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11 novembre 2009 3 11 /11 /novembre /2009 20:04
We arrived in Greece on Saturday the 31st of October. We passed fluently through the three Turkish procedures at the border and then we had to go through the necessary procedures on the Greek side. A custom officer came to have a look in our van. He started knocking on the carpet, to hear if it sounded hallow or if there was anything hidden behind. We finaly crossed the border rather quickly. Then we drove something like 45 minutes to make our first stop in Greece. The scenery in Greece was quiet suprising, mountaneous and on some of the mountain tops we could even see snow. The first impression of Greece was that we were definately back in Europe, with the expensive Euro.

We stopped in a town called Alexandropoulis. We find easily a place not far from the beach to park our car and spend the night. We made ourselves ready for a somewhat cold night and indeed the night was rather cold. Our conclusion: the isolation in the van is probably somewhat thin. The next day we woke up on a sunny day, so that made the night before bearable.  I have to confess that I was kind of worried how we will be coping with the rest of our trip, knowing that the temperatures will not be increasing...............

The rest of the day we drove almost the whole day as our objective was to arrive in the town called Thessaloniki. On our way we stopped at a town called Kavala to have a lunch. The town looked like a place crowded with tourist in high season, but a little bit deserted when you come by in this season. We had a sandwhich at a snackbar, where two guys served us very well and one of them was music producer. But we were on our way to
Thessaloniki and that sunday was football on the television, so no time for music. He assured us that we would find everything we were looking for in Thessaloniki.

On our way to the city
Thessaloniki we celebrated our 9.000 kilometers milestone. The km stand of our van was showing 131.446 km. Our first night in the city, we went to a bar to have some drinks and have also a talk with the people about our search for musicians. The waitress in a bar suggested us some places where we could find heavy metal music (a music style we do not have yet in our suitcases).

That night we found a place in the woods to sleep as the city seemed surrounded by green area. It was a short night as we had to wake up early to honour our appointment with our favourite journalist of Aligre FM, Eugénie Barbezat. We started off the day with our 30 minutes live broadcast at the parisian radio station. Eugénie livedin this city, fifteen years ago, so seh gave us a few tips about the city and places to visit. After our interview we went off to have the most expensive breakfast of our trip and exploring the city. Another reason why we were in this city, was because Olivier had to receive his new bank card from his bank in France at the French consulate of

Thessaloniki is the second biggest city in Greece. This city is nicely located along the Aegan Sea.

There is a harbour and the city itself consists of two levels. A part of the town that is near the sea and a more upward part, where the streets and more narrow and the houses are smaller and more pitorestic in my point of view. In the city there are quiet some remains of old civilisations. There is a big arch, rest of walls, in the middle of the centre you find archeaological excavations and quiet a lot of churches of Orthodox beliefs.

The churches are filled with icons and not statutes as you may find in the Catholic churches. The beleivers kiss the icons after prayer.

During our visit of the upper level of the city, we asked around where we could find live music. In a café they suggested us to go to the taverns. We found easily one where there was a young man playing guitar. The restaurant seemed closed, but we saw him through the window and he opened for us to know what we wanted. We somewhat invited ourselves in and had this wonderfull encounter and conversation about music with our host called Efthimis. Efthimis (a.k.a Mike) told us that at the beginning of the week it will be a little bit difficult for us to find live music as most of the places have concerts programmed as of Thursday and in the weekends. In the tavern he was working, they had greek music on Fridays and Saturdays. Efthimis still suggested to show us the night life in
Thessaloniki on the next night, that is Tuesday.

That Tuesday was close to a worthless day. It was raining the whole day and not just a little bit,  but pouring rain. As parts of the town is steep, the water was flowing as if it was a river. We spend the whole day running after swimmingpools to do some exercices and at the end we still found "no" as an answer. In Greece you need a medical certificat in order to have access to a public swimmingpool. Finaly in the night when we met with Efthimis it stopped raining. So we had our introduction to the nightlife of the city. It consisted of a round of bars and in two of the bars there was indeed life music. I have to say that I was impressed again for the nightlife on a usual week day. I was confronted again with the fact that Paris is a dull city compared with other cities we have visited during our trip and
Thessaloniki is one of them. The only thing is that the nightlife starts late (after 23:00 hours).

