This Time Last Year – Part 17: Rest day in Thessaloniki remembering Pavlos Melas

Part of a series of posts that cover my travel to Greece and the USA in April/May 2016.

May 4 2016 – Thessaloniki

I arrived in Thessaloniki yesterday afternoon and caught a bus to near my hotel, Le Palace Art. It’s in the centre of town and more upmarket than where I would normally stay but it was recommended and I am pleased it was. I am here for three days and from the wee narrow balcony with its own set of weeds I can see the sea. It’s just big enough for my stretchy clothesline and I get some t-shirts dried in the breeze.

After a rest I went out for a walk. With May 1 being Easter Sunday this year, May 3 was the Labour Day holiday so it was quiet in the city this early evening. Katouni Lane, just a couple of blocks away, had a number of eateries, the first offering all sorts of classics such as gyros, souvlaki and kebabs. I wandered the lane, looked at all the others – they looked amazing but not wanting to sit on my own, feeling sore and down in the dumps, watching others have so much fun, I went back to the first one as it was also did takeaways.

Ceiling art at the Boukia Boukia, the Thessaloniki takeaway place.

I chose by picture the one with ten little meat patties rolled into short logs called kebabs nicely arranged around some white stuff, presumably tzatziki, with lots of tomatoes piled in the centre. Asked for chips as an extra. It comes with that, he said. I picked up a 187ml bottle of red wine with a tear tab top. Merlot/Syrah indicated the back label. The food was handed to me in a brown paper bag. I grabbed a fork and serviettes, limped back to the hotel, told the manager on the way I had a sore leg. Back in my room I was so disappointed to find the chips was pita bread and the tomatoes (two slices) were hidden under a pile of onions. I don’t eat wheat. I don’t eat onions. Things were going from bad to worse. And to top that off, I broke off the tear tab thingy trying to open the wine. I was now starting to feel so desperately in pain I didn’t feel like a drink anyway. I ate two of the kebabs very spicy and tasty and succumbed to eating a slice of the pita. Lovely.

So this morning – May 4 – I wake up and all bets are off. My body is complaining. I cancel my plans for the day, have room service breakfast, lie back in my luxurious and enveloping coco-mat mattress and think about last time I was here.

In 2013 the mission was to find the POW transit camp and that we did in the suburb of Stavropoli. Like in Corinth, the Germans had commandeered the Greek Army barracks, this one the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp named after Pavlos Melas who is considered to be one of the important and most heroic figures of Greek modern history.

From July 1941 to September 1941 this was Dulag 183, Transit Camp No 1 and for the POWs it was the Hell Camp of Salonika. Thousands of Allied POWs passed through here and that time became indelibly etched in their memory. What happened at Pavlos Melas after the Allied POWs had gone was even worse for it became one of Hitler’s camps for the Jewish citizens of the city. Any POWs remaining were shifted to Transit Camp No 2, which reports say is now the grounds of the Thessaloniki War Museum. I was going to go to the museum so will have to come back again another day.

I had wanted to go back to Pavlos Melas to see how much had changed since 2013 when many of the buildings were still standing though in various states of graffiti and disrepair. There were plans to turn the space into a Metropolitan Park. It would have been good to see if there had progress in this direction. I finish this May 4 entry with a little photo essay from some of my shots taken in 2013 at the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp in Thessaloniki.

At the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp, Thessaloniki - photo taken 2013At the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp, Thessaloniki - photo taken 2013At the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp, Thessaloniki - photo taken 2013At the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp, Thessaloniki - photo taken 2013At the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp, Thessaloniki - photo taken 2013At the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp, Thessaloniki - photo taken 2013At the former Pavlos Melas Military Camp, Thessaloniki - photo taken 2013


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