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Varosi in Edessa

On the edge of the modern city, overlooking the fertile plain of central Macedonia, Edessa's Varosi district is bounded by the brow of the cliff(on the east), the waterfall park and three riverside roads, Thessalonikis, Athinon and Perdika.

This area corresponds roughly to the site occupied by the pre-historic farming village that in the 4th century BC began to develop into the acropolis of Edessa, a city of considerable importance in ancient Macedonia, the lower city was situated at the foot of the cliff, in the well-wooded area called Longos. With the gradual abandonment of the lower city, during the Byzantine period, the ancient citadel became what has been described as the "God-guarded" fortress of Vodena. After the Ottoman conquest (1385 or 1389), and particularly after the liberation of Northern Greece in 1912, Edessa slowly expanded and step by step assumed its present form.

In the Ottoman era the heart of the city was its principal Greek quarter, known as Varosi; this toponym, of Iranian origin, is found in several Greek and European cities and designates a town centre, a fortified quarter, or sometimes a suburb. In 1944, towards the end of the 2nd World War, the southern part of the district was destroyed by fire and rebuilt; fortunately, the traditional post-Byzantine houses in the northern section were saved. The restoration and reconstruction plan of the now listed northern part of the Varosi district, which was drawn up by the city authorities in 1990, was awarded first prize by the European Union and has served as the basis for an urban rehabitation scheme implemented with support from European programmes.

To date, excavation in the Varosi district has brought to light the fortifications of the ancient citadel and parts of buildings dating - according to the artefacts found there - from the prehistoric period to the 6th-7th century AD.

There are also finds from the Byzantine age (8th-14th c.). The most important monuments of this period are two 14th century churches, the church of Koimesis (Old Cathedral) and Saints Peter and Paul, both of which are open to visitors.

One important building from the post-Byzantine period (15th-20th c.) is the Parthenagogeion, or Girls' School, built in 1877, while the characteristic Macedonian architecture is illustrated in the surviving traditional houses.

Strolling through the streets of the Varosi district, the visitor absorbs a sense of the history of the place while at the same time enjoying the lovely setting and experiencing the hospitality of the people of Edessa, "city of waters".


Varosi Square
The Varosi Square behind the present-day cathedral (Church of Agia Skepi), is the connecting link between the modern city and the listed Varosi district to the north. That is also the link between the city's present and its historical past is clear from the finds yielded by the archaeological excavations conducted in 2008 with funds from the Europe- a Programme for the Central Macedonian Region.

These excavations revealed the successive episodes in the building of the wall that enclosed the ancient citadel and the Byzantine fortress, an important monument cited by ancient writers as a fine example of the art of fortification. Traces of the oldest wall were discovered in the center of this area. This segment, approximately 17m long by 5m high, was unfortunately in poor condition, much of its stone having been plundered for building material. This wall was 2.20m thick, and - as may be seen from one intact section - was built of stone blocks with a decorative peritenia. The base of the wall lies at 298m above sea level, on the site of a rural village. It was built in the late 4th or early 3rd century BC, after Edessa had become a polis, that is, an urban center, on the road linking  the plains of Lower Macedonia with the mountainous north. There is clear evidence of repairs made in the Hellenistic period.

The site was abandoned during the golden age of the Pax Romana, the "Roman Peace", that lasted from the 1st to the 3rd century AD. As a result, by the latter half of the 3rd century, when Edessa - like the rest of Macedonia- was threatened by invading Goths, the wall had fallen into a state of disrepair. It was rebuilt using the original stone blocks and a thick white mortar, with chips of brick and tile filling the joints. This wall enclosed  the building of the citadel, with different finds and was itself protected by a defensive moat, filled by the waters of the Edessaios River. The city's graveyards remained outside the fortification. A number of Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian inscriptions taken from the ancient graveyards were found incorporated into nearby post-Byzantine churches.

