We wake up late the next morning and walk out through Θεσσαλονίκη. Γιώργος knew the history of the city and politics far better than I can do justice to these many months later. Suffice it to say that we walked down to a cafe by the edge of the sea where I wasn't, of course, allowed to have a hot drink. The cold-cocoa succedaneum was a luciously acceptable alternative, though.

A passing immigrant ties a luck bracelet for me, all the while extoling its charms, saying it will bring me health and wealth, though it seems as though he's experiencing most of the benefits for now. This breakfast is followed up by wandering through the streets and then the alleys to a tasty Indian restaurant that was, previous, a brothol. This infamy means its location is well known, despite the oblique route one must take to arrive there.

Over lunch there is more talk of history and culture. The meal concludes with a fifteen minute discussion concerning the appropriate level of formality with which to request the bill. TODO
We eventually make our way back to the train station by way of a fantastic chocolate store. As we leave, I'm happily munching τριαγονία, which means "three corners" but tastes much better. Γιώργος sees us to the train station where Christine produces a roll of toilet paper, Greek public restrooms being chronically under-supplied, and then we're off.
We pass by Όλυμπος on the way back. In retrospect, it's been my favourite mountain to climb. The passage of terrain from Mediterranean ocean, through pines forests, to the treeless top coupled with dramatic vistas puts it in a class of its own.


Λάρισα

The next few days will pass by quickly. Though I could leave town, I very much want to relax… and create. At one point I'll even find myself doing a little coding near the town square. You may cry out that there's something wrong here, but I've been "on the road" since the beginning of August and Λάρισα is a good place to relax and catch up on one's arts. We stay up late, and wake up, late: night-life is important.

Walking around Λάρισα you pass beautiful churches (though Greece is more secular than it was, Christine tells me that during Easter there are, literally, clouds of smoke from roasting lamb and the whole city smells of it) and spacious parks. The former are immaculate, the latter, littered. To the right is one of the best-preserved ampitheatres in Greece. Until lately, buried beneath apartment buildings.

Britain dripped eclectic history, as does much of Western Europe. In Bristol there was a communist-concrete-style skating arena right next to a pub which had been open since sometime in the 01600's. Walking through Glasgow and Edinburgh the shops, hotels, and restaurants all happily inhabited structures which had been built a couple of centuries ago and simply needed a scrub now and then (they were working on this while I was there. The industrial revolution and the automobile have turned formerly-white stone black in many places, though Steve, a stonework-maven of sorts, was quick to point out that varying stone quality and porosity affected the rate at which this took place.). All this surrounded an even older set of castles and churches, many still "functional", built around a set of crumbling castles and churches, built around signs of Roman occupation, built around stone circles.


