The fact that Thessaloniki is such a walkable city is one of the standard arguments in the endless debate over which is the friendliest city in Greece. And it is a strong one.
It is a summer day, nearly noon, and I am in the old city centre. Walking along Egnatia Street, a thoroughfare that has charted the course of the city for centuries. And I am faced with a dilemma: do I continue towards the Upper Town or head down to the waterfront?
I opt for the Upper Town. I plan in my mind the triangle I will trace, from the Bezesteni Market to the Ancient Agora, then the antique shops, then a stop somewhere for a beer and meze, to be followed eventually by the descent towards the sea.
I’ve walked this route many times so far. The streets, places, shops, even the faces are familiar to me. The advantage of a medium-sized city is that you know people, they greet you in the street. You go to Iraklis for sunflower seeds, to Tsarouha’s for soup, to Kampouritso’s for cheese, for bougatsa to Maki’s. All the shops are named for people and there is a smile behind every door.
The Eclectic is no different. A modern grocery store cum eatery in Venizelou street, just below the old Dioikitirio. An unassuming place, no frills, but a cornucopia of products and flavours like an old-fashioned grocer’s. I sit and order a Greek beer from Chios and a bite of cheese, a graviera from Naxos. Just for a snack, but that was only for starters. Kyriakos prepared a package of cheeses – “just a little something to go” – and treated me to a last glass on the house.
I don’t remember the rest. It’s dusk now, I cross the road and for a few seconds my eye is caught by a dark blue streak of sea, almost black, between the buildings, at the far end of Venizelou.
“Tomorrow is another day…” I think, and turn for home.