Tag Archives: Thessaloniki

Layers of Thessaloniki

Today I walked up into the hills behind the centre of town, heading vaguely in the direction of the castle which I knew to be somewhere ‘up on the top’. I am continuing my approach of not planning anything, not researching anything – just getting out there at every opportunity and seeing what happens.

Within the first few hundred yards I had passed the Roman Agora ( 2nd Century ) and the Aghios Dimitrios church ( 5th Century ) and then started the uphill climb towards the castle.

At the top, within a few meters of the castle ruins, I was totally surprised to find the 14th century Vlatadon Monastery – a UNESCO world heritage site. I wandered around its peaceful courtyard – the only visitor apart from the peacocks and two workmen cleaning the walls. Even the bookshop was locked.

To me the city of Thessaloniki is like a multi layered palimpsest – centuries upon centuries of human activity forming a surprising three dimensional puzzle. Greeks, Romans, Jews, the great fire and two world wars all leaving their marks.

Many of the architectural finds in modern Thessaloniki are actually made when they are constructing a new building – they dig the foundations, find older habitations, stop the construction, excavate carefully, catalogue what they find and unless it is really significant they then fill it in again to construct the new foundations as planned.

On the steep walk up through narrow suburban alleys I was reminded again of the modern struggle that forms the constant backdrop to my visit – the crisis that now faces Greece as it struggles to find any kind of financial stability.

And that struggle is expressed in the Graffiti that I have been photographing every day. It is like the final veneer layered onto so many walls, and in these steep alleys you don’t need to walk far to find amazing juxtapositions of the modern and the old, they sit quite literally one on top of the other.

Sometimes the Graffiti rages it’s simple message of frustration and anger, but so often it is laced with humour and delivered with such skill.

I have no credibility at all to talk about Graffiti – I know nothing at all about it. But that is what my life is about now – finding out what I don’t know, pushing myself, learning and chasing information like a child does. And today I found myself drawn to it again and again – it expresses so much about this latest episode in the long history of Greece. And sometimes despite everything it just makes me smile.


Get out there and celebrate the moment

One of the most important things I think I have finally, absolutely learnt recently is how fantastic it is to just get out and do stuff. You learn, live and celebrate.  Why do I ever take my eyes off of this very simple goal?

Two great examples form the last 24 hours here in Thessaloniki.

Yesterday evening, after two glorious days of December sunshine, as the sun went down it started to pour with rain. Rather than sit and read, listen to music or write – I looked out – saw the street reflections – reached for the camera and just tramped around for a couple of hours in the dark. What a great decision.

I spent the time wandering around in Ladadika – a very small area of Thessaloniki treasured for small intimate cobbled streets with cafes, bars and restaurants – a short stroll from the sea and opposite the main port. And about 500 yards from my hotel, so no effort at all.

Rain on tables

I ended up with some photos that I love, two of which I have posted here – I learned about the camera which is still new to me – but more importantly I have some memories that I treasure because they were created out of the moment by me getting out and just living. Upside down tables and puddles were transformed into something quite magical – and all I had to do was be there and look.

Then again this evening – no rain but its windy and cold – and off I go. No hesitation. This time the experience wasn’t driven by photographs but simply by going into a bar to shelter from the wind. Inside it was small, very dark and intimate. I ordered a glass of wine, warmed up, got settled –  and very gradually started looking around.  It took me a while to work out that I was the only guy in the bar.. I had managed to wander into a gay women-only bar without realizing it.

After my over-polite exit i fell into the next bar where the barmaid – Nandia – thought it was extremely funny, and so did I. The girls in the bar were  amused, hospitable and I am sure I didn’t spoil their evening, I was just a crazy English bloke who didn’t understand what way up anything was and left as soon as he did.

And to round off the the experience I did manage to order a sparkling water ( to go with the chardonnay ) in Greek without Nandia hesitating – although she did smile – for all the wrong reasons women have been smiling at me all evening – and how nice is that?

Just get up and get out there – it’s such an exciting planet!

The Importance of Music

Music has been a big part of my first visit to Thessaloniki.

Drummers in Thessaloniki


Drummers in the square, children singing, a man playing the accordion for his friends in a cafe – and street bands have all been very uplifting for me.




Music so lifts me up.

Thessaloniki accordian player

People sharing music here just seems so natural – unpretentious.

But actually the biggest high so far was last night – when I finally realized I could plug my laptop into the room sound system and listen to Spotify through proper speakers. I haven’t yet started a Greek channel – but I am sure I will.


Lots of bouncing around the room for joy – no photos of that, fortunately..


Thessaloniki – First Impressions

End of the first full day of my first visit to Thessaloniki – and I am certainly impressed so far. Main takeaways are:

  • Great weather – the UK is getting a cold snap – what a great feeling to have the warm sun on your face
  • Not a tourist resort – at least for global travelers – just the right balance of visitors enjoying themselves and locals out and about
  • Lots of music, culture and celebrations

I definitely lucked out on the celebration front – the city has just started a month of celebrations around Christmas, with children in particular loving the celebrations in the main square today.


Greece is of course constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons – the miserable state of the economy and the impending and inevitable exit from the euro. Based on my first few hours here the people are friendly and full of life. Even the Chardonnay is totally reasonable..













Just a shame about the sunsets..