Sunday, May 14, 2006


Thessaloniki, Greece

The Lonely Planet was spot on about Greek's second city. Thessaloniki was every bit as cool and upbeat as Athens was undistinctive. The old upper city makes good use of its remaining ancient walls and we spent a pleasant hour looking at the last towers and the remains of the citadel which had until recently been used as a small prison. There are a few archaeological sites dotted around the city, but nothing that qualifies as a destination in its own right. It was a pleasant surprise to run across a bit of preserved history on our way from here to there. We also took in the award-winning (2005 European Museum of the Year) Byzantine Museum. It features a pleasant if undramatic collection housed in an excellent modern building. The visit was only marred by the extremely attentive watchfulness of the staff over the two suspicious Americans that were apparently the only visitors at that time.

The city's geographic and social focal point is the waterfront. The endless parade of cafes, bars, and restaurants starts to fill up in mid-afternoon, reaches a buzzing climax of activity just before sunset, and continues to be busy well into the evening. On the back of local advice, we managed to find a few joints a notch above the rest to use as launchpads for evenings on the town. Outings included an extended sojourn among the beautiful people in a busy little bar, a set by DJ Spooky in a large concert hall, and karaoke with the younger crowd. Admission and drinks were expensive by OC standards, but folks seemed up for it and were at least pleasant if not actively friendly. In one memorable instance, we were temporarily adopted by the local gay scene in a bar called "Don't Tell Mama".

If I ever return to Thessaloniki, it will be in completely different clothes. The inhabitants (especially the women) take their fashion seriously. My four shirt / two pant backpacker wardrobe was not really up to snuff against the latest in trendy Eurowear. There is also some kind of battle going on to see who can sport the largest sunglasses. Since I do not even own a pair of sunglasses (and Jason favors the smaller varieties), we were not really in the ring for that contest either. As silly as the trend seems to me, though, fashionistas in windowpane shades were representative of the energetic vibe of T-Town that separates it from Athens. While we were in town, there was a video art festival and a big meeting of graffiti artists who painted the hell out of a long brick wall in the suburbs. It is all very cool and more reason why Thessaloniki should be the urban destination of choice in Greece for people with more of an interest in the new than the old.


Blogger Mik3 said...

George - Hello from Bulgaria. Glad to hear that there is some accuracy to my impressions. Out of curiousity - how did you trip across our blog?

5/22/2006 3:06 PM gmt


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