Thessaloniki

June 2019

Icon in a little hut
Greek Orthodox religious street shrine, Achiropitos Church, Thessaloniki, Greece

I liked Thessaloníki. It’s a mixture of dusty urban streets with shops selling beach umbrellas, interesting portals, attractive heritage sights, a glittering seafront, and varied cultural delights.

People standing under tall metal umbrellas
Captivating umbrella sculpture being used for community gathering

One minute I was standing surprised in front of a shop that seemed to be only selling beach umbrellas, the next I spotted a woman behind one on a far away balcony.

I stopped off here partly to break my journey to the north, but mainly to meet Shiatsu practitioners and teachers.

Daphne, head of the Shiatsu Academy Thessaloníki

The Shiatsu Academy

Evening drinks with Marie-Helene and a yummy lunch with Daphne were both really satisfying exchanges. The joy of meeting others in my own, rather niche profession and being able to talk shop, knowing they speak the same language (Shiatsu I mean! I spoke French with one and English with the other) was delightful.

Sparrow perched on chair back
I had a chirpy visitor as I sipped my fizzy mineral water, and gazed at the shining sea over the top of my laptop

Doorways

Beautiful doorways abound.

Ornate orange door in a green wall with lamp outside
Copper bells outside a bar

I thought it was a church, but it turned out to be a night club! Thessaloniki, Greece

Door, steps and flowers
Someone’s front door – care and attention to detail make for everyday beauty here
Pink walls and green lattice doorway
A domestic front garden of contrasting colours
2 White columns with lattice work
Doric columns adorn this frontage. Thessaloniki, Greece

Hostel accommodation

There was WiFi at the Studio Arabas hostel where I stayed for 2 nights, on Satchouri. I booked through Hostelworld. It is steeply uphill and I didn’t have time to explore the Old Town that it is in because I was meeting people in the part nearer the sea where most of the monuments are – that’s a good trek down and climb back up so be warned.

Early morning street sceneI left early to walk the hour to the bus station and caught the morning sunlight, Thessaloniki

The hostel was clean, but not in a squeaky clean sort of way. I got some advice from the lovely Charlotte while I was there. Although you can’t do this at her place…

Tip

… It is always worth booking a hostel by phone or in person because you often get money off or a free breakfast. They save money on the fees they have to pay to the third party, the booking website.

White tents with book stalls

The book fair was on that day, Thessaloniki, Greece

Cafés

I was on my way to a meeting but needed a cup of tea. It was going to be an hour’s walk. Until, that is, I spied Vermilion.

Just my sort of place. Creative and friendly, good WiFi and recycled jewellery.

I was early and they were cleaning and preparing for the day, Vermilion, Thessaloníki, Greece

Old car on front of paper menu
The menu was handwritten in the front of an exercise book

Nearby are other nice places – a bakery, cheese shop and more.

Rings and necklaces

Recycled jewellery made by the owner
Outdoor restaurant with foliage
B café
People sitting at tables with drinks
Café full of young people including women playing backgammon

Local people resting in the shade

I was fascinated to glimpse women sewing and men and women sharing a drink in the shade.

10 men sit around a table

A group of men in the distance, taken with the zoom. They went back and forth through a door in the wall behind – I was so curious!

Women in black clothes chatting by trees
You can just about make out the women who had been keeping the church yard spic and span, taking a welcome break

Sewing shop women
She turned round and gave me a huge smile so I asked permission to snap

Churches

In Greece many people draw a cross on themselves when they see a church. A woman on the train did it as we whizzed past one. Later I saw a man walking a dog, doing the same thing .

Church steps and plants

The priest was just emerging as I crept around the lovely church near my hostel

Greek Orthodox Church, Thessaloniki, Greece

Columns

There are Classical Greek columns everywhere in Thessaloniki.

White fluted uprights above flight of steps

Ionic columns add finesse to the Cathedral, Thessaloniki, Greece

Ruins

Decorated brick arches
City walls
Soft coloured stone arch with blue sky and buildings visible through
Arch of Galerius, Thessaloniki, Greece

This ancient monument was built in 305 AD following the final victory of Emperor Galerius against the Persians.

Greek women dance around the pediment

Carvings from the arch

Apartment blocks and ancient walls

I liked the apartment blocks cheek by jowl with the ancient stone

Gardens

The sunken garden of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Demetrios

Everywhere there was marble – walls, floors, and columns of course!

Table and orchids
The marble basement of the B cafe at the Museum of Byzantine Culture

Other sights

Railings by the sea
Padlocks for peace
Men sitting on edge sea
Enjoying the sunset together
Musicians against setting sun
Trumpeter in silhouette
Red sculpture in front of building
Museum of Byzantine Culture
Reclining Greek figure
Greek Archeological Museum
Whitened stone memorial
Sarcophagus, part of the Field, House, Garden, Grave exhibition at the Archeological Museum

Trees and religious building
Church at night
Humorous street art
Graffiti
Man on horse on plinth
Alexander the Great. The spears are arranged in the formation from his best known battle
Monument
Woman of Pindos, 1940
Statue and author
An undressed version Emanuel Pappas (1772- 1821) and me with my clothes on. He was the leader of the Greek War of Independence.

