Κυριακή, 30 Σεπτεμβρίου 2012

Travelling in Thessaloniki with N. G. Pentzikis









Thessaloniki, Egnatia Avenue and the Kamara  1700-1994, Thessaloniki, G. Megas archive



Thessaloniki from the 18th to the 20th century
Travelling in Thessaloniki with N. G. Pentzikis 
Talking about his city, the poet and painter Nikos Gavriil Pentzikis emphasizes:
"Thessaloniki may possess a lengthy past throughout which she has always upheld a very important role, yet she appears as if she is always fluctuating within an endless process of becoming. They tell us that she is ugly, but at the same time the same people admit that she may well become the loveliest of cities, with, for example, the new seaside avenue whose construction is already under way. They say she is a town reminiscent of the East, of Asia, commenting on their impressions of the Old Town. Yet they may also say she seems like Manhattan in the cinema, with her grand new buildings on the waterfront. They may say that her houses are old and ruined, unfit for habitation, without however denying their picturesqueness. Or that she has many new buildings, while deploring their lack of any charm and style.
At the point where the north and south winds meet, she can be as warm as Misiri with the scorching south-westerlies, yet in the last war the French and British suffered from frostbite in the winter. She has the deep blue sky of the islands, and fogs like London's. Her bay at the back of the Thermaic Gulf, where ships from every sea lie at anchor, most often makes us think of calm continental lakes, like Geneva's. Romantic when you glimpse her amidst the trees of Seih Sou Park, the sight of her shanty towns inspires the most crushing realism.
If the Via Egnatia and Galerius' Triumphal Arch inspire you with their epic quality, on Vassilissis Olgas Street you turn sentimental; if there are side alleys that remind you of the tranquil petit bourgeois poems of Francois Coppe, stepping into others will give you a headache, as if some corpse has polluted the atmosphere.
Everything begins in Thessaloniki, everything wants to be, to become something, and nothing continues the way it started. Everything is either interrupted or altered. The tendencies towards classical antiquity, the insistent memories of slavery, the arriviste influences of Western Europe.
A tall house side by side with a vacant lot, full of ruins and rubbish. Ruins that do not take you back to the past, but which coexist on the same plane as the living buildings. At different levels, time uses one and the same property, which though it may or may not have been a temple originally, has subsequently become a mosque, a cafe, a chemist's, a telephone centre, a tobacco warehouse, a restaurant, a cabaret, an office and a cinema".
http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/D5.5.html     http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr

Houses of the Old Town of Thessaloniki  Early 20th century picture postcard with houses in the Old Town, 1800-1917, Thessaloniki, Th. Tsinopoulos archive


Early 20th century picture postcard with a scene of dancing in the Vardari neighbourhood, 1850-1920, Thessaloniki, G.Megas archive.



Thessaloniki from the 18th to the 20th century

The cityscape of Thessaloniki 



"As for Thessaloniki", advises Pentzikis, "one should enter it from the sea." From a distance, the city truly had a story-book quality. Yet, as one traveller of 1878 remembers, "when you enter the town, you are amazed to see nothing but narrow, crooked lanes, badly built houses and not one square, not one paved crossroads."
This labyrinth, which was made even more asphyxiating by the many covered streets, was typical of the city even when it was at its most prosperous, in the late 19th century. By that time, however, as appears from the words of a German visitor of the time, its picturesqueness seems to have prevailed.
"The houses are of every European and Asian style and calibre, of every possible and impossible construction, but built in somewhat regular rows along the big road that runs parallel with the coast and goes round the hill; others are in higgledy-piggledy stacks that charge the hill and then lean tired and dilapidated on its slopes, as if they wanted to catch their breath. Here, you have the European-looking houses, and the warehouses of the Greek, Jewish and European merchants; there, the wretched brick huts of the Bulgarians; further up, the Turkish houses whose scowling faces along the road have something that sends you packing. They show only their wooden latticed windows with their iron bars, while in the inner courtyard the burbling fountains are quarrelling with the oleanders; and all the flowers of the East send their perfumes everywhere. Down below we see the imposing Renaissance style Ottoman Bank building, opposite it the Vali's residence, and amongst all this the mosques with their many minarets, pointed tips and balconies".  http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr