Photo Essay: Greek food markets at the heart of two cities

Essay and photos by Sydne Mass ·

At 6 in the morning, in Thessaloniki, the streets are quiet. The sun slowly rises as people get ready to start their day. Aristotle Square, at the center of town, is practically empty, with the only signs of life coming from a few bakeries and, down a side street, the Modiano Market.

Soon, before tourists take over the streets, locals will arrive with shopping carts and baskets to buy their groceries. For now though, vendors scrub down their spots and hose down their floors.

Similarly, at the Central Market in Athens, vendors – many of whom represent family-owned businesses stretching back decades – begin their early morning ritual of setting up. Butchers, fish sellers and farmers all work under the same roof to make a living wage.

On this early morning in Athens, trucks carrying ice and fish arrive before dawn as butchers are chopping meat. The lanes of stalls repeat, each occupied by someone hoping it will be a prosperous day.

A walk through this early in the morning exposes a raw side to the market that is hidden to shoppers once the sun is up, once the morning has given way to a different light. Everything, at least for now, muted and quiet, is still in disarray, waiting to be arranged.

Click on any image below to view the gallery.


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