Sma left Maria’s house a good hour before me, but here she is at the hitching spot when I arrive. I want to travel alone for a while and we’re going seperate ways – she to Thessaloniki and I to Volos. Well, they aren’t such different ways really, so we team up. It’s another hour before our first ride stops for us, but he’s a great one – Kostas not only picks up hitch-hikers, he’s also a Couchsurfing host – and he buys us coffee!
Kostas drops us at a service station and from there we find a trucker going to Thessaloniki. He drops me by the highway exit for Volos, where I wave goodbye to him and Sma and walk down to the smaller – though not much smaller – road and get my last lift with two very stoned 20-something guys. They ask where I’m going to stay and seem impressed when I tell them Matsaggou – the only squat in Volos.
I find the squat easily enough from the directions on the website, but there’s nobody in sight and no doorbell. I text my contact to say I’ve arrived… Soon another girl arrives outside and waits with me. The door is answered by a beautiful dreadlocked woman, who says something in Greek to the other girl and scutters off quickly. The girl shows me to a room with two small mattresses and a double bed, where I put my things. I follow her back out into the main room, but she seems busy so I have a look around the books in the library area, then look back at the girl who’s struggling to get to the door with a big roll of posters and a bucket full of water. I give her a hand and off she goes in a car…
Now what? Nobody’s around and actually I’m kind of tired, so I make myself at home on the double mattress and curl up for… three hours!?! Shit – where’d the time go??
Staggering dazed from my room I now meet the dreadlocked girl and two men, Dimitris and Adonis. Adonis is vegan, so we have something in common, but he seems shy of his English. Dimitris squatted in London for several years and Liza spent some time there too, so they can handle my un-edited full-British accent – a rarity!
In the kitchen a familiar sight catches my eye – among many other stickers is one large word which makes me smile with recognition – “Bollocks!” I make a mental note to email Tom back in the UK and tell him how far his Bollocks stickers have made it across Europe.
There’s a demonstration in solidarity with the 300 Hunger Strikers I wrote about in my last post. This is my third demonstration on this topic. It’s smaller than the one in Athens, but there’s still at least a couple of hundred people here and for a city this size that seems a lot to me – though others seem disappointed at such a poor turnout. We march around the city once chanting Greek slogans I can’t even begin to follow or remember a word of. I don’t see a single cop and apparently I’m the only one surprised by this. Our circuit complete, people either wander off or file into the University building for an information session about the Hunger Strike.
I seem to have a lot of energy these days and there’s no internet in the squat, so I spend my time in my “office”, exploring Volos, cooking and skipping/dumpstering food for the squat. The men at the market seem surprised to see me – “ah, a tourist!” I return their broad smiles, and when they see me picking up the half rotten food from the roadside, one man gives me a bag of fresh onions and carrots. “Efharisto poli!”
My “Office” is the wifi cafe up the road from the squat, where I can get a large Greek coffee (“enna Ellinikos cafe diplo, parakalo!”) and spend an hour or more rushing through emails and saving pages to read later, back at the squat. It’s good for me to have my internet time curtailed, it’s such good procrastination.
My impression of Volos: it’s very square. Apparently a series of earthquakes knocked most of it down in 1955 and for some reason they chose to make the new city very linear. It takes away from the character, I think: there are no surprises around corners… or are there?
There is a mountain though – Pilio is huge and supposedly stunning, but I wouldn’t know since I only make it to the top of the smaller mountain (“what, you mean the hill?”) next to the city. Still, the view is lovely and the sun’s about to set. Thousands of small purple flowers are pushing their way through the earth and I sense the unmistakeable smell of wild garlic, but wherever it is, it’s hiding well.
Cycling down the seafront on my borrowed squat-bike (one brake, two flat tires), I pass a group of hippy-types juggling and jamming near the “beach” (they call the park that opens onto the seafront “the beach,” despite the abundant concrete and obvious lack of sand. That’s nothing, you should see “the waterway”). I smile as I pass the hippies and think for a moment about joining them, but go on past… “Jo??” I circle back, recognising immediately the heavily pierced face from the photograph of the girl I’ve been emailing on CS. I join them for a while, play with some poi and attempt to teach hula-tricks to a girl with her child’s hoop, but it’s hopeless.
It’s the weekly bar night at the squat, only most of the usual people are at the Worker’s Centre, which was occupied in the early hours of the morning in preperation for the General Strike next week. There’s hip-hop music blaring ’til gone 3am, so I drink a few beers and do my best to be merry, spending most of my time chatting to the barman, yet another Dimitris. This one is from Kavala and he makes me squat maps of that city as well as Thessaloniki, where I’m going tomorrow.
Goodbye Volos, your square streets and lovely squatters.