Seville, Spain

Seville 14-16.5.17

I travelled to Seville from Madrid by Bla Bla Car with Francisco which was a most amusing and enjoyable journey….

…and arrived rather later than anticipated. For a long time I had planned to start my next walk in Seville and posted on Facebook that I was looking for someone who would like Shiatsu in return for a bed. My kind friend, Gill, put me in touch with Pedro, a fellow Shiatsu practitioner, and he was more than welcoming with his excellent English.

It was good sleeping amongst the healing Chi of his practice room and I was delighted to listen to Jesús’ Cuban guitar for breakfast.

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My tourist day in Seville began when I was dropped off at Plaza de Armas (where you can also find the bus station and super-market), and I started my walk along the River Guadalquivir towards the Mercado (market) Lonja del Barranco in Calle Arjona, next to Puente de Isabel II (one of the many bridges at regular intervals along the waterway).

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The mercado / market
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The Isabel Bridge where I will start the Camino Via de la Plata tomorrow.
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Beautiful Jacaranda trees with their strong purple flowers.

I sauntered past shops with gleaming apricots and sombreros for sale.

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Then continued along the Paseo de Cristóbal Colón with its glorious colours: yellow earth, orange flowers and jade-green river. The subtle-sweet aromas, the sounds of school children, rhythms improvised with plastic bottles and hands making steel pan drum sounds on metal table and chair, with grass cutters in the background reminding me of those along the Brittany coast two days before.

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Coffee in the morning.
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Monument, La Tolerancia by Eduardo Chillida.
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The temperatures were to rise to near tropical within the week.

The architecture is quite different in this south-western corner of Spain. The yellow and white bullfighting stadium, deep pinks and orange of residential apartments are interspersed royal blue shuttered grandiosity. None of your Tobermory pale baby colours as on the Isle of Mull in Scotland.

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Decorative tiles.
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With plenty of statues of bullfighters.

Seville is a gay-friendly and open-minded place, extremely attractive, and full of tourists, artists and university students.

dsc_0184.jpgWhen I am in a city with so many famous sights, too many for a short visit, I have found a way to choose what to do: I get to a corner and I stand still and contemplate. If I like the look of the left-hand street I go there, if right then there. I have been practicing spontaneity and following my interest for many years in my Shiatsu sessions. Here my eyes draw me to a baroque exterior in the sunshine: a balustrade above oval windows, above decorated towers, beside naked torsos at the Instituto Geográfico y Estadístico in the Plaza Nueva next to the Plaza de San Francisco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the unexpected details which caught my eye: the Banco de España (Bank of Spain) has cuboid trees; horses and carts sport shiny yellow wheels; while a woman squatted to take photos.

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There was more English spoken around me than I had heard in weeks. It was swelteringly hot so that I was glad to get into the cool church.

 

 

 

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The famous Puerta del Perdon .

 

 

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Saint Cristobel.
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The Cathedral where I got my credential and the first stamp for my walk from the guide at the door without having to queue.

If you get the chance to visit, check out the solid silver altar piece in the Cathedral, the flying angels holding lamps, pink marble, and, when I was there, spray after spray of white chrysanthemums and fragrant lillies. Outside, a young boy kindly put his arm around his brother and comforted him – there seemed to be good feeling everywhere.

I found myself back at the river: two men were lounging in a huge pedalo-type river craft made of white fibreglass;
a school girl on a bike was dressed in a burgundy and black kilt with matching socks; there were rows of municipal bicycles I had only previously seen in London; the green men on the road crossing signs walk! and three boys in swimming trunks took it in turns to jump off into the river. It was already 38 degrees. In fact for a moment I rather worried for myself for the walk tomorrow.

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Big boats acting as restaurants line the opposite side along where I will walk when I start my Camino the next morning.

That evening we went to a concert in the Moroccan Pavillion, from the Expo in 1992. It has a highly decorated interior and glows in the evening.

 

 

There was tango, piano and singing (mostly in English from British stage shows – apparently very popular) in shorts and T-shirt, and we sipped free beer and ate peanuts. Later we drove through the gloriously illuminated city and enjoyed tapas in the slight breeze – welcome at midnight sitting outside!

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Without a guide book, I had had to locate the setting-off place for the next leg of my travels through Spain on my own. Happily I had found it by chance at the very beginning of the day, so after a few hours of sleep I knew where to start.

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Zaragoza, Spain

Zaragoza 12-14.5.17

Zaragoza, home to an Origami Museum.

What did I do when I arrived in Zaragoza? I was welcomed by my host Yvonne and we went for a drink and something to eat! Whoever said that you cannot be a vegetarian in Spain?

