Sunday, 19 February 2012

Thessalonika tales

I had a fine time in Thessalonika, and managed to avoid any olives. Interesting people, good conversation, great food; what more could you ask for?

It was sunny, but cold, with a bracing north wind blowing down from the still-snow-capped mountains.  Although the sun shone brightly, there was a low level haze, obscuring the views.  However, around lunchtime on the Thursday it was a bit clearer, and my hosts pointed out a mountain visible across the bay: Mount Olympus.

The food was excellent in quality, very varied, and too much in quantity.  My hosts wanted to ensure that I experienced a whole range of styles and flavours; this would work best in a tapas-like style setting, but is a little overwhelming when each extra example dish ordered is what I consider to be a full meal in itself.  I sampled widely, but could not eat it all, no matter how much I wanted to!  And I skipped the breakfasts.

Given all the recent news about troubles in Greece (which some were claiming has been manufactured by the government, in order to frighten the people into accepting the economic cuts), my main impression of Thessalonika is of a calm, peaceful, friendly, and welcoming city.  There were large groups of people thronging the streets for the "Burnt Thursday" (Tsiknopempti) festival (with lots of barbecues before Lent), and everyone was good natured and enjoying themselves, with no sign of trouble or anger, and none of the drunken rowdiness one would find in England.  I'd love to go back there, with more time to explore, both the city, and the surrounding mountains.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

no olives please, I'm British

I'm getting ready to fly out to Thessalonika tomorrow, to examine a PhD thesis, and give a seminar. My very gracious hosts, on learning that this would be my first ever trip to Greece, have also laid on a little sight-seeing for me, so that I can soak up some culture.

I'm looking forward to the food, too ... except ... I haven't confessed to them yet that I don't like olives...

Saturday, 11 February 2012

visible diversity

Usually the garden bird life is dominated by sparrows and rats-with-wings, plus the odd blackbird. But today, I've spotted a wren, a thrush, a blue tit, and a goldfinch. Maybe the cold brings them to the bird feeder, or maybe they are just more visible against the snow.


It got down to -13C at home last night, and even now, at sunny 11am, it's still down at -10C.

But at least the students are having fun.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Winter -- better late than never?

Saturday night we had the first snow of winter (it waited until February?!), so on Sunday we awoke to a white, quiet world.  I think I love the quiet of a snowscape almost as much as the crisp whiteness itself.