When our Athens trip was cancelled (at the last minute, without warning or consultation), we were all disappointed. Some students immediately booked flights to Rome for the weekend, while others had to stop drinking and start doing homework.
On Saturday we went to a boutique downtown, but it wasn’t really our speed. So after a massive, delicious lunch, Em, Rox and I shopped in the open-air markets. I bought a few scarves, and got to wander through a meat and fish market. While definitely smelly, it was cool to see such a pedestrian part of Greek life that is so different from my own back home.
On Sunday we went scuba diving. I’ve never been before and absolutely loved it. I had a brief moment of thinking I really needed to breathe, but then I remembered I was wearing several pounds of oxygen on my back. The next day my jaw was killing me from clenching the mouthpiece, but I can’t wait to go again someday.
Sunday evening I topped off my day with a soccer game between PAOK and Aris, the two teams of Thessaloniki. I had been warned that games can get violent, and that this particular one would be intense because of their rivalry. But it was also the last game in Thess while I’m here, so I’m glad I was pushed to go in spite of my fatigue. I went with Vinny, one of our students, although there were others there as well. Everyone was in Aris black and yellow, and we were careful not to wear any PAOK paranalia.
We scalped some tickets and found our way inside. Luckily, we strolled right into section 3, the craziest, most intense part of the entire stadium. No one was wearing anything other than Aris colors. It became immediately clear that we would NOT be finding any other NUin folks in this crowd. People climbed fences and parking structures, everyone was singing and I saw road flares sticking out of pockets everywhere. This was also the first time I felt like we were in Eastern Europe. Either that or the early British punk scene. Mullets, shaved heads and mohawks were everywhere, as well as military boots, acid-washed jeans and 1990s style sweatpants with the cuffs around the ankles.
To see a video of the madness that was the game, click here–it’ll take you to my tumblr. There was no real violence, just a lot of shoving when Aris scored a goal. No one seemed overly concerned that the flags or smoke were blocking their view of the game. And I have never heard such sustained, constant support. From the songs that went on repeat for twenty minutes at a time to the screams, chants and constant use of the curse word “malaka” the place only approached quiet during the one PAOK goal to tie the game. The smoke from fireworks, road flares and marijuana did a number on my throat, but I don’t think I’ve had a better weekend yet in Thessaloniki.