Veria: A Mystery Shrouded in a Time Warp
Veria is so under the radar that it almost never features in any tourist guides. You’ll never hear it being praised for this, that or the other. And that’s ok. We feel that the less exposure a city receives, the better it can manage the visceral and tangible elements of a tourist onrush.
Sitting on the slopes of Mt. Vermion, and covered by a thick canopy of fir, beech and chestnut trees, Veria is nothing if not bucolic. The architecture of the city takes you back to its glory days as a multicultural hub, when it was a basic component of the Byzantine Empire. As the third most important city after Constantinople and Thessaloniki, Veria took home the loot. And it wasn’t little.
It doesn’t hurt that the area has been inhabited for over 2,500 years and was in fact part of the fabled Macedonian Empire. It only sits 70 clicks from Vergina; the impressive Macedonian King’s tombs.
It definitely doesn’t hurt that Saint Paul passed by several times to preach to the pagan loving denizens of Veria sometime in the 1st Century AD. And this is immortalized by a podium built in his honour. It attracts a hefty dose of religious tourists, mostly.
As part of the multicultural Byzantine Empire, Veria enjoyed the benefits of tolerance with a healthy proportion of Jews and Arabs co-existing together in harmony. Certain neighborhoods in Veria have retained every ounce of their traditional character and some like the old Jewish quarter of Barbouta have even managed to preserve the old synagogue and several other houses. The Christian quarter of Kyriotissa has several monasteries and churches built in the middle ages, and, along with the quaint cobble-stone streets creates a magical vibe that transports you to a different era. Veria sometimes feel like a time warp. And these days, that’s not a bad thing.
A visit to the Archaeological Museum should quench your thirst for all things historical, as should the Byzantine Museum. The hauls are impressive.
Veria is also a good location for ski lovers, with Seli ski center and 3-5 Pigadia both offering excellent snow and more than decent infrastructure. Several trails and mountain paths come into play during the warmer months, with biking and hiking opportunities.
Veria is one of those places with tons of character that you’ve never heard of. Sitting in a favorable position next to Thessaloniki and to important archaeological and sports hubs, it is a great spring board from which to explore the surrounding areas.