The day after Όλυμπος found us back on the train heading back the way we'd come - North. This time we pass by Λιτόχωρον heading straight on to Θεσσαλονίκη (Thessaloniki). Later in the journey we'll see the words "F*** FYROM" scrawled on a station wall.

There's a story here, which Christine attempts to explain to me and which I will attempt to explain to you, dear Reader. But I am less an expert than Christine and she, though knowledgeable, is not wholly an expert herself. Besides, even if I could tell the whole story you would likely tire before the end (for those who tire immediately, just skip the italicised text below). To tell this story, we'll "borrow" material from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and maps from Wikipedia.

The FYROM name issue is not simply a dispute over historical facts and symbols. It is a problem with regional and international dimensions, given that FYROM is exercising a policy of irredentism and territorial claims fuelled by the falsification of history and the usurpation of Greeces historical and national heritage.
In its current form, the FYROM name issue arose in 01991, when FYROM declared its independence under the name Republic of Macedonia.
Historically, the Greek name Macedonia refers to the state and civilisation of the ancient Macedonians, which beyond doubt is part of Greeces national and historical heritage and bears no relation whatsoever with the residents of FYROM, who are Slavs by descent and arrived in region of the ancient Kingdom of Macedonia at a much later stage.
[Green region at right denotes present-day Greek region of Macedonia.]
Geographically, the term Macedonia refers to a broader region that includes portions of the territories of various Balkan countries (mainly Greece, FYROM and Bulgaria). However, the greater part of geographical Macedonia coincides with the area covered by the ancient Greek Macedonia, which lies within the boundaries of modern Greece. Some 2.5 million Greek citizens currently live in the Greek part of Macedonia, whose inhabitants have called and considered themselves Macedonians since time immemorial.
The name issue originated in the aftermath of the Second World War, when Josip Broz Tito separated the area then known as Vardar Banovina (now FYROM) from Serbia, granting it the status of a Republic within the new federal Yugoslavia, under the name Socialist Republic of Macedonia, concurrently promoting the doctrine of a separate Macedonian Nation. Obviously, the most important reason for opting to promote the doctrine of Macedonianism at clear variance with the geographical reality of the broader region of Macedonia was his desire to gain access to the Aegean Sea by cultivating the notion of reunification of all Macedonian territories.
This is the context of the irredentist efforts that have been mounted by FYROMs political leadership to nurture in the countrys citizens via school books and propaganda the notion that they are the descendents of the ancient Macedonians, thus cultivating the concept of a United Macedonia, a portion of which is FYROM, with other parts under Greek, Bulgarian and Albanian occupation. It is clear that the irredentist doctrine of a United Macedonia opens the way to claims on occupied territories.
The obligation undertaken by both parties [FYROM & Greece] to negotiate an agreement on the name issue was set down in the Interim Accord signed by Greece and FYROM in 01995, establishing, at the same time, a code of conduct between the parties.
Since then, Greece has made every effort to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue. Unfortunately, 13 years later, no significant progress has been achieved, due to FYROMs intransigence, bad faith, and provocative attitude, as it holds to the maximalist position of rejecting any name other than the constitutional Republic of Macedonia, thus rendering the negotiations under the UN aegis an interminable exchange of views.
FYROMs political conduct constitutes a severe injury to good neighbourly relations and a destabilizing factor in the wider Balkan region, as the countrys leadership has chosen the treacherous path of extreme nationalism, in violation of the principles of international law.
[Both NATO and the EU have made resolution of the naming issue a condition for FYROM's accession into their organizations. Greece is already a member of both.]
For Greece, the definitive settlement of the matter and the finding of a mutually acceptable solution remain the sole objective. Greece's shift from its initial negotiating position accepting the idea of a compound name that includes the term Macedonia on the condition that there is also a geographical qualifier is proof of the constructive spirit and good faith in which Greece has approached the negotiations under the UN to date.
The Greek side calls for:
1.  the adoption of a definitive composite name with geographical qualification of the term Macedonia, for all purposes (erga omnes) and for all uses, so as to avoid confusion with Greek Macedonia and to put an end to the irredentist policy and territorial aspirations of FYROM,
2.  that FYROM genuinely renounces the usurpation of historical and national heritage of the Greek people,
3.  Endorsement of the definitive solution by the UN Security Council, so as to ensure respect for its implementation.

Arriving in Θεσσαλονίκη we're met by Christine's friend Γιώργος (Giorgos). He'd helped us make contact when I first landed in Greece, so it was good to meet in person.

We stop by a bakery on the way out of town to purchase food and water. With these in hand, we're departing the shop when a voice calls us and the shopkeep comes running after. This water, she explains, was only recently put in the cooler and is still warm. She finds us some appropriately chilled water to replace it.

It was a close call. In Greece water that isn't ice cold will make you sick.

The car speeds south towards Χαλκιδική (Halkidiki)'s second finger and a more specific beach whose name I'm told it is very important to remember because people will ask. Inevitably, they later do and, just as inevitably, I've forgotten.

After a brief stop at Γιώργος's relative's we end up at the beach which has beautiful sands and beautiful waters. It seems crowded, though most places do to me, but, then again, this is a feature of Greeks: they like to congregate.

The afternoon's spent swimming, playing racquetta (a sort of cultural institution involving a ball and a heavy wooden racquet), and entertaining and being entertained by Γιώργος's very precocious four-year-old cousin. The racquetta paddle and ball remind me on some subconscious level of squash; the competitive nature of that sport doesn't translate well to the non-competitive racquetta and in the end Γιώργος and I both grow frustrated with my arm's in-grained tendancy towards kill shots and my bumbling attempts to stop it.
Racquetta Paddle

The beach is followed by supper where the sea-side is table-side. While I locate the restroom, Γιώργος and Christine put their heads together and I return to find they've ordered a myriad of seafood dishes. Clams, oysters, mussels, squid, crab, shrimp, anchovies, and larger fish all somehow make their appearance. And it's all very tasty, though I can't stomach the crunching of little fishy spines.

We make a parting stop with Γιώργος's relatives. Sitting on the second-story balcony of their house overlooking the town and the sea on one side and sunset-bathed hills on the other, I soak up the view as the Greek speakers of the group (that is, everyone else) discuss the difficulties of an older relative and what to do about it.

The drive back to Θεσσαλονίκη begins with inspired sunsets and ends with mountainous silhouettes. After showers and naps we head to Block33…

It is a rule that whenever a new club opens said opening must be celebrated with a multi-day festival of bands and very loud music. Tragically related is a rule that depsite having dozens of them, I always forget my ear plugs when I go to such places.

We stand around outside for a while talking over the noise and experimenting with the possibility that there might be eight alcohols in the world. This, though, is not to be and at 2AM when 63HIGH takes the stage we head inside.

There's been a nagging strain for the past few days and standing in there amid the crowd of people bobbing my head lightly I finally identify it: being in proximity to Christine solidifies my identity. For months my identity's been fluid. I've been mobile enough, surrounded by enough new people, that I can reinvent myself. Here, now, that is not possible. But the music plays on, and that can mean only one thing. I take a step back and let the crowd swallow me.

After more than an hour of moshing I catch sight of Christine again, an unreadable expression on her face - one I'll struggle to interpret later. Γιώργος will later say that I "decided to have fun"; I don't explain the gross over-simplification. Leaving the stage room I head back to the courtyard and put together enough Greek and charisma(?) to obtain a free water bottle.

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