Trikala, built in Western Thessaly, with a population of approximately 61,000 inhabitants, is the capital of Trikala County. It is a flat, picturesque town crossed by Lithaios River, while in the west, Koziakas, a part of Pindus Mountain Range, highs above the town.
It is built on what used to be the ancient town of Trikki, which was founded in ancient times, approximately in 3,000 B.C., and was named after the nymph Trikki, daughter of Pineios, or according to another theory, it owes its name to the mythical hero Asopos. During the ancient years it used to be an important cultural center since it is the birthplace of Asclepius, the physician god. According to Homer Iliad, the army of Trikki, having the sons of Asclepius, Machaonas and Podaleirius in charge, took part in the Trojan War, by the Greek side. During the historic era, the town served as the capital of ancient Estaiotida and the whole area enjoyed high development and prosperity.
The area, as well as the whole Greece, has experienced a very long-lasting period of continuing attacks and bloody wars and it has been conquered by many invaders including the Persians, the Goths, the Huns, the Slavs, the Bulgarians, the Normans and the Frankish.
At the beginning of the 2nd millennium A.D. the town was mentioned by the name Trikala for first time, as a part of the Byzantine Empire. In 1393 it was conquered by the Ottomans and evolved to an important center of cottage industry specialized in woolen textiles, for which the town is known, even nowadays, as well as in leather products.
In the 23rd of August 1881, after the signing of the Treaty of Istanbul, Trikala rejoined Greece and became one of the country’s major agricultural and livestock producers. In 1906 the first agricultural association of the country was founded in Trikala playing a critical role in the further economic development of the area.
Trikala is a town with a large tradition in music since it is the birthplace of various great folk music composers such as, Vassilis Tsitsanis, Apostolos Kaldaras, Kostas Virvos, Giorgos Samoladas, Christos Kolokotronis and Babis Bakalis as well as the art music composer Vassilis Dalabiras.
Additionally, the folk music performers Dimitris Mitropanos, George Margaritis and Kostas Karafotis, the tenor Dimitris Kavrakos, the piano soloist Alaxendra Papastefanou and the classical pianist Dimitris Sgouros, all come from Trikala. Finally, the patriot, politician and litterateur Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza was also born in Trikala.
Lithaios River springs from Antichasia Mountains, at an altitude of 500 meters and took its name from oblivion (“lethe”). Its waters, after a route of 36 km crossing the town center, flow into Pineios.
A total of ten bridges link its banks with the Central Bridge being the most important one. It is an arched metal bridge constructed in 1886 by French engineers which, nowadays serves as a pedestrian walkway and constitutes a point of interest for the town. A few steps further lies the Bridge of Asclepius, a contemporary pedestrian bridge bearing the brassy statue of Asclepius and an artificial waterfall. According to Strabo, Asclepius, the god of medicine, was born close to the river.
On the NE side of the town, lies the castle, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian during the 6th century AD, on the ruins of the Acropolis of ancient Trikki. During the Ottoman rule it was repaired by the Turks and used as a fortress. Its fortification includes five towers and several small battlements and its structure is divided into three blocks.
On the west side of the first block, an arched stone gateway serves as the castle’s main entrance while, in the same area there is also a cafe-restaurant.
The central, 33-meter high clock tower, symbol of the town, dominates the second block. The very first clock was put there in the 17th century by the Ottomans along with a 650-kilo bell, to be replaced by a modern one in 1936 by the Mayor Theodosopoulos.
Nowadays, a photographic exhibition on the town’s history operates within the tower while, there is an open-air theater in the same frieze, where various events take place every summer.
Finally, a vaulted single-room building, that served as a gunpowder storehouse is preserved on the third block. According to the local tradition, there was also an entrance to a secret tunnel ended up in Kalabaka, which served as an emergency exit from the castle during periods of hostilities.
It is divided in the settlements of Varousi and Manavika. Built in the shadow of the castle, Varousi, used to be the aristocratic neighborhood of the town till 1930. It is characterized by the unique architecture of the old mansions, erected between the 17th and the 19th centuries, and the numerous narrow streets amongst the buildings. Also, most of the town’s Byzantine churches, such as St. Anargiroi, St. Stefane 1896, Panagia Faneromeni 1853, St. Marina 1766, St. Episkepsi 1543, St. Dimitrios 1580, St. Paraskevi 19th century, St. Ioannis Eleimon 14th century and the town’s cathedral St. Nikolaos, are dotted among the traditional mansions of Varousi.
