It’s summer, and an email from David Sheppard had me thinking back to sunny days in Greece. I sent a few emails home over the course of my travels, and I’ll post a a few of them here.
Observations from Greece 1 (2004)
So where in the world am I? Greece! Specifically: the city of Thessaloniki. It’s been two weeks and I’m finally getting more comfortable finding my way around and settling into life here. Thessaloniki is in the north of Greece, close to Bulgaria, and every day busloads of Bulgarian tourists are dropped off just near my apartment. It’s the 2nd largest city in Greece and I find it odd that it’s off the radar of most N. American tourists, so I have taken it upon myself to educate you. Of course, what will follow are just my observations and opinions. You’ll just have to come visit me to make up your own mind about it!
Ok, so what’s it like?
The countryside landscape reminds me a lot of Northern California. I suspect this is due to the similarity in latitude. Where there’s no city there are dry rolling hills with low trees and bushes: dark green on gold.
The city is right beside the sea. Unlike the bright blue water you see in postcards, the water is dark here, and its more than a little bit dirty due to the city and large port by the waterfront. Still, the waterfront is a nice place to walk. In the morning, you find men sitting on overturned crates, sitting on the seaside walkway, fishing, and smoking cigarettes. Its full of tourists during the day, and families walking in the cooler evenings. There’s nothing to obstruct your view of the sea and sunset.
The waterfront is also lined with café/bars that serve coffee in the daytime and liquor all night. They’re always full. Each one’s got its own atmosphere, usually good music, and style. It’s not cheap either, but with any drink you order, be it a coke or a beer, they will always give you a small snack, like a piece of cake, chips, or nuts, along with a bottle of water.
There are also student cafés, as this is very much a university town. There are two large universities in the middle of it, and consequently, masses of students. The student cafés are great! You can order a drink (my current usual being chocolate milk) that comes with the obligatory glass of water and snack, sit there and play cards or board games all evening. They have shelves full of games for the students to play…and on almost every table there is a game going. On that note, I’ve actually started learning to play backgammon (Tavli) which is one of the local favourites.
With 1 million people concentrated in a small city (mostly of it a walkable distance), the traffic is horrible and there’s bad smog on most days. I’ll talk more about driving here another time. That’s a whole category on its own.
Some days I’ll be walking in an area full of residential buildings and stumble upon a hidden courtyard of cafés and tavernas, like a hidden pocket of calm, or a secret garden in the city. The sidewalks are crammed with people and the cafés always have patrons, but despite this, the first new words I learned in Greek were ‘siga siga’ or slowly! Life here is simultaneously hectic and calm.
I’ll leave you with this for now. Until the next installation, take care!