Finding the Agora
Modern art – Biennale
Discussions on what art is
Food at Galerius’s Palace
A bit more walking
Well yesterday we did a lot of walking. Today would not be that much different. We are not planning on spending too long in Thessaloniki, so there was no point in trying to work out the bus schedules. To start the day, we will try and find the Agora. This is the old central market area of the city, and should not be hard. It is on our pathetic little map and so well prepared, we set off. Turns out our map is wrong as well as pathetic. We ended up well out of down town and in desperate need of directions. The first couple of people we stopped had no interest in helping us, the next pointed us back the way we had come. Going that way we stopped and asked directions again. This time we got some proper ones. Following these we made it to a large hole in the ground. The Agora does not have much left any more. The outline of a few foundations, some cellars and an old amphitheatre. Walking around it, we could see everything there, including a strange bath complex to the side. Then there was the ticket office. As you can see everything from street level, we felt no need to wander through the complex and continued on.
One of the benefits of our getting lost was that on the way to the Agora we passed by this small church. It looked a little old on the outside so we went to investigate. Turns out that it is a famous one. The Church of the Agioi Apostoli. Dating from the 14th century or so. We were allowed to go inside, and I must say it was a pleasure. The church is small and simple with mosaics on the upper sections. Although very damaged, you can still see the effort that has gone into creating them, and it is easy to imagine what the entire church would have looked like back in the day when they were all still perfect. It was only a little saddening to see the deterioration caused by time and neglect. Even if it is unintentional.
After the Agora we came across the Church of Agios Dimitrios. Again an old one, but this time much larger. In fact I would call it a cathedral. A lot of this has been reconstructed, and we were not sure if it was new or old. The answer was both. It had been almost destroyed in the 1917 fire. Archways mostly intact but reconstructed centres and roof. Plain decorations and a very spacious feel. We could take our time looking at the relics and icons before finding a little doorway leading down to the crypt. Masses are still held down here occasionally, and the space is quite large considering. At first we thought it might be a small warren of different passageways and chambers, but it opens up to being one large room with a few pillars and arches for support. Not much is left down here except for an entrance to the church shop. A bit strange, but the complex was built on a hill, and what is below ground at the church is ground level on the side.
Time was getting on, and we still had to go to the Museum of Byzantine history. This is right beside the Archaeological Museum, but we had not felt up to it yesterday. I won’t say much about this, as it is a little disappointing for us. It is more about Christianity under the Byzantines than Byzantine history, or even a general view of history for the period. We got to see how churches were built on churches and Pagan Gods became saints. Lots of Icons and gravestones and funeral goods. It was still interesting, just misappropriately named. They did have one weird documentary screening at the end. It traced a block of Marble from China as it was cut out, loaded onto a ship and carved into a pillar. This took long enough, so we did not see the ending where it probably ended up inside a bank or as a replacement on one of the sites here in Greece. Considering the amount of marble quarries in Greece and the Balkans, I wonder why they are getting it all the way from China. Or why it was the only block on a massive container ship.
Outside, we crossed the road, and went to the convention centre. There is a Biennial on at the moment of contemporary art, so we had to look at that. There are some nice pieces here, some confusing, and some we wonder why it would be classified as contemporary art. The had a series of photos that were about tobacco. The bales, harvest and drying. All every nice, and I would love to be able to take photos of that quality consistently, but not what I would consider contemporary art. Where is the statement and what is the point? Others such as a video piece of the outline of the European countries in trouble with the economic crisis burning may not be as artistic, but are more in line with what I would expect. Still. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This lead to a long conversation about what is art, and how you define it. Just one of those conversations you have as you are walking along to your next destination. Hungry by now, we stopped at the ruins of Galerious’s Palace and had a bite, overlooking the remains of his 1700 year old house. How times change. The banquet hall of kings is now below fast food joints for everyday people. That also makes you wonder. And I suppose, appreciate that we could be there to do it.
More walking around the city, more admiring the graffiti and seeing people going about their daily lives. Watching the sun go down and the neon lights light up. The hustle and bustle never letting up for a second. It is a city. That is for sure, and a busy one at that.