Manavika, located next to Varousi, is the old town’s second settlement, distinguished for the particular architecture of the stone buildings and the numerous pedestrian streets. Nowadays, it is full of traditional Greek taverns, coffee places and bars.
The old town’s mural
Amongst the charming pedestrian streets of Manavika an almost three-dimensional mural evokes memories of the everyday old town life, having transformed the awkward wall of a block of flats into a sight. It is a 150 m2 wall painting, created in October 2006 by internationally distinguished artists specialized in this kind of artwork. Around 430 such murals decorate some of the most important cities in all over the world, including Barcelona, Moscow, Lyon, Jerusalem, Mexico Town and Quebec. The role of those murals is to stamp memories, traces of history and everyday moments that have been or are about to be lost.
The ruins of an ancient healing temple, dedicated to the physician god Asclepius, are located next to the old town (Varousi). According to the historian Strabo, it is the oldest and most important Asclepieion in Greece. By now, archeologists have discovered Roman baths, mosaics and the remains of a Hellenistic-period edifice with a mosaic depicting the king of Thrace, Lycurgus.
Prophet Elias Hill
Situated next to the castle, constitutes the town’s most important lung of green as it is composed of a large assortment of flora. It offers a great view not only to the town but also to Meteora and Pindus Mountain Range. Furthermore, here lies the zoo with a quite considerable variety of species including tigers, deers, ostriches and ponies as well as the Environmental Study Center.
On the south side of the town, on the banks of Lithaios, dominates the Kursoum Mosque. Designed in the 16th century by Sinan, the famous architect of that era, it was named after the Turkish word “kursum” meaning lead, as its dome is leaden. It was founded by Osman Shah, a nephew of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and commander of the Sanjak of Trikala (the administrative seat of Ottoman Thessaly).
According to tradition, he had the mosque erected as an honor to the town for his healing from a long-lasting disease. In 1993 it was renovated and characterized as an UNESCO protected monument and now it is used for the hospitality of cultural events. Next to the mosque lies the octagonal mausoleum of Osman Shah, inside which, nowadays, archaeological findings of the area are kept.
(Add: Karditsis St, Tel. +30243176647, Hoop: S-S 9.00-15.00, Free entrance)
Twin Ottoman Baths
On the old prison’s ground floor, under the “Vassilis Tsitsanis” Museum, the Ottoman Baths are revealed. It is a 16th-century edifice that was part of a building complex that was founded by the commander of the Sanjak of Trikala (the administrative seat of Ottoman Thessaly), Osman Shah, probably on the designs of architect Sinan.
During their period of operation, they covered an area of about 850 sq. M. and were separated into male, with entry from the south and female with entry from the north, hence their designation as twins. The structure’s original vaulted roof was destroyed during its transformation into a prison however; the monumental entrances, the highlighting and the superiority of the cold spaces along with its symmetrical layout make it a sample of the classical Ottoman architecture, having the stone as a predominant component.
(Add: Venizelou & Karditsis St, Tel. +302431077977, Hoop: S-S 9.00-15.00, Free entrance)
Operated between 1884 and 1984, is the first mill to be built in Greece and the biggest one in Balkans. It is constructed by stone and wood and covers 3,500 m2 in an area of 90 acres. At the beginning it used to function by the water motion of Aghiamoniotis River, later on by steam motion and finally by electritown. In 1977 it was donated by its owner Ioannis Matsopoulos, to the Municipality of Trikala.
Nowadays, the whole area serves as a park while, the mill’s main building with its collateral premises has been converted into an art and culture multiplex center hosting the Industrial and Rural Heritage Museum, indoor and outdoor cinemas, theater, painting and sculpture workshops and a coffee place. At the edge of the park there is an old iron bridge of 1910, now operating for pedestrians only, that unites the banks of Aghiamoniotis River, tributary of Lithaios. During Christmas period the mill is being transformed into “The Mill of Elves”, a Christmas theme park. (Free entrance)
The railway station terminal
It was built in 1886 by a French company responsible for the national railway network under the governance of Charilaos Trikoupis and was renovated in the early ‘90s. Outside the station, in a small square, there is Karvouniaris, a more than a 100 years old steam-motioned train, which was performing the route Paleofarsala – Kalabaka. Today, it stands silent, with its funnel off, up on a small part of the rails of history as a beautiful snapshot of a romantic era.