Some 6-7m outside the wall was an Early Christian outwork (4th-6th c. AD); a section some 20m long has been excavated. The outer wall, which was built of undressed stone and mortar and was 2.40m thick, was erected both for defensive reasons and also as a bulwark against the floodwaters of the Edessaios. Three successive repairs have also been excavated abutting the Hellenistic-Roman fortification.

The last defensive works were built in the Late Byzantine period, i.e. in the 13th-14th century; this was the line of fortifications discovered at the west end of the square. It was 1.90m thick, and its foundations lie at 299m. Like many other contemporary monuments, it is built of undressed stone and a whitish mortal, with chips of tile filling the vertical joints.

The city fell to the Turks in 1385 or 1389, and was devastated by earthquake in 1395; the walls were never rebuilt. The Church of Hypapante was built over the Early Christian outwork from which part of the northern and west wall and the floor have been revealed. There was a cemetery around the church. After the destruction of the church from a fire in 1823 traditional houses were built in the area, which were abandoned in the 1960's. In the area there were also pits and from them come the vases. The modern small church of Hypapante was built by the owner of the houses, which proves the strength of the memory of local people.

Source: Information board in the area


Worth seeing:

  • The waterfalls in the namesake Park.
  • The traditional district "Mili": Water Museum, Hemp Factory, Giannakis Watermill.
  • New Mosqueί.
  • Folklore Museum.
  • Archaeological site in Longos.
  • The byzantine stone bridge.
  • The traditional stone village of Palaios Agios Athanasios.
  • The archaeological site in Pella.
  • The Macedonian tombs in Giannitsa.
  • The traditional districts Archangelos, Xanthogeia and Aetochori.
  • Gkavaliotissa.
  • The Church of Agia Triada in Longos.
  • Natural History Museum in Aridaia.
  • Agra Lake and Vegoritida Lake.
  • The hot springs in Loutraki, Almopia.


Taste:
Pasta, honey, jams, traditional desserts, cheese and tsipouro (traditional drink).


Accommodation
For your stay in Pella and Kaimaktsalan, you can book a room in one of the hotels and Bed & Breakfast inns.
In the town of Edessa, as well as in many other areas of Pella, there are hotels and accommodations of various categories and types (rooms to let, residences, Bed & Breakfast inns, studios, hostels, guesthouses and furnished apartments) that can satisfy every visitor's demands and needs for a pleasant and enjoyable stay.
You will find wonderful hotels, rooms and apartments to let of all categories and price ranges.


Access
By car:
Access to Pella is easy by car through the existing road network.
The best way to explore, wander around Pella and discover its nature and sights is to have your own vehicle.
It is worth visiting places where local tranportation and organized tours do not reach.

Indictive routes and distances from Edessa:
Athens: 540 km Route Map. The road route from the center of Athens (Syntagma sqr) to Edessa. The distance in kilometers and time that you will need to get there
Thessaloniki: 98.5 km Route Map. The road route from Thessaloniki to Edessa. The distance in kilometers and time that you will need to get there
Patra: 434 km Route Map. The road route from Patra to Edessa. The distance in kilometers and time that you will need to get there
Ioannina: 224 km Route Map. The road route from Ioannina to Edessa. The distance in kilometers and time that you will need to get there
Preveza: 311 km Route Map. The road route from Preveza to Edessa. The distance in kilometers and time that you will need to get there

By bus:
There are regular intercity bus routes to most regions of the Prefecture.
Buses (KTEL Pella) run daily from and to Athens.

Edessa is also linked to regions by intercity buses of Edessa or KTEL.

Related articles:
By train:
Edessa is linked to Thessaloniki and all cities or Macedonia -Thrace road network as well as the rest of Greece.

OSE Edessa tel: (+30) 24410.42.193, 24410.21.402  Access map. How to get to Karditsa Railway Station
OSE Athens tel: (+30) 210.82.37.741  Access map. How to get to Athens Railway Station
OSE Thessaloniki tel: (+30) 2310.517.517  Access map. How to get to Thessaloniki Railway Station
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