|Modern Thessaloniki, the waterfront|
Just back from a few wonderful sunny days in my favourite Greek city, Thessaloniki. My first visit here was in 1966 when I came from England to visit my Greek relations with a scant knowledge of Greek. I have written many wailing accounts of how much the city has changed. As we grow older we tend to live more and more in the golden, halcyon memories of our past and the delight of first encounters. Thus we feel deeply indignant when places we love alter with time and so-called progress. I miss the open fields and the little red tiled roofs and white houses round Kalamaria where my cousins had their homes. The houses were small and toilets often primitive but they were cool and airy, marble floored, with beautiful wrought iron doors, sheer curtains that covered windows to the floor like bridal veils, stirring gently in the breeze of open shutters. At lunchtime, the women went to the baker's to collect the meals they had taken there to cook in his hot ovens; delicous makaronada, moussaka, imam bayildi and papoutsakia. People sauntered past as one sat replete with these good things, sunning on the little balcony and greeted one cheerfully. Ladies gathered in the afternoon in the cool of a porch and sipped coffees and gossiped, relaxing after their morning toils. It had character and it was Greek.
|Easter dancing 1973|
Now these houses in Kalamaria have been demolished as the old owners died and their children raised high blocks of flats in their place. It's true the flats are spacious, well equipped, modern, beautiful but they now look like any city suberb in Spain, Portugal or Italy. No character.
I can no longer see the church where my daughter was baptised one Easter Sunday, nor the sea in the distance where we used to go and bathe. People feel estranged and older folks are lonely, an occurrence that always seems to occur when people live in high rises. I go there and feel lost and sad. Only the fig tree remains in the cemented road, a tree planted by my cousin many years ago.
|Easter, roasting the goat in Yia yia's garden.1973|
|Under the fig tree, easter eggs and smiles|
|Still some beautiful old apartments in the city centre|
|The fire of August 1917|
Photo - "Popular Mechanics" Magazine Dec 1919, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5850057
A terrible fire ravaged the city in August 1917 which destroyed most of the Jewish quarter and many of the the lovely waterfront villas. Very little of the older architecture now exists, not even the attractive apartments and other planned vistas erected after the fire. Just as we experienced in London after our own great fire in 1666, many wonderful schemes were dreamt up to renew and beautify the city but few ever came to fruition.
But I miss those old days so much.