We had an appointment with Efthemis at 22:00 hours, as it was a little early, we went to a bar just to have a drink. Later we continued to this second one, where there were two musicians playing greek music. Both were singing, one was playing a bouzouki (a typical greek instrument with three or four double cords) and the other  musician a guitar. They agreed for us to record  their music and so we did. The guys were playing non-stop without a break in perspective, so finaly we left and only took their email adress.

We were off to this third bar where Efthimis had some friends working. There we met with Maya, a girl from Belgrade, Serbia who gave us some tips and information about her city. We had a nice but somewhat short conversation, because off we went to this fourth bar where there was a band playing that Efthimis knew and liked.

The band consisted of four musician: guitar, base, keyboard and drums. The guys were definitely putting a good atmosphere in the bar. They played mostly internationally known covers. The acoustics in the place was not optimal and there were lots of people inside, so the conditions were not met to record them. In the meantime it was 3:00 hours in the morning and we were tired. Efthimis told us that it was too early for him to go to sleep, later we knew that he continued until 5:00 hours. It was a good night and we enjoyed very much the places we went to, the music we heard, the conversations we had  and the people we met.

This city is filled with cafés and bars. It looks like you find a bar every 50 metres. It is incredible to see how each and everyone are different. The interior design is very much taken care off and most of the time of good taste.

Another thing we remarked about the Greek people, especially in the region of Thessaloniki, is that you cannot name the country Macedonia.  It is a touchy subject and kind of a diplomatic disagreement between the two countries. If I understand the situation rightly, for the greek people, this country doesn't have the right to call itself Macedonia.
For the Greek, the country is called Skopia country (Skopia is the capital). The region of Thessaloniki is called Macedonia, as it is the birthplace of Alexander the Great and the Greek people consider that they are the descendants of Alexander the Great. So as time went by in Greece, when people asked us about our next destination, we said Skopia. This prevented us of getting into too complicated discussions.  This makes me wonder what will we hear ones in Macedonia about Greece ?? (I guess this issue may have a folow-up)

There is a very dense trafic in the city. Drive around in the city is close to a nightmare. The streets are narrow, cars double park making the space even less wide. There are parts that are quiet steep, so you need to be in control of driving on steepy roads. The names of the streets are not always written in latin alphabet, so you can get lost quickly. We decided to stay for Friday night and record music in the tavern, Efthimis works. But in order to do that, we needed a break from the city, so on the Wednesday and parts of Thursday we left the city. We went away at around 40 km from the city in direction of the sea. We  stopped to have lunch in a fishermen village called Ormos Methonis. We put our feet in the water, but it was cold.

On the Thursday night, we booked a night in a hotel in Thessaloniki (Alexander Hotel), which was an OK hotel and they had a WIFI connection so I took all the time needed to update the blog, as I was running late on my narratives. Olivier went out alone in the city, looking for music. He came back without any recordings.

That Friday we were tourists in the city visiting the White Tour and Agia Sophia (a very nice orthodox church).

In the evening we went to have dinner in the Hiotis Tavern where our friend Efthimis works. Also to record the two musicians playing. Efthimis Likos was playing the bouzouki and Thanasis Tzourganos was playing the guitar. Both gentlemen were singing along. Our friend Efthimis asked us to record as many songs as possible, as he wanted to have it on a CD for the two musicians. That night we made a record number of recordings, the number of 14 in total.

You can listen to one of the greek songs played by the two musicians in a seperately posted article on this blog.

It was a very nice evening, we had good greek food, nice ambiance, good service, fun with the musicians and enjoyed the good music. The tavern was filled with mostly Greek and people were singing along the songs.

A friend of the musicians joined our table and explained us about the topic of these songs. The duo interpreted mostly songs of greek composers of the years 30 to 60's. He also told us that 90% of the songs talk about: women, jail and cannabis/alcohol. Our bouzouki player, Efthimis must be the most funniest guy in Thessaloniki. He didnt stop making jokes and laughed the loudest at his own jokes. This wonderfull night finished at about 2 o'clock in the morning and still the others were off at another bar.

