Back from Thessalonica. After four long days of working from 9 to 8 and lots of great food (as I wrote from there). Thessalonian cuisine is an unlikely but exquisite merger of Italianate finesse, tang and subtlety, Turkish flavour, abundance and a focus on ingredients as well as Balkan simplicity and understatement. The above hold for any odd place we cared to sit down (or stand in) to eat, and — definitely — places for pastry and sweets. So, Michael (Manske): drive there as soon as possible for the most mindnumbingly delicious varieties of baklava.
The city itself is a Barcelona of the poor: esplanades, avenues, quirky architecture, bars, restaurants, cafés, a waterfront, old and new unexpectedly mixed. ‘Old’ as in ubiquitous Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman antiquities:
The city is cut in two by the university campus and the annual world expo grounds. I was driven into it from the airport in a GPS equipped cab, its driver having a sense of humour. I think Thessalonians are the main asset of the city. They are informal and fun: after all these years in the Outpost, it was good to see couples kissing in public again, second hand bookshops, cafés and bars full of people actually enjoying themselves (unlike that).Yes, affectedness: at 8:30 on the second day, having skipped breakfast, I stopped at a kiosk and bought a chocolate milk and a swiss roll.
“I am on this diet.” I told the kiosk keeper.
“Good, you are in the right place. We only sell health food here.”, she said.
A delicious break from Outposter shopkeepers’ silent staring at anything but asking for a product. Speaking of which: waitresses! They would actually engage in casual witty conversation; they would be invariably sweet and pretty; they would serve a smashing cappuccino freddo (a Greek invention, apparently) and Belgian beers (aaaahhh!!!!). During our in-venue coffee breaks I struck up conversations with the caterer (good coffee). She turned out to be someone trained in Kiev, in the ex-Soviet school for diplomats, on a scholarship from the Greek state.
Variety, then. In many senses.
Like London last October, Thessalonica made me feel alive and happy, imbuing me with that precious sense of well being.