#38: Thessaloniki, Greek again (1923)

"Saloniki was in a chaotic condition. It was only a few years before when in 1912 the Turks went out of the government, the Greeks came in again and the city name was changed to the old form, Thessaloniki. Most of the intervening years had been a period of warfare between the two peoples, and there had been neither time nor opportunity nor resources to establish a new and stable government with the amenities of ordinary life. Officials seemed hard to reach and uncertain in authority though fully friendly. Venizelos street was a highway of bottomless mud.

About a mile square covering the principal business district of the city had been burned during the war. We could not then foresee that the Thessaloniki fire was to have an effect something like that of the great fire in Chicago in the early days of that wonder city, clearing the path and inspiring the people to redoubled progress. There were thirty-five refugee camps in Thessaloniki and its immediate environs, with an aggregate of 160,000 refugees. Ten thousand confronted bitter winter weather sheltered only in left-over army tents.

A tall minaret still towered over Saint Sophia, one of seventeen minarets in the city that I counted one day from the window of my room. St. Sophia in Thessaloniki was older than St. Sophia in Constantinople. Before long the government removed the tall minaret and placed over the doorway of the old Christian sanctuary two dates: 1430 in black figures, marking the establishment of Moslem worship in the building and government of the country; and 1912 in figures of gold marking the restoration of Christianity within the sanctuary and throughout Macedonia. By this time, most of the Turks had gone and the rest were expecting to go soon, on their way back to Turkey and Asia from which their forefathers had come."

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