“Vassilis Tsitsanis” Museum and Research Center
Next to Lithaios River, on the upper floor of the old prison, lies the Vassilis Tsitsanis Museum, dedicated to the life and work of the great Greek composer and lyricist. A work inspired by people’s everyday life, full of images and feelings, all of which are reflected through the dozens of his songs, characterized by rare beauty and authenticity.
Among the exhibits someone can see the composer’s biography, various pictures, music instruments, personal objects and some great audiovisual material of his artwork, including orchestral scores and albums with original performances of his songs. Additionally, there are tools and machinery from the old prison as well as, items from prisoners’ lives. Also, a recording studio and a library operate on the premises since it’s not just a static museum but actually, a research and artistic creation center aiming at the digital recording, documentation and presentation of important elements and information about the life and work of Vassilis Tsitsanis and their presentation to the public.
On the ground floor of the historic building stand the ottoman baths, while the museum area also includes a venue, the prison’s private chapel of St. Eleftherios, and a cafeteria.
(Add: Venizelou & Karditsis St, Tel. +302431077977, Hoop: S-S 9.00-15.00, Free entrance)
Kliafa Cultural and Historic Center
It was erected in 2003 in the old premises of Kliafa Company, a local beverage firm. The center operates as an industrial museum displaying the factory’s old machinery and equipment, a great exhibition of bottles, labels and caps from all over the world, along with old correspondence, pictures, drawings and advertising posters. Also, there is a Local History Hall presenting the history of Trikala via an anthology of articles, manuscripts, old pictures and devices as well as a Traditional Printing Hall with an antique printing press and all its components of letters and paraphernalia, old newspaper front pages, black-and-white pictures and other various interesting collections. Finally, the center incorporates a big hall for cultural events as well as a children’s and adolescent’s library with 6,000 books and multimedia systems.
(Add: Omirou & Themistokleous St, Tel. +302431027313, Hoop: M-F 11.00-13.00 and afternoon by appointment, Free entrance)
Municipal Historical Athletic Museum
It has been operating since 1998 in Kastrakideion, a neoclassic building in the town center. The exhibits, displayed in three halls, have been gathered mostly by Vassilis Peligos and Spyros Bonotis as well as by various citizens’ donations and present the athletic history of Trikala since 1896. Additionally, there is a Trophy Hall of the local athletics and a reading room with library and multimedia systems.
(13, Kapodistriou St, Tel. +302431079518, Hoop: M-F 9.00-14.00, Free entrance)
It is housed in a stone building on the premises of the Military Academy, consisting of four halls, of which two are dedicated to the academy itself and the rest to the 5th Infantry Regiment, which was based in the academy’s current location. It was distinguished for its participation in the national struggles, culminating in the heroic repulse of the Italians at 731 Elevation, on the Greek-Albanian border in March 1941.
The Museum displays the academy’s old weaponry and relics, as well as weapons, battle dressing, uniforms, objects, military archives and pictures relevant to the 5th Infantry Regiment. Additionally, the Regiment’s original martial flag stands out among the exhibits along with the Army Air Force helicopter UH-1H, also known as Hui.
(Add: 81, Vassili Tsitsani St, Tel: +302431023950, Free entrance)
Municipal Art Gallery
It is composed of Menelaos Katafygiotis Hall, exhibiting 14 paintings and 2 sculptures of the local artist, Dimitris Gioldasis Hall, displaying some of his personal paintings and a various artists hall. It is located in the Dorothea School, an old neoclassic building in the border of the old town of Varousi.
(42, Stratigou Sarafi St)
Municipal Folklore Museum
It was founded in 1991 and is located in the town center. It displays a great collection of traditional exhibits have been used from the end of the 18th century to the mid of the 20th incorporating handmade costumes, traditional cooking utensils, old houseware, obsolete tools, black-and-white pictures and old publications.
