Number 7 in an occasional series on special hotels
Make sure you book a room with a sea view at Thessaloniki’s Daios Hotel – and make it a couple of floors up. It’ll cost a little more than a room which looks out on the city but you’ll feel as if you’re on a cruise ship. Even though there’s a busy road between the from of the building and the waterfront, you may easily be fooled into thinking the Aegean is lapping at the door.
It’s a stylish, excellent place to stay in Greece’s second city. Dodge the traffic on the seafront road and you can run uninterrupted on the wide promenade. And pretty well everything you will want to see is within comfortable walking distance. That includes the market, the iconic White Tower and the magnificent Archaeological Museum, whose collection includes the oldest surviving piece of papyrus in Greece, the nearby Byzantine Museum and the house of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, founder of modern Turkey. I could go on.
The first time I saw Salonica, as the city was then widely known, was in 1966. The great sweep of its bay, the sun bleached seafront, men in caps and sometimes pre-war style suits, reminiscent of the Attaturk revolution, lounging outside kafeneions. The feeling of drowsy timelessness left an acute impression on me. Back then my knowledge of the place was pretty scanty. I knew nothing of the Ottomans’ tolerance, of the huge Jewish population which was almost wiped out by the Nazis, or the Greek civil war in which some of the survivors fought on the side of the Communists. I was completely ignorant of the appalling, compulsory 1923 exchange of its Turkish citizens with Greeks expelled from the Ottoman empire.
Thessaloniki has changed dramatically since my first visit, of course. The Daios wasn’t there then (our accommodation was sleeping bags on a beach outside town and I was bitten so badly on the eyelids so badly by sandflies as I slept that I couldn't see for a while when I woke up). Now there are smart cafes with cushioned armchairs, where fashionable residents may spend hours over a coffee or a beer, trying to forget the Greek economic crisis. Rooms have teak floors and marble lined bathrooms. There’s wi fi and TV with satellite channels, air conditioning and safes. There is a restaurant, though I confess that while I have enjoyed breakfast at the hotel I have always been tempted out to other eateries in town.