Friday, June 6, 2014

Centuries of history in Thessaloniki

With a promise that the hotel would call us within an hour about the lack of air conditioning, we set off to find the bus that would take us to the old Byzantine walls above the city. For the small price of eighty cents we were taken to our destination. A short walk took is to the viewpoints over the town and busy port. We decided to walk back to town, a  trip that took us through picturesque narrow, cobbled streets by houses lined with colourful window boxes and walls covered in hot pink and purple bougainvillea. After much walking we still hadn’t found the same neighbourhood that had looked so attractive from the taxi the day before. But we did find a bar where we had two refreshing beers that helped counteract the thirty-four degree heat.

A further walk took us to the old Greek market. Here, we took advantage of the stalls selling nuts and dried fruit and stocked up for some snacks. The market had clothing stalls but the best part was the busy food market with lots of butcher shops, fresh fruit and vegetable and fish stalls. There were all kinds of fish, some the cheaper kinds that we didn't know but lots of sea bream, cod, sea bass and swordfish.

Since it was lunchtime, we stopped at a restaurant in the market. I tried to order swordfish from the menu, after all we were in the market and had just seen some. No swordfish. In fact the number of things the restaurant actually had was limited. It was time for yet another salad.

Semi-fortified we walked further into the town, passing old Roman ruins that we couldn't get in to see but could look down on. There were some lovely Byzantine churches, always much lower than the main street level and surrounded by lovely gardens but they were closed.

After much more walking we ended up at the old port entrance, where there was a lively outdoor restaurant on the wharf, serving modern Greek food. We had some lovely sun dried tomatoes in a phyllo pastry accompanied by lemonade made with lemons and sparkling water. This tasted extra good in the heat of the day.

It was now time to return to the hotel. We knew from a phone call that someone was working on the air conditioning. When we arrived, we were told that the A/C had been working for four hours. Perhaps, but not in our room. After further conversation and asking us to wait for yet another half an hour, we moved to the hotel across the street, where the much needed air conditioning worked.

Somewhat refreshed we headed out to the cinema on the old wharf. In Greece movies are shown in their original language, so an opportunity for us to watch a movie in English, which we can’t do in Spain where all foreign movies are dubbed. Ten minutes early, we bought our tickets for the latest X-Men film (it was either that or Godzilla!). The ticket seller asked in an unbelieving way if we wanted to go in now. We said yes and were accompanied to the theatre by a lady who turned on the lights. We were the only people there. In fact on a Saturday night only eight of us eventually watched this movie. Perhaps this is another sign of Greece’s economic woes. There were certainly many young people milling about outside but no one going to any of the movies.

Now it was time to search for food again. We finally stopped at one of the restaurants in a large square, where they specialized in grilling chicken, lamb and meat. Sitting outside we had a very nice cabbage salad and chicken shish kebab while joining in the excitement of watching the Champions League Final before returning to our lovely, cool hotel room.

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