Almond soup – cold. Delicious.
Baobab vegetarian restaurant.
http://www.restaurantebaobab.com/
View from the balcony of the flat where I stayed.

When I announced I was visiting this city, I was often asked why, even by people who live there! I think there is a popular idea that it is a predominantly industrial place and an army base. But, I can tell you that it is well worth seeing.

The main square, Plaza del Pilar, is enormous, with not one but two cathedrals: the Basilica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, a very old church inside a less old, bigger one; and the Seo, Cathedral of the Saviour (Catedral del Salvador) with its spectacular tapestries.

Basilica.
Bas-reliefs on the outside walls of the Basilica.
The Spanish coup of July 1936 fractured the Spanish Republican Armed Forces and marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
Down one end are the fountains backed by an expansive metal plate down which the water runs when it is on.
Catedral Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar.
Tradition holds that on 2 January 40 AD, while Saint James was deep in prayer by the banks of the Ebro, the Mother of God (Nuestra Señora) appeared, gave him a column of jasper and instructed him to build a church in her honor.
Statues outside by Pablo Serrano.
Highly Baroque.
Vaulted ceilings.

Romanesque, Gothic and many other styles can be seen in this venerated place.
Francisco Goya and his relatives decorated the ceilings.
Floor decoration.

Confirmation taking place so we could not view the main altar.

In the past, the two cathedrals vied with each other to display the most impressive riches, but the Basilica is the only one with a canon ball hole in its front wall. As far as the parishioners are concerned it was an act of God that it did not explode when it came through during the civil war.

The Seo.
Also known as the Cathedral of the Saviour (del Salvador).
Or Parroquial de la Seo.
With its wonderful Moorish decoration.
Stunning tapestries upstairs – many are 15th century, stolen from Belgium.

Rooms of glorious tapestries.
Really ancient, fascinating scenes telling intricate stories with divers characters.

When I was in Normandy I met a paper sculptor and he told me I must go and see the Origami Museum in Zaragotha. But where was it? My hosts who had lived there for years did not know.

Ah, there – this advert for it was right beside us! See below.
There are modern pillars advertising the city and its other sights.

There are fountains, sculptures, the tourist information, exhibitions, and plenty of space to sit or run around.

Large groups of immaculately dressed families celebrating their children’s the first communion.

That place alone takes a day or more to view properly.

Origami sculpture.
Goya himself, a famous inhabitant.

Within 5 minutes walk from there are ancient remains to be seen – an amphitheatre and clearly excavated dwellings.

There are beautiful lanes, squares and courtyards with cafes in. We had paella sitting outside in the warm shade for lunch.

Cafe y mirador del Museo (museum).
With palm trees.
Candy yellow and pink houses.
Archways leading to new delights.
You could spend dappled days wandering and stopping for drinks.

Watch other people strolling – you might not be able to see the pom poms on the little boy’s socks.
Yvonne and Danny.

Anywhere where music is played in the multi-storey car park as well as the cathedral is OK with me.

Here are some more of the origami and paper exhibits.

Made by Beata Kupczak, Poland.

Thanks to obliging Yvonne, who drove at top speed to catch the security guard before he closed the museum, I reclaimed my mobile phone with its 1000s of photos!

Other highlights included an evening walk along the Ebro, being shown the contemporary architecture of the 2008 Expo with the Pabellón Puente bridge designed by Zaha Hadid, and the Aragon Pavillion with its effect of woven glass panels. (No photos because I had not got my phone back at this time).

I extend my thanks for the hospitality, keen conversation, and sightseeing I received in this impressive city.

The next day I took a Bla Bla Car along the autovia del Nordeste (A2) between Zaragoza and Madrid, passing by Guadalajara and the Panteón de la Duquesa de Sevillano. Knowing it was the Fiesta San Isidro that day, the biggest and best of the year, and with extra unexpected time in Madrid, I made the mistake of attempting to walk from Chamartín to Atocha stations to try and see the street celebrations. Well, I had been in the car for a long time already, and was going to be journeying a further 5 hours to Seville later the same day so I figured I could stretch my legs! Readers, do not try it – it is mostly motorway and you cannot walk on the motorway, so I took a detour and somehow managed to get lost (in immense heat, on a Sunday afternoon) in an industrial estate. Oh dear, I had to retrace my steps and take the metro. It was a disaster and I did not get to see any of the carnival.

After the most troublesome pick-up I have had with Bla Bla Car, I eventually managed to get my lift. The driver was a wheelchair using, cannabis-smoking athlete with a wicked sense of humour. He played me Luis Fonsi’s raunchy Latino ‘Despacito ft.’ and we translated from the Spanish to English, line by line, all the way to Seville, arriving much later than planned, and being met by the patient Pedro. See next blog – Seville.

Origami Museum website http://www.emoz.es/language/en/