Trikala is a city in western Thessaly, the capital of the Regional Unit of Trikala and the Municipality of Trikala, with a population of 61,653 inhabitants, while it is far 331 km from Athens and 215 km from Thessaloniki.
It is a flat, picturesque city, the center of which is crossed by the river Litheos, which is a tributary of the Pinios, while to the west rises Koziakas, part of the Pindos Mountains. It is located very close to Meteora, Kalampaka, Elati, Pertouli and Pyli.
The Old City 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. 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.
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 tier. 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. The view from its last level is unique while in the interior it features a photo exhibition on the city’s history. In addition to the tower, in the same tier, there is an open-air theater where various cultural 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.
Lithaios River invites you to explore it on foot or by bike. 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.
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.
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. 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 of Trikala.
One of the most representative products of Trikala is the leek sausage produced, for many decades. 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.
The Mill of Elves
From December 9, 2011 the Mill of Elves operates every year in Trikala, for 40 days, from the end of November until the beginning of January. The Mill of Elves is the largest Christmas theme park in Greece, having essentially created winter and Christmas tourism, not only in Trikala, but also throughout the country, with the creation of smaller Christmas villages in various areas. In Trikala, however, the Mill of Elves retains its primacy, as it is original with the Matsopoulos mill, an architectural and industrial monument of the 19th century, which becomes the main building of the action, the Matsopoulos park with the river, where the whole celebration is set up, the educational center Renewable Energy sources in the same area, the operation of the mill as a Museum of Rural and Industrial Life, but also with the different thematic approach of Christmas. Also, the difference of the Elven Mill from other similar events, is that it is a park and not a market. Another key element of the Mill is the free entrance and the free activities for everyone, with parallel educational activities for the thousands of school students. Every year there is a central theme of action. For 2019 it is the "Christmas in the World" with themed wagons scattered in the area of the Mill. In collaboration with the Municipality of Trikala, events are organized throughout the city, in the center, sidewalks, entertainment areas ("Palea Manavika"), while are exhibitions at the Tsitsani Museum, as excursions and events are organized in the neighboring towns of Kalambaka with beautiful Meteora, Pyli with its unique bridges and monasteries, in the Mountain of Pyli (Elati, Pertouli Ski Center), Mouzaki - Lake N. Plastira and other places.
The region of Trikala has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The first indications of permanent settlement have been uncovered in the cave of Theopetra, and date back to approx. 49,000 BC. Neolithic settlements dating back to 6,000 BC have been uncovered in Megalo Kefalovriso and other locations.
The city of Trikala is built on the ancient city of Trikka or Trikke, which was founded around the 3rd millennium BC and took its name from the nymph Trikke, daughter of Peneus, or according to others, daughter of the river god Asopus. The ancient city was built at a defensive location in between the local hill and the river Lithaios. The city became an important center in antiquity and it was considered to be the birthplace and main residence of the healing god Asclepius. The city exhibited one of the most important and ancient of Asclepius' healing temples, called asclepieia. The city is mentioned in Homer's Iliad as having participated in the Trojan War with thirty ships under Asclepius' sons Machaon and Podalirius. In the Mycenean period, the city was the capital of a kingdom, and later it constituted the main center of the Thessalian region of Estaiotis, which occupied roughly the territory of the modern Trikala Prefecture.
In historical times, the city of Trikke and the surrounding area experienced prosperity. It fell to the Achaemenid Persians in 480 BC, while ten years later it joined the Thessalian monetary union. In 352 BC it was united with the Macedonia of Philip II. The city became a location of hard battles between Macedonia and Rome. While Philip V of Macedon and his son Perseus tried to keep the city, after 168 BC it fell to the Roman Republic.
The current name of Trikala first appears in the 11th-century Strategikon of Kekaumenos, where "Trikalitan Vlachs" are mentioned, and then in the early 12th-century Alexiad of Anna Komnene. Later in the century, the Arab traveller and geographer al-Idrisi recorded the town as "an important agrarian center with abundant vineyards and gardens" (T.E. Gregory). While the area was considered to be firmly under the rule of the Byzantine Empire, it was invaded nevertheless by a succession of raiders and nomadic tribes. Some of these tribes that raided the area include: Goths (396), Huns (447), Slavs (577), Bulgarians (986-1000), Normans (1082/3), Catalans (1309–1311).