As Olivier didn't receive his bank card yet from France, we had to still be in the city by Monday. But we decided not to stay in Thessaloniki for the weekend. From leaflets obtained at the tourist information centre, we saw that there were some peninsula's not far from the city. So off we went on that Saturday.  We drove something like 80 km and stopped at a place called Gerakini. A little town where time stands still when it is low season. There were quiet some appartments built along the beaches to welcome tourists. Most of them were empty at this time of the year. So it was not difficult for us to find a quiet place along the beach to spend the evening and the night. Olivier thought to have a swim the next day if the wheather permits.

Too bad, that Sunday the wheather was not very sunny, so no swimming.  We continued our journey and decided to go to the closest peninsula called Kassandras. We stopped at a town called Neo Folkea to have a lunch, as seafood is very reputated in this area. After lunch we continued exploring the region.

We had a bad idea to take a left turn to go more in direction of the sea. We got stuck in a muddy part without even noticing it. There we go again looking for help!! This time help came very quickly. We found easily somebody, who despite the fact that he didn't understand much of english nor did we of greek, he still understood our problem. This gentleman called somebody else with a tractor to come and drag us out. Help arrived within 15 minutes. The tractor easily succeeded in pulling us out of the mud. In less then 45 minutes we were stuck in the mud and dragged out of it......... and that on a Sunday.

Heading in direction of a town called Paliouri, they say seemed picturesque. Indeed the location of the town was nice, up on a hill with a nice view over pine trees and the sea further down. But the town itself didn't have anything spectacular. We spend the evening getting our pictures and music saved on CD's has a backup. In order to be sure not to loose anything from this trip. For that we spend the time in a café, filled with men. In this sence greek people are  a little bit like Turkish people. Beside me and the wife of the owner, there were only men in the café. It was apparantly also football time.
After our more administrative stop, we decided to go and look for a place to sleep just outside the town. We didn't even drove for 15 minutes or we found ourselves on a somewhat muddy road (again). When Olivier started to drive in reverse, we realised that the car was slipping a bit on the road. Between the slide, the little lights and everything, one tire of the car fell in a hole along the road.........................et MERDE!!!

Now we were not only stuck, but trapped in a hole, with the car leaning to the left. Olivier still went looking for help, but at 21:00 hours they didn't want to come and help and the road was not lighten up enough. We decided to call it the night, so fed up with this day. We would wake up early the next day and go and look for help. The next day, help found us. At 7:30 in the morning we were woken up by the sound of a truck that obviously needed to pass by but couldn't. The guys tried to drag us out of the hole, but the cord was not strong enough. They called someone with a tractor (déjà vue) who came a few minutes later. The tractor pulled us easily out of this situation. By 9:00 hours we were having coffee and tea in a café still in the town of Paliouri. We didn't take pictures of the situation, as you can imagine that we were not very happy and more preoccupied in getting ourselves out than making a Kodak moment.

After that morning experience we needed some good moments. It was a very sunny day, so we decided to go to the beach. We could swim. The water was a bit cold, but with those sunlights it was easy to get into. The water was very clear. We had big fun and a good rest from our muddy adventures. We stayed the whole morning and part of the afternoon. After that we headed for a town called Nea Moudania, where we spend the night.



The next day Tuesday (10/11/09) we decided to go back to Thessaloniki see if the bank card finaly arrived otherwise have some papers signed at the consulate. Finaly we received the good news that the bank card was there. We also came back to the city to meet with Efthimis to give him the CD with the recording of last Friday. At the end of the afternoon we left the city and also the country heading for our next destination.

Small anecdote: Ola Kala are the words behind the abreviation OK. The story goes that thanks to a Greek immigrant living in the United States in
the beginning of the 20th century OK has been introduced in the english language. This Greek used to stamp his bill with the abreviation OK meaning Ola Kala (which means good in Greek). With time this abreviation has been used in english losing the words behind it. So thanks to a Greek, everyone now says "OK" when it is fine!!! 

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