake was also deadly. It took the lives of 49 people (estimate), most of whom were trapped in the same block of flats at the heart of the city.
Earthquakes are not a common occurrence in Thessaloniki. After the incident, many rumors spread around the city. Many locals found it odd that the biggest tragedy occurred in one apartment building. A building that was rumored to be cursed by the souls of tens of thousands of innocent people that were executed at that same spot in 392 AD.
According to some locals, the building was built at the center of what once was the Roman Hippodrome of Thessaloniki, parts of which have survived over the years. In 392 AD, the Roman emperor Theodosius the Great reportedly ordered the execution of approximately 7.000-18.000 innocent people. The hippodrome was the only place he could gather them all. He wanted to make a show of strength, after being criticized by the public for his extreme taxation measures and brutal suppression methods. A group of locals had also attacked a group of Goths who were used by Theodosius to gather the taxes.
The scene was brutal. According to the rumors, the marble floor of the hippodrome was soaked in the blood of those executed. The locals were not allowed to pay tribute to the dead, leaving thousands of souls restless. Eventually, family members of the victims found the courage to pay tribute to them; an act that became an annual tradition, that was later followed by complete strangers. They built a column with the names of all the victims that, according to an urban legend, it bled once a year.
Centuries passed by and the city of Thessaloniki now looked much different than how it looked in the 4th Century AD. A block of flats made of cement stood to the exact spot where the column once stood. However, few people were willing to reside there. Rumor had it that every new family that moved there, would receive a book with the history of the neighborhood. Locals said that certain apartment walls would bleed once a year, with the residents getting used to this phenomenon. On that day, strange people would visit the area to sing hymns in old Greek.
This building no longer exists. It was the one that collapsed after the earthquake of 1978, taking the lives of 37 people. On the exact same spot that the marble was once soaked in the blood of thousands of innocent people. The story blends history with mythology. What we do know is that the area covering the old hippodrome of Thessaloniki is one of the city’s most mysterious places.
The Red House of Thessaloniki
Many Greek cities, including Athens, failed to maintain their old charm. Their architectural wonders, such as their neoclassical buildings, have been destroyed or left to rot. But Thessaloniki might be an exception. The second most populated Greek city is known for its prestigious architectural gems. By strolling through the city you will find many Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Eclectic buildings from the late 19th Century.
A building that stands out is the so-called “Red House” of Thessaloniki. The three-story mansion has a distinct red brick exterior, hence its name. In reality, it is called “Megaro Longou” (Longos Mansion) and it has been listed by the Greek Ministry of Culture for preservation. The architectural style is described as “Neobyzantine”.
The building is located in Agias Sofias Square in the center of Thessaloniki. It was designed in 1926 to house the wealthy family of Grigorios Longos, a textile industrialist. As soon as the mansion was built, the Longos family reportedly went bankrupt. The same happened to the company that constructed the building. Although this era is known as the Great Depression, rumors spread regarding the hypothetical curse of the building.
Although a part of the ground floor is now a business, nobody resides in the above apartments. However, locals often report seeing an old couple entering the building late at night, without keys. Others have seen pale faces in some of the top windows. Due to its red exterior and unique design, some believe that vampires reside in the Longos Mansion. Kids often avoid passing by the building late at night.
Odos Mavris Petras (Black Rock Street)
Ano Poli is an area located in the northern part of Thessaloniki. Built on rocky, hilly land, the historical neighborhood is known for its stone-paved alleys and traditional houses. A visitor or even a local can easily get lost in Ano Poli. And it might be hard finding your way back with your smartphone map. While wandering in the neighborhood, it feels like traveling back in time. No cars or modern buildings on sight.
But there is one specific alley that seems to cause visitors to get lost in time and space. That is the Odos Mavris Petras, the Black Rock Street. This small alley normally leads to a dead-end. However, rumor has it that, if you wander around after midnight, the street might reveal to you some hidden parts of Ano Poli. Others say that it might lead you to parallel dimensions or even back in time. Similarly to what happened to the protagonist in the movie “Midnight in Paris”.
This urban myth might have been inspired by a sci-fi story by Pantelis Giannoulakis. However, others suggest that the sci-fi story was the one inspired by people’s testimonies. Rumor has it that the alley got its name from a large black rock that once fell from the sky and landed on that exact spot. Since then, late at night, a portal to other dimensions opens for the adventure seekers.
Kipoi tou Pasha (Pasha’s Gardens)
The most mysterious-looking place in Thessaloniki, Greece, is located near the previously mentioned street. The Pasha’s Gardens, also known as Dragon Houses, are basically a large green oasis in Ano Poli.
Constructed in 1904, they combine greenery with peculiar ruins made of stone. According to some, these constructions were inspired by Antoni Gaudi and Catalan Modernism. Nobody knows who designed this interesting landmark. However, locals say that the architect was Italian.
Since the gardens have many mysterious constructions, such as an underground passage that leads nowhere, as long as some esoteric symbols, the urban legends surrounding it are endless. It is said that the stones used for the unique constructions were all hit by lightning. Also, rumor has it that the gardens were the meeting place of Ottoman freemasons. Did any human and animal sacrifices take place there?
Although the landmark is supposed to be a place of relaxation for its visitors, many people report feeling nauseous and uneasy upon arrival. It is considered a location that is full of energy, with some describing it as “mostly negative”. Regardless of whether these rumors are true or not, the Pasha’s Gardens of Thessaloniki are truly mysterious.