For the moment I wasn't sure if I was in a Church or a Museum and what I was supposed to do? Pray or just enjoy? Then one of the wardens from a corner reminded me that I was in a Museum.
I had four hours to kill at Thessaloniki airport on a miserable rainy Sunday and the option of sitting at the airport, counting empty bottles of beer, wasn't appealing at all. Instead I decided to leave my luggage at the airport and get a local bus to the city centre. The return fare was 1.60 euros plus I had a complimentary map of Thessaloniki from the very pleasant girl at the ticket desk.
I had decided to visit the Museum of Byzantium Culture which was celebrating its 20th anniversary by having an exhibition dedicated to its donors and sponsors. The museum is very centrally located just opposite the Nick Gallis Hall which was a place where a high risk gathering was taking place. The number of handsome policemen in riot uniforms walking around with their see-thorough shields was unpleasant but when I stopped one to ask for directions he was more than happy to walk me just around the corner to the entrance of the Museum, probably sensing my anxiety.
The exhibition was spread over seven rooms on different levels following Early Christian Churches, the twilight of Byzantium, and Byzantium after Byzantium. In between you could find rooms dedicated to the saint Demetrious who was the patron of Thessaloniki and a room dedicated to the iconoclasm of Macedonia, the name of the area northern Greece.
The lower rooms contained artefacts such as clay lamps from the 5th century, lead seals of the Emperor Constantine, silver coins, glazed bowls, but what took my breath away was the Byzantium legacy in the years after the fall of Constantinople. There I felt like being in a very well kept, richly decorated Byzantium Church. The icons exhibited were in good condition, with the colours clearly visible even though they were several centuries old. One of the reasons for this could be that all of them were part of a privately owned collection lent to the museum for the purpose of this exhibition. It was a delight to see them.
As my time was limited to get back to the airport I left the Museum of Byzantium Culture pleased that I had made the effort to come to the city centre instead of staying at the very dark, boring airport of Thessaloniki.
If you have a few hours to spare in Thessaloniki I would highly recommend this visit to the Museum of Byzantium Culture.
How to get there: get bus number 74 from the airport (ticket office located on the ground floor in the area reserved for car drop off)
Cost: Total 9.60 euros (return bus fare 1.6 euros; Entry ticket to the Museum 8 euros)
Duration: 5 hours. (It was Sunday and bus service wasn't frequent as during the week)