We came to this city to study history. We will leave having witnessed it.
Over the past month, we have grown intimately acquainted with Thessaloniki. The city has been a pivotal crossroads under various empires for the last 2,000 years, and while we have spent a large portion of our time learning its history, it seems as though we have accidentally stumbled into a decisive moment for the newest world power with influence over the region—the Eurozone.
When we arrived here, I expected to see the effects of the Greek financial crisis everywhere. Yet, in Thessaloniki, I did not notice much out of the ordinary. There was graffiti, political rallies, homelessness, and other signs of trouble, but the ominous international reports did not seem to match up with the local atmosphere, and life went on as usual.
Then, on the weekend of June 26th, the crisis suddenly emerged in plain sight. Banks closed, ATM lines grew dozens deep, capital controls went into effect, taxi radios played political speeches, and people became much more anxious.
On July 5th, the Greek nation overwhelmingly voted “Oxi” (No) to bailout terms offered by European creditors in a national referendum that had been announced just a week prior, sending the country down an uncertain path. Banks remained (and still remain) closed, but many gathered at the White Tower—the city’s preeminent landmark—and celebrated what they considered to be a victory for the Greek people, and the first step towards a revitalized society.
Though through all of these events our class has continued mostly unaffected, it has been fascinating to wake up to international newspaper headlines about what is happening in our own neighborhood. Ahead of Sunday’s “ultimatum” from the Eurozone, the future of this country still hangs very much in the balance, and only time will tell how the history of these events will be written.