I go out walking in Thessaloniki's busy, noisy traffic-choked street, Odos Egnatia. The smells intoxicate, smells of flowers and honey, smells of baking and heated cooking oil. Which has a particular smell here that's like nowhere else. If I was to be brought here blindfolded I would know where I was by the smell of hot oil. Just as the olives here taste different. And the honey. The street's messy and untidy, it's loud and full of life.
My heart expands as I walk along this street of small shops, bakeries, clothes shops, shoe shops, and one selling icons. Further on, there's road works, and I move away into quieter streets.
There's the Rotunda Temple. There's the remains of a vast Roman archway, the Galerius Arch, (4th century AD) its sculpted friezes still clearly defined.
|Rotunda & Galerius Arch: photo credit Wikipedia|
There's the original Roman Agora, and there's the sea front, the promenade, packed with people – and there's the White Tower, surrounded by pine trees, their thick trunks leaning away from the wind.
|View of agora|
Apart from the glossy-leaved ones, and the maritime pines by the water, the trees are still bare. Light changes colour and texture in late afternoon and it's this kind of light that surrounds the old Hamam.
The entrance is fenced off and there's graffiti on the fence. There's graffiti and stains on the façades of buildings. Roman ruins and ruinous modern concrete high-rises. It's all weary and watchful, it's worn and marked with life and time and traffic. It's stained and it's sheltering, messy and magisterial, it's unkempt and dishevelled, it's the Balkans and there's nowhere quite like it. There are artistic details – hand-painted signs for cafes and bakeries, bold lettering in bright colours.
A woman sweeps the pavement beside cafe tables, under an awning. Her brush is made of long yellow twigs – like the brushes kept in the shade of a bower, to sweep up the leaves from the paths, in the garden around the Rotunda.