From antiquity to creativity

By Erik Nilsson ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-12-28 08:37:01

From antiquity to creativity

Thessaloniki's massive installation of metal mesh umbrellas is an icon of the city's identity as a hive of creativity.[Photo by Erik Nilsson/ China Daily]

Naked bike rides. A pride parade. A "love your garbage" campaign.

Antiquity's birthplace has sired a progressive youth movement.

While Athens often tops tourism-marquee listings, Greece's bohemian bastion, Thessaloniki, is the country's cultural capital.

It's sometimes called Greece's answer to Seattle-although the nude cycling and sheer hipster volume perhaps pushes it more toward Portland, as far as US West Coast analogies go.

Either way, it has won such accolades as a National Geographic listing for "one of the best places to visit worldwide" in 2013 and a listing as Europe's Youth Capital the following year.

Its multiethnic history since its 315 BC founding and current student population of 150,000 have made the cradle of classicalism a crib of cosmopolitanism and incubator of innovation.

The city is a hive of designers, artists and musicians known for a DIY ethos and contempt for convention.

Architecture collectives, renegade jewelers and cafes where sewing takes precedence over swilling give vim to more standard charms, such as nearly 30 museums, archaeological attractions and sparkling seaside.

It's a hub of contemporary creativity built upon ancient ruins.

Sometimes, literally.

This can be clearly seen through the floor of the Macedonian Museum Of Contemporary Art's coffee shop. Look down, and you'll see the outline of Byzantine burial grounds through the glass floor. Look up and you'll see over 2,000 modern international artworks, including by the likes of Warhol.

(Management is largely DIY.)

Such scenes are common in the city.

Apartment buildings' lobbies also often display ruins and tiled mosaics beneath glass panels that residents totter over on their way home.

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