Passover -Pesach did arrived but not Spring. Yet, the unusual for the season’s cooler drizzly weather, had not stopped the crowds, during this extended holiday, from flooding all Israeli public recreation parks, shopping malls, and any children’s attraction facilities .
An overflow of mega families, in search of thrills mobbed the already inflicted city centers. Many nature reservations had closed their gates to keep the surplus waves of visitors out. Access to some of the Galilee Sea - Kinnert were shut. and passengers' overload had to be removed from some train lines, before the trains were permitted to depart the stations.
Later in mid week, when the weather finally brightened up, we made the fatal mistake of hitting the road, along with the other quarter of million travelers..
The coastal main Hwy from TLV to the Northern town Shavai Zion by Naharia, turned into an extended salami parking Lot, a true nightmare of this tiny over populated dense country.
As we approached Natania an hour later (instead of within 20 minutes) the longest bumper to bumper traffic jam, at a turtle driving pace, compelled us to escape through the older inland route. But we got stuck there, as well. So we returned toward Natania hoping to overtake the impossible Hwy traffic bottleneck, via the town’s streets parallel to the coastal road. However a barrier placed by “Chelem” inhabitants of a smaller township, prevented us from proceeding Northward on the side road.
Dismayed, we gave up on our excursion to the North, had u-turned back South to TLV, and decided to lower the national density explosion, by joining the 1.5 million Israelis
who exodus the country, to spend a vacation abroad.
After so many escaped abroad, the Departure Hall was quite empty and cue-less,
upon our arrival, late afternoon, at the BG airport. the Slovenian crew on the El-Al flight, operated by Explorer’s leased plane, was surprisingly, supper nice.
2.5 hours later we safely landed, rented a car and checked late into our hotel. Metropolitan Hotel - Saloniki (by the seaport) Leof. Vasilissis Olgas 65, Thessaloniki 546 42, Brief background on Saloniki -Thessaloniki'
A popular destination Seaport city, Saloniki - situated at the northwest corner of the Aegean Sea, is the capital of Greek Macedonia and is second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, It is Greece's second major economic, industrial, commercial and political center. Its importance has been mostly in the field of shipping, but also in manufacturing, trade and business, serving as a major transportation hub for Greece and southeastern Europe, with its port being one of the largest in the Aegean facilitating trade throughout the Balkan hinterland. Also stationed as Greece's cultural capital, it has been renowned for its festivals, (International Fair & Film Fest) events, and vibrant cultural life. The city also hosts the largest bi-annual meeting of the Greek diaspora.The city's main university, Aristotle University, is the largest in Greece and the Balkans. The city is known for its numerous notable Byzantine monuments, including the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several Roman, Ottoman and Sephardic Jewish structures. The city was founded around 315 BC by the King Cassander of Macedon, on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma and 26 other local villages. It was named after princess Thessalonike of Macedon - (Thessalian victory,) the half sister of Alexander the Great. It became a free city of the Roman Republic under Mark Antony in 41 BC An important metropolis by the Roman period, Saloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire. A reference to its historical status is revealed from being a "co-reigning" city of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, alongside Constantinople At the time of the Roman Empire, about 50 A.D., the city was also one of the early centers of Christianity; while on his second missionary journey, Paul the Apostle visited this city's chief synagogue on three Sabbaths and sowed the seeds for s first Christian church. Conquered by the Ottomans in 1430, it remained an important seaport and multi-ethnic metropolis during the nearly five centuries of Turkish rule. During the Ottoman period, the city's population of Ottoman Muslims (including those of Turkish and Albanian origin, as well as Bulgarian Muslim and Greek Muslim convert origin) grew substantially. As Ottoman Turkish, it had 6,094 Greek Orthodox households, 4,320 Muslim ones, and some Catholic. No Jews were recorded. After the turn of the 15th to 16th century, however, nearly 20,000 Sephardic Jews immigrated to Greece from the Iberian Peninsula following their expulsion from Spain by the 1492 Alhambra Decree By c. 1500, the number of households had grown to 7,986 Greek ones, 8,575 Muslim ones, and 3,770 Jewish. By 1519, Sephardic Jewish households numbered 15,715, (54% of the city's population). Some historians consider the Ottoman regime's invitation to Jewish settlement was a strategy to prevent the ethnic Greek population from dominating the city. The city’s Jewish element was the most dominant; it was the only city in Europe where the Jews were a majority of the total population. The city was ethnically diverse and cosmopolitan. In 1890 its population had risen to 118,000, 47% of which were Jews, followed by Turks (22%), Greeks (14%), Bulgars (8%), Roma (2%), and others (7%). Many varied religions were practiced and many languages spoken, including Ladino, a dialect of Spanish spoken by the city's Jews The city also served as a center of activities of the underground movement, Young Turks, a political reform movement, which goal was to replace the Ottoman Empire's absolute monarchy with a constitutional government. In 1908 their revolutionaries gained control over the Ottoman Empire. It passed from the Ottoman Empire to Greece on 8 November 1912. By 1913, the ethnic composition of the city had changed so that the population stood at 157,889, with Jews at 39%, followed again by Turks (29%), Greeks (25%), Bulgars (4%), Roma (2%), and others at 1%. After the defeat of Greece in the Greco-Turkish War and during the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, a population exchange took place between Greece and Turkey. Over 160,000 ethnic Greeks deported from the former Ottoman Empire – particularly Greeks from Asia Minor and East Thrace were resettled in the city, changing its demographics. Additionally many of the city's Muslims, including Ottoman Greek Muslims, were deported to Turkey, ranging at about 20,000 people. This made the Greek element dominant, while the Jewish population was reduced to a minority for the first time since the 14th century. Saloniki it fell to the forces of Nazi Germany on 8 April 1941 and went under German occupation. The Nazis soon forced the Jewish residents into a ghetto near the railroads and on 15 March 1943 began the deportation of the city's Jews to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. Most were immediately sent to the gas chambers. Of the 45,000 Jews deported to Auschwitz, only 4% survived. During World War II Thessaloniki was heavily bombarded by Fascist Italy .
To be continued....