By Vicky Litska
The White Tower is without a doubt the ultimate landmark in Thessaloniki due to its vast historical significance and prominent position on the beachfront of the city.
The imposing monument which now functions as a museum used to be a prison where cruel executions took place during the period of the Ottoman occupation. At its place, there used to be another tower, part of the Byzantine fortifications along with another three towers which were used in times of seizing as places of guard and protection of the harbor.
After the occupation of the city by the Ottomans, the Tower was rebuilt in 1430 under the rule of Sultan Murad II. In 1912 Thessaloniki was liberated from the Turks and the Tower was whitewashed obtaining a lighter and more ambitious view which signified the end of the era of the massacres within its walls which had become red-blooded during the Ottoman rule giving to this unique monument the titles of “Red Tower” or “Tower of Blood”.
It is this impressive transformation from a place of torture to a symbol of purification and salvation that has turned this site into a point of reference for all locals. Until 1917 it was surrounded by the defensive walls of the Old City on which heavy weapons were put inside special curves in times of siege to fight the enemy so the White Tower served as a place of guard and protection even when it was in Greek hands.
Although the color of the Tower is no longer so much white as beige it still maintains its title that above all highlights the passage of the city from the submission to the Turkish hands to the restoration of peace in the area.
The imposing feature captures the eye of every visitor who enjoys a walk at the beachfront of the city in Leoforos Nikis Street (Victory Avenue) along the sea promenade. At present, the inner part of the building functions as a museum which includes exhibits and scientific texts related to the history of the city, organised by the Museum of Byzantine Culture.
A variety of historical information is offered by the museum about the city such as the mixture of the different cultures that formed its identity, the progress of its urban infrastructure through time, the lifestyle changes that took place in its territories, information spread around in the different floors of the monument, which is so significant.
The visitors of the museum can use state of the art tools such as digital touch screens in order to compare the old times to the present by having a glance at the locals’ habits and therefore estimate the development of the Macedonian Capital through time.
School excursions are organised here on a daily basis and tourists choose it as a must-see attraction which does not only offer a panoramic view of the city and the harbor from its emblematic terrace but also makes a reference to the times of torture and pain, which Thessaloniki lived through in the hands of the Ottoman slavery. However, this grey past has been whitened along with the change of the colour of this imposing construction and the passage from the cruelty of the Red era to the White one, full of promises for a brighter future.