'But he is one of us!' he said to his wife with an air of relief in his voice. It was my first visit to Thessaloniki and I was introduced to my Greek girlfriend's parents. They were on their doorstep waiting for us when we came out of the elevator. He wasn't sure what to think when his wife told him that his daughter met a Dutch guy but the first impression reassured him. With my dark hair, big nose and brown eyes I could indeed pass for a Greek. From that moment I felt like one of them.
During the countless visits made after that first time I started to photograph the city that became part of me. Although the widely praised Greek architecture has been replaced by tasteless concrete flats and the population got outnumbered by cars, the city has a melancholic beauty that is difficult to understand for visitors only looking for touristic clichés. Due to her geographical position on the northern Greek mainland, the city of Thessaloniki attracts people from all over the Balkan and all these cultural dialects and tones give the city a unique oriental touch.
I always leave the city with mixed feelings. It's obvious that for many people life isn't easy and many inhabitants are desperate to find their luck elsewhere. Neither the stylish, fashionable shops and the arty cafes nor the fact that Lonely Planet ranked Thessaloniki fifth among the world's top party cities will solve their problems. The way the Greek approach life is miles away from what we are used to in Northern Europe. Both in a good and a bad way. Maybe that's why it's so fascinating to be part of both worlds and why I always look forward to returning.