As mentioned in a blog post below by Mark, we are in Thessaloniki during a particularly interesting time. What struck me the most about it, beyond the ridiculous lines at the ATMs that only dispense fifties, (which are perhaps the most inconvenient denomination of currency), was that for all the news stories coming from the rest of Europe, and all the doomsday predictions, Thessaloniki really does not seem to acknowledge that there is a problem. When the banks closed, we expected riots, we expected protests and we expected something to change, but honestly? Almost nothing did.
The one thing that does show a level of consideration to the economic situation are the sales. Every store here is having a sale. Sure, not a single one say it’s a “We’re out of money so prices are reduced” sale, going for the more marketable “summer sale” and “limited time reductions” but we all know what it really is. Primarily I have seen sales on clothes and jewelry. Necessities (ie, when I go to the grocery store because I want a giant 2L bottle of water), have stayed pretty much the same price. But anything that’s not food, which has occasionally increased in price (The place across the street from the hotel where they know my order when I walk in, now charges me 6.20 for my stuffed zucchini rather than 6.00), the price has drastically decreased.
This makes for fantastic souvenir shopping. Thessaloniki is not really a tourist city. Though they have plenty of monuments, UNESCO and otherwise, they lack the dime-a-dozen, cheap and plastic tourist oriented shops you see on every street corner of Rome or Paris. You really have to go looking for things to bring home to commemorate your stay, and these sales have led to most of the group going shopping in the past few days.
I discovered the other day while talking to Nikos that Thessaloniki does not have any malls. The culture here is more oriented towards socialization. This lends itself to large markets, covered and otherwise, shops right alongside churches and residential buildings and huge open squares. The main square of the city, Aristotelous, has dozens of shops. But anywhere you walk you will find them along the side of the road. This trend towards greater socialization seems to be common across Greece. Everywhere I have travelled (so far), there has been outdoor markets, shops along the walkways and huge central squares. Even the rest stops for buses along the highway have huge outdoor patios where everyone sits with their coffee before returning to the buses. (Also, the rest stop views are amazing. Every single one has a fantastic view. It’s ridiculous).
Food here is a huge reason to socialize. Dinner here takes forever, and we discovered that you can’t get lunch before 1pm because before that it is coffee time.
There are plenty of weird quirks about Thessaloniki; everyone here smokes, there is an anarchist building across the street from the hotel
(also anarchist graffiti everywhere), you rarely see women with both their shoulders and their knees uncovered (it’s one or the other except at the beach ) and people just live their lives around millenia old monuments.
However, for me, the most disconcerting Thessalonian trend is the mannequins.
I don’t know why, but the mannequins here are infinitely more terrifying than the ones back home. (And this is coming from someone who has walked up to a mannequin in the states and asked for directions and then screamed when they weren’t a real person). I’ve seen a mannequin with the head of a much smaller doll. One whose chin is so prominent it looks like one of my more deformed sims. Elongated necks, terrifyingly soulless eyes, ridiculous positions and blizzard expressions all come together, in every single window of every single store along the walk from class to the hotel to create a terrifying subculture on non-human terror. All I have to say is that I’m not one-hundred percent convinced that they aren’t Autons.