(6, Garivaldi St)
Leonidas Makris Foundation Art and Culture Gallery
It is a place of cultural interest, mainly operating as a gallery, hosting permanent and temporary painting and sculpture exhibitions by renowned artists in collaboration with other country museums and galleries, such as the Benaki Museum and the National Gallery. Established in 2009, it is housed in a neoclassical town-centered building which served as the residence and the premises of the doctor Leonidas Makris, founder of the institution.
(Vyronos and Garivaldi St)
Katsikogiannis Art Museum
It was founded in 1994 and is located in the settlement of Aghia Moni. It displays a great collection of 1236 paintings and 114 sculptures of the great artist Dimitris Katsikogiannis, graduate of the Athenian and the Parisian Schools of Arts.
(Aghia Moni, Pylis St, Free entrance)
Archeological Collection of Trikki
It is composed of archeological findings ranging from the Neolithic to the post-Byzantine era, all discovered in the district of Trikala. In 1902 they gathered by Panagiotis Kastriotis and now are exhibited in two halls of a building close to the castle.
(25, Martiou and Machaonos St
Christian Metropolis Museum
It is located in the Metropolis Palace, in the town center, and is divided into three sectors; The Church Hall, featuring a great collection of icons, church paraphernalia and sacerdotal vestments, the Folkloric Hall, displaying a collection of traditional devices and utensils and the Library Hall, also operating as a reading room with 19,000 books.
(25, Apollonos St, Tel: +302431027282, Free entrance)
Trikala is a modern and well-laid town with plenty of amenities, offering its residents a good quality of life. It is crossed by Lithaios River whose’ banks are linked by numerous bridges and constitute a significant zone of green. Its center is designed to provide convenience and priority to pedestrians. Asclepiou is the town’s main pedestrian street making up a landmark and a site of commercial and social activity as it is full of stores, small shopping centers, dining areas and stylish cafes. Here there are the Town Hall and some of the town’s most important neoclassical buildings. Right next to it lies Apollonos Street, known as the umbrellas street. There are also many squares from which the most important ones are the central (Iroon Politechniou), adorned with a pond and the statue of “Nikolakis”, Riga Fereou Square with the characteristic flower-shape fountain and Palaiou Despotikou Square where dominates the historical stone-built edifice Pelekeio.
During the rush hours, the streets are full of people walking, cycling, socializing, doing shopping, or having a coffee break, making the town center a busy and vivid area. Generally, life goes by tranquilly and harmonically in an unhurried and quite tempo. Citizens are friendly and hospitable with a high level of education and a satisfactory standard of living. Additionally, there are two university branches operating in the area, a Gymnastics Academy and a Technological Institution of Architecture (TEI), as well as a Military Academy.
Life on a Bike
Traditionally, Trikala is a bicycle-friendly place due to the flat terrain, the small streets and the short distances, with thousands of bicycles overwhelming the town daily. Residents use the bicycle in all aspects of their everyday life, not only as a hobby or a sport activity but also, as a primary means of transportation or even for commercial pursuit. In total, there are more than 30,000 bicycles, that is, 1 bicycle per 2.5 inhabitants. Besides the cycle lanes, bicycles have access in all streets and pedestrian areas, while there are tailored parking spots all over the town. There is also a special police squad made up of policemen with bicycles patrolling in the city center.
A very noticeable type of a bicycle found in Trikala is the traditional “Matrakas”. It is an antique model, broadly used in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, which nowadays has become popular again. A great number of those bicycles have been reconstructed and now overrun the streets, offering the town a slight taste of the nobility and charm of its past. The best way to see Trikala is riding a bicycle. The Municipal Authority offers free bikes for a three-hour ride, available at the Info Point Pavilion at the Central Square.
Trikala is a place with interesting and qualitative nightlife. There are numerous cafeterias, bars, clubs and live music halls, mainly located in Asklipiou Street, the town’s central pedestrian zone, as well as in Manavika, in the old town. This region is also, full of Greek taverns and restaurants with local specialties and foreign cuisine. Additionally, there are three cinemas of which one is an outdoor and operates during the summer period only, in the complex of Matsopoulos’ Mill.
One of the most representative products of Trikala is the leek sausage produced, for many decades, according to the ancestors’ authentic long-established recipe. Also, the town is known for the tsipouro, the Feta cheese, the butter halvah, the handmade pasta, the frumenty, the timbered folk art objects and the traditional “flokati”, a long-haired, hand-woven blanket made of wool.