It was a bright Sunday morning when I left my bed, packed my gears and took a walk up to Ano Poli. I had just arrived in town and I was looking for a miracle.
Searching for touristic routes that could help me discover this new city, I found a tiny note on an old, torn and incredibly wrinkled touristic map. It was about a mysterious door, a gateway to another world that – they say – magically appears in a narrow street of the Upper City. It’s called Odos Mavri Petri, the Street of the Black Stone.
Between time and space
According to the rumors and the whispers that run through the Internet, the passage appears at midnight every 15 days, just to vanish as soon as it has materialized. It is said that anyone who steps across its threshold begins to wander between time and space, and eventually never finds his way home. As many others facts of Thessaloniki, it all begun with the great fire that hit the city in 1917. Sparkling from the stove of an house in Limani – the docks district – the flames spread from one wooden roof to another in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but ashes on their path. In this apocalyptic scenario, when the people of Ano Poli went to collect what was left of their belongings, they found a thick, mysterious Black Stone waiting under the ruins that once were their houses.
It is said that the street owes its name to this very discovery, but it’s what comes next that is matter for legends. After a while, strange phenomena began to appear around the premises of Mavri Petri. Maybe it was the metal the stone was made of, maybe the place it came from, but something started to interfere with the electromagnetic field of the area, bending the very fabric of reality and attracting flocks of curious mystery hunters, obsessed with spooky stories of paranormal activities. And, of course, me amongst them.
A maze of alleys
I decided to reach the place without checking Google for directions, relying only on the – indeed very scarce – information provided by my map. So I walked to Rotonda and started heading north, hitting the roads of the city that was slowly awakening after Saturday night. As the asphalt changed into cobblestones (and the path became a steep slope one step after another) the city started to change its face. The bulky grey six-stories buildings turned into tiny white-and-blue houses, growing on the side of the hill as if they were fighting for a place to be. As I pushed forward into the Old City, the wide, parallel lanes of the new one turned into a maze of alleys. That was the moment I realized I was losing my way.
Roaming desperately between Akropoleos and Eptapirgiou, I found myself in the same place over and over again. The same stairs carved in stone, the same houses one against another, the same white walls covered in PAOK supporters’ graffiti. And no trace of my destination. No clue, no sign could help me. Even the internet seemed to be useless. Even though my doubt and anxiety were growing, everything around me looked quiet and still, as if it was there since the beginning of time. The fair light of the winter morning tenderly touched every surface. The stray cats crossed the alleys lazily occupied in their cats’ businesses, while in front of me the stunning sight of the city stood still in the Sunday morning, with the ships crossing the bay and a faint hint of the mountains surrounding it from the distance.
A spark of magic
I couldn’t recall why I was there or what I expected to find; maybe I just wanted a goal to reach. Or maybe there was the hope that something incredible could happen even to me; casting a different light to the otherwise ordinary routine that makes Tuesday come after Monday over and over again. And then – suddenly – I found it. As coming from nowhere, Odos Mavri Petri appeared in front of my eyes surrounded by a supernatural silence in the quiet and lazy atmosphere of the Old Town. I stepped into the alley, passing through a middle age couple that stood there as judging if I was worth of it.
What did I find there? Well, I found a cobblestone slope, some clothes scattered on the ground and a man repairing his house’s fence. I found nothing special indeed. So I don’t know if the legend is true or – as someone says – it’s just a story made up by the sci-fi writer Pantelis Giannoulakis. I know that Mavri Petri looks like an ordinary alley, amongst many others around her. Maybe we just tell these kinds of stories because we are looking for a spark of magic, hidden somewhere in our ordinary life. Something that can suddenly turn everything upside down and change the directions of our days. With a chill down my spine, I left Mavri Petri and its mysteries behind, headed homewards to meet the future that was waiting me there.