There are two Thessaloniki’s. The city during the day and the city after sun down. My first glimpse of the place was on Sunday, when everything was closed. It’s an ugly city as such. Most of the city was destroyed by a fire and the cityscape is made up of rows and rows of ugly block shaped buildings. Some of the old Turkish houses in the Anopoli survive, as do the Byzantine walls, some old churches and hamams. Well, on Sunday the city was deserted. What the hell will I do here for three days? was the only thought in my mind. I walked around the city centre, saw some of the sights, fended off unwanted advances and went back home around six.
In an hour or so I was bored (1) and decided to take the half hour bus ride back to the city centre and hang around the sea front. I have never seen a city transform so much in just a couple of hours. The stalls on the waterfront were now open (there’s a book bazaar on), musicians were playing their instruments, all sort of food was being sold and traditional Macedonian dances were taking place. It was just so amazingly festive! I eventually reached home only around midnight.
Yesterday, things were busier during the day. The street markets were open. Around the Ladadika area vendors sold fish, fruits, flowers, clothes, hats, shoes (I bought a pair for €10).
I’ve spent most of my time here walking around the waterfront. It’s the one great redeeming factor of the city. People fish, walk, run, make out, eat, paint along the length of the coast. After two days of sunny weather, its pouring here today and I spent most of the afternoon sitting in one of the gazillion café bars (café by day, bar at night, full all the time) that line the water front. The coffee is always good (and comes with an adorable platter of pastries), the music uniformly excellent. The Thermaic Gulf stretched out ahead and I could barely make out the ships in the mist. It was rather lovely.
Thessa is also famous for its food. The Turkish influence (or is it the other way round?) is strong. I ate simit type bread every morning. A big fancy pastry shop just off Aristotelous Square, sells the most fabulous baklava. The shop owner has consistently refused to charge me for my daily piece of baklava, “No money!” he said firmly every time I went up to pay. Yesterday, at the book bazaar I had (I don’t know what the Greek name is!) a Greek version of the small gulab jamuns. Some sort of flour balls, dipped in honey and sprinkled with walnuts. Sickeningly sweet. Amazingly good. Earlier today, when the rain was coming down heavily, people lined the covered alleys, almost all of them eating steaming hot böreks. (I love the ones with feta cheese).
So the three days here have passed fast enough. My train for Istanbul leaves in three hours. Am excited :).
(1) The girl whose place I was staying at with took off for Bulgaria an hour after I reached. So I was basically home alone the whole time.
(2) I wish I had pictures. Damn it.