Kozani (Greek: Κοζάνη, pronounced [koˈzani]) is a town in northern Greece, capital of Kozani regional unit and of West Macedonia region. It is located in the western part of Macedonia, in the northern part of the Aliakmonas river valley. The city lies 710 metres (2,329 feet) above sea level, 15 kilometres (9 miles) northwest of the artificial lake Polyfytos, 120 km (75 miles) south-west of Thessaloniki, between the mountains Pieria, Vermio, Vourinos and Askio. The population of the Kozani municipality is over 70,000 people. The climate of the area is continental with cold and dry winters, and hot summers.
Kozani is the home of the Technological Educational Institute of Western Macedonia and the University of Western Macedonia, with about 15,000 students from all over Greece and other places. It is also the seat of West Macedonia's court of appeal, police department, fire brigade, the seat of the 1st Army Corps of the Hellenic Army and of the Bishop of Servia and Kozani.
One of the most important aspects of local folklore is Kozani's carnival at the end of the winter, which retains much of the profanity of the ancient Dionysiac cult. Kozani is renowned in Greece and abroad for the production of Saffron (Krokos Kozanis), in the nearby town of Krokos.
Kozani is a transport node between Central Macedonia, Thessaly and Epirus. The nearest airport is Filippos Airport, 4 kilometres (2 miles) from the city, IATA code: KZI. The airport was first opened in the mid-20th century. Kozani is situated near the Egnatia Highway, which connects the coast of the Ionian Sea with Thessaloniki and Turkish borders.
According to prevailing opinion in Greece, the name comes from the village of Epirus Kósdiani, the origin of settlers of Kozani in 1392. The settlement was first named Kózdiani, which then, it was changed into Kóziani, and in the end into Kozáni.
Antiquities from the prehistoric to the Byzantine period have been unearthed in many sectors of the city. In the east part of Kozani, an ancient necropolis has been found, dating to the early Iron Age. During Philip II of Macedon's reign, the region was named Elimeia, which was part of Upper Macedonia and probably in the same place there was a town named Tyrissa. In the south-west of the modern city, on Siopoto hill, there was a settlement named Kalyvia, between 1100 and 1300, traces of which are still preserved.
Kozani was probably founded by Christian settlers who, after the Ottoman conquest, withdrew from the plains of Macedonia into the mountains, during the 14th and 15th centuries. Its secure position soon attracted other Christians expelled from Epirus, in 1392. Together with the settlers from Epirus, many cattle-breeders moved in the region.
The first recorded mention of Kozani is in an Ottoman register of 1528, as a settlement with 91 houses, 23 singles and 15 widows. One of the most important colonizers of Kozani was the chief shepherd Ioannis Trantas, who settled about 100 families. His son, Charisios Trantas, managed to obtain a Sultan's firman in 1664, according to the terms of which the town came under the protection of the Sultan's mother, was endowed with many privileges, and became forbidden for the Turks to settle in.
In 1664, the magnificent church of Agios Nikolaos was built. In 1668, the library and the famous school of Kozani were founded. During the 17th and 18th century, commercial relations with the countries of central Europe gave the opportunity for the city to flourish economically. During the 19th century, as foreign travellers relate, the population of the town was Greek, and was growing (Leake 1835:305 and Bouè 1854:87).
The town's growth was disrupted in 1770, because of conflict that erupted between Kozani's local inhabitants and Kozanite merchants in central Europe, who contributed to the town's prosperity; even more catastrophically, the city was pillaged by Turkish beys in 1770. A subsequent incursion by Aslan bey, in 1830, ravaged the city immensely. In 1855 next to St. Nicholas Church a 26 meters high bell tower was built, which would become the symbol of the city. In 1939, a clock was added to the top of the tower, donated by Greek American Konstantinos Mamatsios. According to the 1904 population census, 12,000 Greeks and 350 Vlachs were living in Kozani at the time.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Kozani was part of the Manastir Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire.
The Greek army entered Kozani on 11 October 1912, during the First Balkan War, after its victory against the Ottoman army in the Battle of Sarantaporo. By this time, the population of the town was 12,000 Orthodox Greeks. In 1923, during the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, about 1,400 Greek families from Pontus and Asia Minor were settled in Kozani.
In the 20th century, the city grew tremendously, as lignite reserves in the area started being used by Public Power Corporation, making Kozani the foremost producer of electrical power in Greece. An earthquake that occurred in the region on 13 May 1995, with a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale caused only property damage.
The city now combines modern with old faries architecture. Some magnificent buildings are the clock tower, the tow hall, the folklore museum, the "Valtadoreio" Gymnasium, the National Bank of Greece building and the mansions of Georgios Lassanis and Grigorios Vourkas. The Municipal Library of Kozani called "Kovendareios" is the second biggest in Greece, and it has 150,000 books, rare publications, valuable documents, and one of the rare copies of Rigas Feraios' charter. For this reason Kozani was included in the National Cultural Network of Cities with object the promotion of the Book and Reading. The Institute of Book and Reading was established and Kozani is now known as City of Books. Today Kozani is the administrative, commercial, economic, and transport centre of the region of West Macedonia.
The city is mostly known for its important contribution to the Greek electricity supply, and a large part of the population works in coal power plant (DEI - Greek national electrical company). In the region, 40% of the electric energy of the country is produced. Other famous products are marble, Saffron (Krokos Kozanis), fruits, local wines and specialized arts and crafts industry. A lot of banks have branches in Kozani. The local bank is named Bank of West Macedonia.
The Commercial Exhibition of Kozani takes part in the Exhibition Centre of West Macedonia in Koila Kozanis every September. Many firms from Greece and other Balkan countries participate, especially with local products.
Sites of interest
- The Kozani Archaeological Museum.
- The Historical - Folklore and Natural History Museum of Kozani is a place worth visiting. It is built according to old Macedonian architecture, and in its 6 floors, visitors can see everything about the geography, natural history, flora and animals of the region, as well as the history, the traditions and the past way of life in Kozani.
- The Kozani Museum of modern local history
- The Kozani Museum of the Macedonian Struggle, a museum dedicated to the history of the Macedonian Struggle.
- The clock tower and the church of Agios Nikolaos - 350 years old - in Nikis Square.
- Other attractions include the Grigorios Vourkas Mansion and the Georgios Lassanis Mansion. The second one lies in a central square, named Lassani Square and it is used as the Municipal Map Library.
- The Municipal Park Kouri, the Park of Agios Dimitrios where you can see the Cultural Center and the Municipal Theatre of Kozani, and the hill of Xenia with the nice view of all the city
- The bridge above the lake of Polyfytos. It is the longest bridge in Greece and measures 1372 meters in length.