Greece : in thessaloniki there are djs in baths and crooners in bars

The port city is known for its nightlife. And after a few drinks, you can pronounce Thessaloniki much more fluently, too.

High ceilings. The domed halls of the 'Aigli' club used to house a Turkish hamam in the 16th century

They had all talked about this old hamam, which is now a club. dancing in the domed halls of a Turkish bathhouse from the 16th century. Twentieth century, good DJs, that sounded exciting. Enthusiasm had been expressed by a young Thessalonian woman when it was announced to go to the "Aigli. There are countless cafes, pubs, bars and clubs in Greece’s second largest city, which has the reputation of being number one in the country’s nightlife. The Thessalonians are connoisseurs, even Mayor Yiannis Boutaris smokes like mad and grows wine. But if everyone raves about it, it must be this old hamam.

At the end of a steep alley, the red-lit domes pile up like bubbles on the stone ashlar of the club. Aigli" flickers on the side in neon letters. Inside, disco balls hang from the cathedral-high ceiling. On the tightly walled walls pink lights cast shadows.

But only a few guests sipping cocktails at thick wooden tables. No DJ today, says a waitress. Only in winter. But it is Saturday evening! The anticipation was so great to be able to dance and sweat where people once bathed and sweated. Outside the door again, a stray cat sits on the wall and whines. A small Greek tragedy.

This night must go on

So what to do, with the city at your feet, surrounded by Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman buildings and no pleasure in sight? This night must go on. In Thessaloniki, they say it doesn’t take long for a new door to open somewhere. That was supposed to be the magic of this place that everyone had promised.

So down from the upper town to the lower town center. The Thermaic Gulf spills onto the quay wall, and from here the streets branch out, full of restaurants and bars. Like a sorcerer’s apprentice, Dimitris Patronis removes bottles of colorful liquids from the refrigerator. Wearing an apron of jeans, he mixes the drinks for Hotel Excelsior and claims they are the best in town. Golden light fixtures and turquoise upholstery recall the 1920s when the house was built.

Americans do not like mastiha

The bottles with the handwritten labels contain blends, self-stirred aroma creations, in which the basic ingredients of a cocktail already unite with each other. Dimitris pours a light yellow liquid into his chrome shaker. It is supposed to be an "American Smash", in the finished blend grapefruit, bergamot, gin and mastiha are combined. Mastiha is a Greek liqueur made from the resin of the mastic tree, which the bartending scene has discovered for itself. "Americans say it tastes like raw carrots," says Dimitris. He can only wonder about it. Because it really just tastes like pine needles and tree sap.

The barman shakes his blend with ice, basil and lemon juice. The chrome of the shaker reflects the light, and Dimitris spins it through the air so violently that his hair falls in his face. Through a sieve he pours the pale yellow-green mixture into a cut glass, it fogs up, so cold it comes out of the freezer. Dimitris sprays apple foam on drink. How he makes it? He smiles, keeps silent and sprinkles strawberry powder on it. First it tastes frothy-sweet when you drink it, then resinous-tart.

Blue Cup in Ladadika is a must

Thessaloniki is small. It has a million inhabitants, but in the center your own feet are enough. This contributes significantly to the good reputation of nightlife. If you go out the door here, you’re almost certain to meet your friends somewhere. "They drink from noon to midnight," Dimitris says of the residents of Thessaloniki, which everyone just calls Saloniki, which, by the way, is much easier to pronounce after two drinks. The city is also insanely young, a tenth are students.

Dimitris takes a step back, there is a clatter from the illuminated bottle gallery. He looks sadly to the ground. "This was my favorite rum." A waitress carries her tray by. "Must be a ghost here" – "An ex-bartender," sneers Dimitris. Not that anyone questions its reputation. But he can also give his colleagues a treat. "You have to go to the Blue Cup," he says, scribbling the name on a piece of paper. "In Ladadika, just a few streets away. Ask for Vaggelis."

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Ladadika is a quarter that every proper port city has. Only a few narrow streets cross each other chaotically, you could walk in circles at a late hour and not notice it. The great fire of 1917 spared the small pleasure quarter. Of course the brothels for the sailors were here in former times beside the warehouses and stores. Of course, some city government turned off the red light and moved the bourgeois nightlife into the empty houses.

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