We had a pretty great day in Thessaoloniki today: touring the White Tour; visiting the Museum of Byzantine Culture; walking all over Ano Toumpa looking for my dad's old house; eating the largest squid I've ever seen (on a plate or otherwise) on the waterfront for dinner; taking in an outdoor concert by Thansis Papaconstantinou at the Forest Theater atop the city. And watching people NOT freak out about the banks being closed today and potentially Greece running out of money tomorrow (Tuesday, June 30th).
I don't know if it's resignation or stoicism or determination or fatalism - or a combination of all four - but no one we talked to seemed that worried about the banks or what may happen if Greece defaults. As some of you know, I hate speculating. Well, I guess that's a Greek thing since no one in Thessaoloniki wanted to speculate. Everyone we spoke with - the waitress at breakfast, the front desk, a cab driver, a waitress at dinner, the woman who exchanged my dollars at Western Union, the folks who tried to help find my dad's house, the street vendor who sold me a giant cookie - all said, 'we'll see what happens' or 'I don't know.' No one cried or cursed or showed any emotion. The singer Papconstantinou opened his show by saying 'we should have never joined the Euro, and now we're going to leave the Euro' to a mixed response from the crowd of 1,500 people.
One thing that does seem clear is that folks want to stay in the Eurozone and judging by news we heard on the radio and the protest in Athens most Greek voters will vote 'NO' in Sunday's referendum on the bailout package proposed by the European Union.
So today appeared pretty normal, at least for a tourist with American dollars in reserve, a way to exchange them, and credit cards. But it seemed normal for Thessalonians, too. We'll see tomorrow, or Wednesday if Greece defaults.
Here are a few other MacedoNotes:
- The employees at Thomas Cook at the airport and the Western Union on Aristotle Square both said foreigners exchanging dollars for euros will not have any problems getting money. We haven't had any problems using a credit card or debit card, but I have to try to use an ATM (with the banks closed they were no working today). They are supposed to distribute money from foreign accounts so that's something to test tomorrow.
- As I tweeted earlier, I must smell like garlic, olive and cigarettes because no one here thinks we're tourists. Everyone speaks to us in Greek and we are two for two in being offered only Greek-language menus at restaurants. One guy even walked over to me to start complaining about the EU as we both were investigating if we had found a working ATM hidden near the Museum of Byzantine Culture.
- That museum is fantastic by the way as is the White Tower, which offers great views and has a nice museum of Thessaloniki tucked into the rooms off the spiral staircase to the top.
- We haven't seen that many homeless people, but we had an accordian player come up to us at dinner and have seen at least 30 people wearing teeshirts featuring the word Brooklyn.
- As we wandered up and down the street looking for my dad's house in Ano Toumpa (which mean above Toumpa, and Ariadne can testify that is it above; we had a steep walk) four of the nicest and most down to earth and generous residents came out to help us (I'll post their photos, and others, on Facebook soon). Those folks deserve better from Greece's political class and the EU. Europe seems more interested in punishing average people than in making their lives better. I hope that tomorrow our anti-austerity President will call Angela Merkel and urge her to be as generous and humble to Greece as those residents of Ano Toumpa were to us.