In Thessaloniki’s “Upper Town”, just before reaching the walls of the Heptapyrgion Castle, a beautiful little park is hiding one of the biggest and most interesting living mysteries of the city.
Known as “Drakospita” – “Dragon Houses” or the “Dervish Cave”, Thessaloniki’s Pasha Gardens are a controversial attraction of the city of which few have heard. Its legend can raise awe and curiosity at the same time.
In a small park, full of pine trees and overlooking the entire city as well as the Thermaic Gulf , some remnants of Ottoman-era architecture can still be seen. This mystical little park is now ‘home’ to some unusual stone structures, with an uncanny and rather fantastic architecture which reminds us of Antonio Gaudi and some of his sculptures in Barcelona’s Guell Park, created between 1900 and 1914.
An ornamental fountain around which there is a tunnel, apparently leading “to nowhere”, a special place to collect rainwater, a relaxing area, with the most beautiful city view and a small gate leading underground, are just some of the elements still standing today, which can be visited by tourists or locals, curious and eager to feel the unique spiritual energy of this place.
The architect of this garden is unknown, but according to an inscription found on one of the walls of the stone structures, they were created in 1904. If we look at the dates, they actually coincide with the years when Barcelona’s Guell Park was created.
As any mystical and controversial place, Pasha’s gardens history is shrouded in many theories and legends, one more interesting than the other. Some suggest that this was a temple of initiation and a meeting place for Ottoman Freemasons, especially Sufis or Muslim mystics. Others think the park was created by Sephardic Jews. An unconfirmed rumor among historians is that occult ceremonies and human sacrifices used to take place there, while others say that the stone structures now present in Thessaloniki were at one time part of the city’s catacombs.
According to another legend, the gardens were the resting and relaxation place of Seifullah Pasha. For this very reason, today they are known as Pasha’s Gardens.
Apart from their strange shape, the mysterious ruins are also decorated with many unusual signs and symbols, making this park a great place to visit for the curious and adventurous, as it is considered an essential geographic / geomagnetic point.
It is believed that the current shape of the stone structures is totally different from the original one, because in 1922, when Greek immigrants occupied the houses of the Turks, they took stones, iron rods, bricks and other building parts to repair their houses where they were going to live.
Today, the locals of Thessaloniki’s “Upper Town” who live right near the mystical gardens, are amused by all the stories and legends created around this place while at the same time being proud of the rich history of the city they live in.
There are many legends, but nothing compares to the feeling you get as you walk among the unique-looking ruins of the Pasha Gardens. Today, after being neglected for many years, they now ‘reign’ over the city, shrouded in mystery, waiting for you to visit them, next time you arrive in Thessaloniki.
Alexandra Nicola – Balkazaar contributor