Random pictures
Observationally, it seemed as though many parts of Greece had experienced exactly two eras: Hellenistic Zenith and the Now. There are exceptions: Λευκός Πύργος, the White Tower of Θεσσαλονίκη, which dates to the 01420's, and various stages of Orthodox construction (Όρος Άθως, Mt. Athos), but that mix still seems absent. Christine blames this on the Turks and I don't pursue it much farther.
of Λάρισα
The Greeks, as either Γιώργος or Θεο (Theo) explain it, think that animals are happier being free and, given the small houses and yards, I'm sure this is true in most cities. Still, it's odd to find that a dog has made the entrance to Christine's workplace its home, or to see one simply sleeping in the middle of a crowded street, people simply walking around it. In Haiti, the street dogs walked in straight lines on purposeful missions to find food; here, the dogs seem happy, well-fed, and lazy.
The full arc of the day crosses before me. Walnuts and yogurt for breakfast, bought from a little store down the street, some morning bustle, the afternoon siesta, and then the gradual awakening of the city for the night. I use the days to satisfy my inexplicable craving for ice cream and the nights to shop as Christine works until nine.
Κοστάς has a friend, Τασος. Christine and I had dropped in to visit him earlier in the week at his pharmacy. In the aftermath of the concert at Block 33, I drop by again to pick up some aspirin (which can mitigate some of the effects of noise exposure up to three days afterwards). Greece only allows a limited number of pharmological licenses, so the buisness tends to be passed down, father-to-son. I have time, so Τασος tends a few other customers. Seeing him at work is impressive: he knows the side-effects and properties of the drugs from memory and can recommend alternatives. Upon returning to the States, I'll visit a pharmacy and find the robotic receipt of the doctor's order and computerized print-out of dosage and side-effects much less reassuring. As he packages my order, he tells me that working with the people is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. We agree to meet later on.
Which means heading to the square and talking for four hours about everything, all over a single beverage. As we talk a little gypsy girl flits from table to table soliciting money. The second time she goes by our's she steals Τασος's sunglasses, puts them on, and walks away, only coming back when we shout after her. A half-hour later a petite hand snakes in to steal my phone and, slightly on edge, I death chop at it. The gypsy girl evades doom and laughs, dancing away whilst saying, "TODO". She comes back around later and steals Τασος's phone, but this time she's not so lucky: a burly waiter sees her and pretty much carries her out of the cafe. Τασος tells me I'm welcome to stay with him, should I ever return to Λάρισα and to drop by before I leave and we depart for the night.
We go to the Playhouse by the square one morning: a cafe with many, many board games and brightly-coloured decor to meet with Θεο (Theo). The talk is of KDE, Greek's small linux community, and university exams. Exams, if missed, can simply be taken the next semester/year, so Θεο's planning to skip the next day's sitting in order to be live for the launch of KDE's newest version so he can fix bugs as they come up. His choice will come to mind later as I switch the EWB office over to linux and strive to justify its merits.

One night, I wander the city in search of Οδύσσεια (Odyssey), by Νίκος Καζαντζάκης (Kazantzakis). Shortly before departing for the summer, Θεοφάνης Σταβρου (Theofanis Stavrou) had given me a summary of the tale and made the inspiring, if cliche, statement that we are all travellers, along with deeper, more moving, statements which, naturally, I've forgotten.

Weeks later, I'd be find myself up at three in the morning reading the summary from start to finish, rapt by the tale. Odysseus departs for home in the wake of the Trojan Wars. The trip takes longer than expected and, ten years later, when he arrives home, they have a bit of a party and there the story ends. So says Homer. Καζαντζάκης contends that one does not battle for ten years and travel another ten without being changed. Odysseus quickly tires of the sedentry life. And what of his wife? Steadfast? loyal? But can he respect someone who's passed up a decade of her own life and living? He leaves and, in his further travels, encounters Helen, plump with a large neck. The face that launched a thousand ships has had its beauty coddled away. She joins Odysseus and the voyage continues.

At that early hour, I go online and buy a copy of the book and the usual host of incoherent to well-worded Amazon reviews has been replaced by what seem, uniformly, to be excerpts from scholarly articles quoting "classic works" I've never heard of. I buy the book.

And now, in Greece, I find it in its native language.

One night we go out to tango dance. Christine had taken it up temporarily at my urging and her coworker's invitation. In the small upstairs room of a bar, six or so dancers are gracing the floor. And they're good. I'm eventually asked to join by the coworker and discover that I've forgotten the language. Everything is coarse and unharmonious. We spend the rest of the dance watching.

I spend one afternoon with my dictionary and phrasebook, cramming. That evening, speaking only Greek, I visit a succession of hardware stores until I find a perfect match for the missing screw in Christine's door. Returning to the apartment, I repair it. I could have climbed a mountain in that time, or visited something historic or enjoyable, but the "cultural adventure" for screw hunting was more worthwhile.

Later on, while meeting with another of Christine's friends - the owner of a CD store (recently back from a purchase-trip to China) - I'll also meet the 8th Alcohol: Velten's V+ Apple. Though it's 1.2% content makes it only marginally admissable.

And then it's time to sleep because it's time to move.




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