The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Vignettes of Salonique
A harbour which almost tires one in its immensity—a huge, unbroken semicircle—my first impression of Salonique. The entrance, I remember, was insignificant, and the shores were uninteresting. As we steamed up the bay, the city we knew so little of, but which was to be our home for an indefinite period, became visible. Just a small, almost square, patch—at one time completely surrounded by an old Roman wall —extending from the sea front backwards till eventually it commenced to climb a hill. Then Salonique proper abruptly stops.
Remnants of the old Roman wall remain, and in the north-eastern corner of the city form a feature of the landscape. Here is the citadel —the civilian prison—whose walls are a portion of the famous Roman wall. Modern and fashionable Salonique, however, has spread beyond the confines of the old city, and houses cluster along the foreshores of the bay—big, square, white-stoned houses, balconied, set in gardens, and at. a distance pre-eminently attractive. Yes, undoubtedly the "tout ensemble" is good; but upon close inspection, well, one at least realises the advantage that might accrue if only one could choose one's neighbours. As we swept our glance round the shores, on the hillsides we found isolated groups of regular buildings, or of tents, denoting military activities in one form or another. Several large military hospitals are situated on the outskirts of the town, three of which have been staffed by Australian Sisters.
The city itself is hopeless. The streets are narrow, dirty and cobbled; the shops poky and expensive; the supplies, both as regards variety and quantity, inadquate. The dealers are a dishonest band of. brigands, and don't care a fig whether we buy to-day or not; they know full well we must have the commodities, and must pay their price. But we put forth our most persuasive efforts, and bargain even as we learned to do in Egypt. The rogues simply shrug their shoulders, and' turn their attention to another customer.
Some amusing experiences have been met with by those attached to hospitals more or less isolated, where Greek villagers have attended for out door treatment. In one instance, an old woman had been badly burned, and in order to exclude the air, furry skin, had been bound around the affected areas. In another instance, a newly-born babe, having been subjected to some ceremony which included the cutting of the hair in a peculiar fashion, and which resulted in a scratch that eventually became septic, was brought to the hospital for treatment, the forehead having previously been poulticed by the application of tried eggs.
A limited train service runs through a portion of the town; but it is erratic even in it's limitation, and the cars are always overcrowded; consequently, our principal means of transport are the three-ton lorries and Fin Sizzies; and in comparing notes on hospital sites, to be adjacent to a road frequented by A. S. C. lorries is certainly a consideration.
In the shops very little English is spoken, but chiefly Greek or French, which is sometimes rather tiresome. One Billjimimah I mess with, frantically climbed the shop assistant's Udder, and triumphantly brought from the topmost shelf the embroideries she hankered after, to the amzement of the correctly-attired and belted Tommy officer accompanying her.
But now is summer upon us. The flies and the dust are coming into their own, the mosquitoes hold revelry by night; and all impressions of Salonique fade in the glare of the sunshine which is to be our lot for months.