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Some Thessaloniki stories

July 31, 2007 am31 12:28 am

1. Last year I loved cucumber tomato salad, which I found consistently prepared everywhere, with only minor variation. This year I’ve gotten dried oregano, sliced onion, pepperoncini… I’m still trying, but what happened to those wonderful ripe tomatoes, cold cucumbers, and red onion, with just olive oil?

2. I made them do another take. It is hot here. Not like last week people-dying-in-several-countries hot, but in the 90s. So I am walking on the shadowed edge of a square, and a woman runs up to the guy in front of me, and it looks like she hassles him and he walks the other way. And then I approach. She comes at me, smiling, speaking in a hushed voice, and rapidly, and motioning for me to join a little group of people to my right (in the sun). Now, it’s Greek, so I just avert my eyes and walk on, good New Yorker style. But she shifts, still whisper-babbling, still smiling, but more urgently motioning for me to join them. I’m thinking this is a strange mime, or a cult, but either way, I’m not joining in. So I walk by, she looks sad, I look back, and they were filming a cellist. She was motioning for me to walk around. Look, my fault, right? I should know Greek. But she could make life easier. If the message was “stop” that’s what she should have communicated. And that would have worked fine. Bad communication is so easy, and in this case, comes from such good intentions (she didn’t want to come off harsh).

(5 more stories, just below –>)

3. They will have a subway in Thessaloniki, soon. So they are digging up the (very big) main street in a few places, including in front of my hotel. What a mess! The White Tower is being rehabbed and will house a permanent exhibition, early next year. Fenced off, can’t even touch it. About a third of the old city water front is fenced off. Don’t know what that one is for, but I do know that the seaside cafes, with the blocked views? Still full. Being there, not seeing there, that seems to be the ticket.

4. I have arrived here three times: Flew from Rome, sailed from Alonissos (a Greek island), and arrived by train (Berlin, via Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Skopje…)

5. The little crossing guy symbols? On two way streets with a median strip, there’s two of them, and they are often out of synch. So you get told to walk to the middle, and stop (does Queens Boulevard work this way?) But pedestrians are aggressive (almost like New York) and cross when and where they can. Speaking of which, I was amazed in Berlin at how people obeyed the little men (and the fat men). Later I learned that they actually levy on the spot fines for crossing against the light. OK, fat men? Yup. In much of old East Berlin, there is a chubby, behatted “Ampelman” who shows you to cross, or to stop. I should have bought an Ampelman t-shirt. Maybe I will still, mail order. Photos, later.

6. Last time I was here, I found a nice little area of cute restaurants (seating outside), a bit touristy, but not over-expensive. For a day and a half I was looking for that area. Thought I found the edge, but nope. And then I read my travel-journal:

…I can’t call it a cafe, as I just learned I can’t get coffee. We are on a very small square, maybe 50 yds square, pedestrian, no street at all, Center is a circle, slightly elevated, with a plane tree in the center. The square is lined with cafes with canopies, little shops, and by me is fed by a completely covered side street. Some sort of greenhouse set up…

So I walk, looking for my plane tree, and then, voila! It was exciting to check each detail… Sort of ridiculous, but it felt like following a treasure map.

7. There is a big art exhibit, a Biennal, and I have seen none of it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2007 am31 6:11 am 6:11 am

    that cucumber salad seems great–I’m going to make it tomorrow. enjoy your trip

  2. August 6, 2007 pm31 4:42 pm 4:42 pm

    For some reason cucumbers were 1) in short supply, 2) a bit expensive, and 3) not so tasty as last year. It seemed to me that more restaurants had “Tomato Salad”) (Ntomates Salata) rather than “Cucumber Tomato Salad” (Aggora-Ntomates Salata) this year. Something was up. And I spelled the transliteration of the Greek close, but wrong, I am sure.

  3. August 7, 2007 am31 9:59 am 9:59 am

    These are great stories. One of these days I will feel at liberty to travel again.

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