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Santas Street, Thessaloniki

Under the high rises.

A tribute to street markets - all over the world.

This story is from our World Traveller series.

It looks like just an ordinary street. From my second floor balcony, I can see the sweep of the road as it divides the high-rise apartments that are the new suburbs of Thessaloniki. There is little movement today save for the single car and the gypsy on her daily round checking the bins for used clothing.

The outdoor cats snooze in the sun, with one eye open waiting for a sympathetic meal of leftovers.

Opposite on the ground floor is Mrs Aracas' gift shop - she doesn't sell much but she has the occasional visitor for a coffee or a chat. It keeps the old women in touch and gives Mrs Aracas something to do besides falling asleep in front of the television. The men go further afield to the taverna for a game of cards or backgammon.

Down the road is Yannis, the local baker. The bread and spanakopita are fresh each morning. If you want anything else you need to go down to the main road supermarket where everything is in a plastic package, even the milk.

a hundred or so market stalls suddenly appear in the early light

The trees that line the pavement have just been pruned, but as spring arrives their branches will grow with remarkable speed as if they know they will be required to shade the heat of summer.

Instead of vacant or underused shops, some of the high-rise apartments have parking underneath. But there is not enough, especially now with the increased car ownership - the young just don't walk anymore.

And that is probably why it survives - the Thursday market in Santas Street. The freshness right at your door is irresistible - and it blends with smells and sounds that rise up into a living thing like the loaves baked by Yannis.

On Thursdays, a hundred or so market stalls suddenly appear in the early light. There is no sleeping in - the noise of the vendors slowly builds to disturb the otherwise quiet neighbourhood. You'll want to rise early anyway to get the best of the produce.

Read another market story from Tasmania.

What do street markets mean to you? Tell Richard

Read other people's comments.

Fresh at the market in Santas Street, Thessaloniki

Fresh fish, vegetables with their roots still crusted with dirt, red tomatoes, oranges, lemons, beans, peas, greens and salad leaves grown in the sun. Honey, cheese, sausages, and marinated olives made with tender care.

They are all regulars, the market traders. Santas Street is just one stop for them. Tomorrow they'll set up elsewhere to do it all again for another set of customers, another street, and to throw some scraps at another family of outdoor cats.

The Thursday market in Santas Street is a long-standing tradition. It was here long before the high-rise apartments were built. Then people came from around the area. Now they also come down, descending from their two bedroom units to stock up for the next week.

Santas Street is no ordinary street. The market brings it to life each week - making it special. New neighbours have the chance to meet old neighbours. The crowded pavement lives and moves as it strolls between the high-rise apartments and under the awnings, looking for a bargain. In summer, people will pause under the trees; time will pass as they meet, talk, enquire, argue, listen and touch.

One day, maybe, a supermarket will come to live in the disused shops. The smells and colours will be shrouded in plastic, the line waiting at the check out will shuffle forward looking at its watch and fingering its credit card; the trees will be cut down to make car parks.

When that day comes, I'll move.

See more of Santas Street


With fresh ingredients from the market enjoy a

Spicy Greek Feta and Aubergine Salad

Warm slivers of aubergine seasoned with cinnamon make an exotic warm salad when combined with tomatoes, caramelised onions and tangy feta cheese.

Dish Details:


8 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 medium aubergine (egg plant), finely sliced
225g baby spinach leaves
4 medium tomatoes, quartered
25g raisins
2 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar
200g Greek feta, cut into large pieces
2 tbsp oregano or flat-leaf parsley, freshly chopped
pared rind of 1 unwaxed lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive ciabatta or sun-dried tomato focaccia
Three friends and a cold bottle of retsina


1. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions for 4-5 minutes until just starting to brown, then stir in the cinnamon. Add the aubergine and cook until all the vegetables are browned and the aubergine is tender about 15 minutes. If necessary, add more oil, about 2 tbsp, while cooking the aubergine.
2. Meanwhile, arrange the spinach and tomatoes on a large platter, then scatter over the raisins.
3. Season the aubergine with the freshly ground pepper and salt, add to the salad platter and toss well.
4. Pour the remaining oil and vinegar into the pan and bring to the boil, scraping up any sediment from the pan. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again.
5. Top with the feta cheese, then scatter over the fresh herbs and lemon rind. Serve immediately with rough chunks of olive ciabatta or sun-dried tomato focaccia.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

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