After the dissolution of the Byzantine state by the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Trikala does not appear to have fallen into Frankish hands, but became part of the Despotate of Epirus. Epirote rule lasted until 1259, when the town was taken without resistance by the Empire of Nicaea (after 1261 the renewed Byzantine Empire) following the Battle of Pelagonia. In the early 14th century the town was the capital of a semi-independent domain under the sebastokrator Stephen Gabrielopoulos, which extended across much of western Thessaly and Macedonia. After his death in 1332/3 the city, along with most of Gabrielopoulos' lands, was seized by the Epirote ruler John II Orsini, but he was in turn expelled and the area incorporated into the Byzantine Empire by Andronikos III Palaiologos.
In 1348, Thessaly was conquered by Stephen Dushan and incorporated into the newly established Serbian Empire. The Serbian general Preljub was made the region's governor, and established himself at Trikala. In 1359, Dushan's half-brother Symeon Uroš established his court at Trikala, and in 1366/7 he founded the Meteora monasteries nearby. Symeon was succeeded by his son John Uroš, and he in turn by the local magnates Alexios Angelos Philanthropenos and Manuel Angelos Philanthropenos, who ruled until the Ottoman conquest of Thessaly in 1393/4.
As the administrative center of the local province (the Sanjak of Trikala), the city attracted Muslim immigrants and had large Muslim and Jewish communities: in the 1454/5 census, the city had 2,453 inhabitants (251 Muslim families and 9 widows, and 212 Christian families and 73 widows); in 1506, the city numbered 3,100 inhabitants, with 260 Muslim, 310 Christian and 19 Jewish families; in 1520/38, the number had risen to 301 Muslim, 343 Christian, and 181 Jewish families. The city also became an important intellectual center during these years (1543-1854) with the Trikke School (and later Greek School), where famous intellectuals of the time, such as Dionysius the Philosopher, taught.Under Ottoman rule, the city was called Tırhala. Its fortunes in the early period of Ottoman rule are unclear: it is reported as being part of a large sanjak under Ahmed, the son of Evrenos Bey, but in the early 15th century it formed part of the domain of Turahan Bey, who brought in Muslim settlers and granted privileges to the local Greek population. Turahan and his son and successor, Ömer Bey, erected many buildings in the city, helping it, in the words of the historian Alexandra Yerolimpos, to "[acquire] the appearance of a typical Ottoman town, with mosques, medreses, a hammam, imaret, khan and karwansaray extending beyond the citadel and the Varoussi (Varosh) quarter which remained Christian".
The 17th-century Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi reports that the city had 2,300 houses divided into sixteen Muslim and eight Christian quarters (mahalla); eight mosques, of which only the city's main mosque, the Osman Shah Mosque built by Mimar Sinan, survives today; four hammams; six tekkes; and the probably exaggerated number of 1,000 shops, although Evliya curiously does not mention the city's impressive bezesten (covered market) which was demolished in the early 20th century. The city was largely burned down in a great fire in 1749, a destruction repeated by Albanian irregulars following an abortive uprising by the local Christian population during the Orlov Revolt. Despite the destruction, its population seems to have remained the same, ca. 25,000, until the outbreak of the Greek Revolution in 1821. By 1840, it reportedly had only 10,000 inhabitants, with the last Ottoman census in 1877/8 listing 25,000 inhabitants for the entire sanjak of Trikala.
On 23 August 1881 with the Treaty of Constantinople between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Greece, the city passed in Greek sovereignty, along with the rest of Thessaly. It became occupied again by Ottoman forces briefly during the Greco-Turkish War of 1897. In the years that followed, Trikala played a fundamental role in the rural workers' mobilizations, in the early 20th century, against the Thessalian landlords. Trikala eventually became the city that the first Agricultural Cooperative of Greece was founded, in 1906. The town lost much of its Ottoman and medieval buildings in the early 20th century, particularly after it was rebuilt to a modern urban plan in the 1930s.
1. The Asclepieion
2. The Prophet Elias Hill
3. The Kursum Mosque
4. The Twin Ottoman Baths
5. The Matsopoulos Mill
6. The railway station terminal
7. The “Vassilis Tsitsanis” Museum and Research Center
8. The Kliafa Cultural and Historic Center
9. The Municipal Historical Athletic Museum
10. The Military Museum
11. The Municipal Art Gallery
12. The Municipal Folklore Museum
13. The Leonidas Makris Foundation Art and Culture Gallery
14. The Katsikogiannis Art Museum
15. The Archeological Collection of Trikki
16. The Christian Metropolis Museum