21st August: We hit the blue coast with its immaculate skies and waters. Greece is as prophesised by Egon Friedell (wiki), just reading his Greek cultural history: It’s the breeze; it always ensures a crystal clear view between skies and beach, sea and land, islands and mainland. Not one island is further than 40 kms away from the next or the mainland. The breeze allows a clear sight and this tempted the Ancient Greeks to dare their ventures.
We descend on Kavala. Christina likes the name, word is similar to the Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah.
When in Greece ... Say No to Heineken.
When in Greece ...
Drink retsina, play back-gammon, drink retsina, eat Kalamata olives, take on any amounts of tzatziki and feta, I still long for the Bulgarian obviously, and drink more retsina. I try some Mythos, but Mythos is a mythos, first national beer introduced only 1997 or so, not even to avail everywhere, not so great either. Otherwise there's Amstel, once disgusted by all the Amstel I even turn to Heineken, it’s the only choice left. All the same anyway, only illusions that drive choices. Just Amstel has this name in my brain, recalling my summer in Syria, all summer 1987, 3 months, when Amstel was the only beer in the country. Sure I have some good memory associations with drinking Heineken too, in small bottles, but these days one simply has to avoid drinking, buying, ordering Heineken, it's the biggest animal on the block and has to be fought as by sheer size and power the company crowds out local beer producers. I have walked out of bars in Italy when no Italian beer was on offer. You cannot do that in Greece unless you avoid them altogether. Every cafe, every bar, down through the balkans, more so in Greece gets the same uniform plastic rattan stools and tables ... there is a choice between whites and browns. Greece what it was once known for is about to disappear under a Heineken veil, like paying a price for becoming a good European. The best think about Turkey will be that there is NO Heineken to be had. To me, must be obvious by now, it ain't alright to drink Heineken.
Cucumber, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and mint leaves mix it with creamy, fatty 10% yogurt, is named tzatziki and is a delight, some Kalamata olives along, some retsina ... Still -, but -, given the disastrous beer situation in the country shall we/I mean, let's switch completely to retsina? The locals have it with Coke and whatever else? I quit like the taste, got hooked when I was 17? Let’s play back-gammon and have some retsina, later switch to Greek red wine and later to Ouzo? Greece is booze all over. I am an drunkard.
We eat more than formidable in Thessaloniki. For many days as the local restaurant, old style, going for 60 years or so has a wifi connection going; all that cooked beef and vegetables, peppers, okras, potatoes.
Also fresh morning börek (a patty, is actually Turkish?) with spinach is a delight, or feta is not too bad; with a morning espresso, or cold! cafe latte? I prefer the espresso.
Just pork Gyros is a slammer, they keep telling me is pork, always would have chosen lamb, reality in northern Greece it is mostly pork, with, tzatziki and fries requires an extra dose of ouzos or retsina, better both. Junkfood is terrible. My stomach would just rebel so heavy is the stuff.
The coast is a coast, life is the beach, the sea, retsina is not Amstel, I read Ishmael, from Daniel Quinn (wiki) and think it is written for school boys and school boys and girls should read it. If he is a writer I can be.
Chalkidiki, unreachable monastries.
A friend, Michael, in 2005 1 week Morocco with him, tipped me off, when you pass Chalkidiki you have to go and see the monasteries, a peninsula, no women allowed. But that turned out more complicated. It is not just a peninsula Mount Athos (wiki) it is the Holy Mountain, the Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain.
Not accessible by car, you need authorization, a visa from the Pilgrims' Bureau in Thessaloniki to see any of the Eastern Orthodox monasteries. A pity.
So we tour Chalkidiki (wiki), the tourist route, after a day get bored and escape to Thessaloniki.
Thessaloniki (wiki) was a melting pot for centuries. Turks, Greek, Bulgarian, Sephardic Jews all lived side by side. Jews, expelled from Spain in the 15th century formed a majority all through the Ottoman Empire time till the Nazi Holocaust exterminations 1943. Thessaloniki became Greek after the 1st Balkan war 1913, Turkish/Greek population exchange of 2 million took place in 1923 after Turkey had won its war of independence. In Greece we refer to this as the Asia Minor disaster, the end of the dream of a Greater Hellas comprising coastal and some central areas in Turkish Anatolia. So Thessaloniki must have been a cool multi-cultural place to live in 100 years ago. Maybe this is what formed Atatürk’s mind who was born here 1891. Thessaloniki is like Vienna or L’viv, melting pots and cities to empires. So was it the melting pots that brought the empires down? In a way, perhaps?
Town is still cool today, but then it was ... what I would like to look at today.
In Thessaloniki we eat formidable. Parked very central on top of the Roman odeum. For many days we stay guests in a local restaurant, old style, going for 60 years or so, there is an open wifi connection from somewhere; all that cooked beef and vegetables, peppers, okras, potatoes, cannot name the dishes unfortunately.
Seen enough here, Turkey the real destination of the trip is calling. Along the blue coast, Kavala again, play back gammon an afternoon in Xanthi, sleep near Porto Lagos, fill up in Alexandroupolis, enter Turkey.