06 April 2018

Lenten menus and fine food
in narrow cobbled streets

The narrow cobbled streets of Ladadika come to life in the evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

This evening I am following the ‘Great Friday’ or ‘Good Friday’ processions with the Epitaphios through the streets of Thessaloniki.

Many restaurants in Thessaloniki have been offering ‘Lenten Menus’ this week, for Greeks who are observing the closing days of Lent.

For the past two evenings, we have been eating in the evening in Ladadika (Λαδάδικα), an old landmark area just five minutes’ walk from where I am staying.

For centuries, this area near the port was one of the most important market places in the city. Its name comes from the many olive oil shops of the area, although it was also known for a time as the ‘Egyptian Market.’

But in the years before World War I, this area beside the port became a red-light district with many brothels. The last olive oil shops started to close, and by the 1970s much of the area had been abandoned.

However, the lack of fashionable commercial and industrial interest in the area also helped ensure the survival of many of its 19th century buildings, with their notable architectural styles. Ladakika began to experience a process of ‘gentrification’ in the 1980s, and in 1985, it was listed as a heritage site by the Ministry of Culture.

In the narrow cobbled streets of Ladadika (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In 1992, the Ladadika neighborhood was included in a new urban planning and improvement project. Hundreds of buildings from the inter-war period were restored and declared protected historic landmarks.

Today, Ladadika is the entertainment district of Thessaloniki, with the narrow, cobbled streets lined with bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and pubs housed in former old oil stores and warehouses.

During the day, this is a quiet and atmospheric area to stroll around, but Ladadika comes to life in the evenings, when there is a buzz about the place and life spills out into the maze of small squares and cobble-stone pedestrianised streets.

The area has an atmosphere that is a balance between Trastevere in Rome and Temple Bar in Dublin, with restaurants, cafés, espresso bars – and there is even a pub called the Dubliner.

Dinner is about to be served in Ladadika (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Over the last two evenings, I have had dinner in Full Tou Meze, beside the old fountain, and in Negroponte in Ladadaika. Last night, after dinner in Negroponte, there was a surprise text inviting us to join old friends who were still having dinner a few minutes’ walk away in Agioli, a restaurant in Leoforos Nikis, close to the corner of Aristoteleos Square.

We spent the last hours of the evening with friends and with panoramic view of the sea front, from the White Tower to the old harbour.

Street art in Ladadaika (Photograph; Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Sunday 8 April and the
week ahead in Rathkeale
and Kilnaughtin Group

Carravagio: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

Sunday 8 April (Easter 2):

9.30 a.m.: The Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

Readings: Acts 4: 32-35; Psalm 133; I John 1: 1 to 2: 2; John 20: 19-31.

Hymns: 646, 239, 307.

Wednesday 11 April (The Annunciation):

Because 25 March was Palm Sunday, the Feast of the Annunciation has been transferred in the Church Calendar to the week after Easter Week. The Feast of the Annunciation will be marked with a celebration of the Eucharist at 11 a.m. on Wednesday 11 April in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Isaiah 7: 10-14; Psalm 40: 5-10; Hebrews 10: 4-10; Luke 1: 26-38.

Hymn: 704.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s painting, Ecce Ancilla Domini! (1850), now in the Tate Gallery, London

Easter Vestries:

Castletown and Askeaton Easter Vestries: Thursday 12 April, 8 p.m., the Rectory, Askeaton.

Kilnaughtin (Tarbert) Easter Vestry: Sunday 15 April, after the Sunday service.

Rathkeale Easter Vestry: Monday 16 April, 8 p.m., the Rectory, Askeaton.

The clock has stopped
for 40 years in an old
bank in Thessaloniki

The former building of La Banque de Salonique is now a bar and shopping gallery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I am staying on the corner of Syngrou Street and Egnatia Street in the centre of Thessaloniki, and in the heart of what was briefly the Jewish Ghetto during World War II.

Around the corner, Hrimatistiriou Square is a small square with music bars and an interesting night life. During the Ottoman Turkish days, this was the Stockmarket Square.

But 40 years ago, this area was also at the heart of the major earthquake that rocked Thessaloniki on 20 June 1978.

Life in the square seems to revolve around the Stoa Malakopis or Malakopis Gallery, in an old building that also includes the Gambrinas Bar facing down the street that leads towards the waterfront.

This was once the elegant premises of the old La Banque de Salonique or the Bank of Thessaloniki, which was founded in 1888 by the Allatini brothers in partnership with a bank in Vienna.

The Allatini brothers were members of a Jewish-Italian family, descended from Lazarus Allatini (1776-1834). The family owned mills and other trading companies in Thessaloniki and dominated trade in the Ottoman Empire for a century.

The former bank was built in 1907 on the site of the yard of the Allitani family’s former mansion on Syngrou Street. The bank was designed by the renowned Italian architect Vitaliano Poselli (1838-1918) from Sicily.

Two years after Poselli’s bank was built, the bank moved its headquarters to Constantinople in 1909. In 1911, all the commercial activities of the Allatini dynasty were shut down by the Porte, along with the businesses of other Italian Jewish families, in reprisals for the Italian-Turkish war that year.

However, the bank continued in business, and Poselli’s bank was one of the few buildings that survived the great fire that destroyed much of Thessaloniki in 1917. This building was renovated in 1926 to plans by the architect Maximilian Rubens. The bank continued to have branches in Thessaloniki until 1940, when the building was commandeered by the occupying Nazi forces.

The clock has stopped at 11:07, the time the earthquake hit Thessaloniki on 20 June 1978 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

When the major earthquake struck Thessaloniki on 20 June 1978, 45 people were killed many buildings were destroyed. The clock at the top of the façade of the old bank building was stuck at 11:07, the time the earthquake struck. And so it remains to this day, and the building is now a listed building.

The architect Vitaliano Poselli was born in Castiglione di Sicilia in 1838, and studied in Rome. In 1867, the Catholic Church commissioned him to build the Church of Saint Stephen in Constantinople.

From there, the Ottoman government sent him to Thessaloniki, where he built some of the most important public buildings in this city. He married and settled down here in 1888 and designed churches, buildings for foreign diplomats and missions and for the wealthy merchant families. He died 100 years ago in 1918, and many of his descendants still live in Thessaloniki.

The bank survives as a bar and is at the centre of night life in this part of Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)