When I came to Thessaloniki, my first few weeks were spent walking around the city. One day, to kill time while waiting for Theo to finish his counseling session, I walked around “Αγία Σοφία” (A-ghi-a Sofia), Saint Sofia’s streets and corners. I was trying to memorize the alleys, roads, and shops. It was a hot day. It was already summer – June 2009.
I came across an alley where they have the flower shop, the key maker shop, jewelry & accessory shops, book shop, apartments, and of course – a dry cleaning store. (I have to mention that almost every alley has this similar features, too. The only difference is the road sign.)
At first glance, with an insufficient Greek art knowledge, I thought that the statue is a statue of “Διόνυσος” (Dhi-o-ni-sos), Dionysus, the ancient Greek God of grape harvest and wine making. So I asked myself, what I would commonly guess when I see Dionysus or Bacchus’s sculptures outside a place: it’s either a fine dining restaurant, a hotel, a sculpture’s hide-out or a statue store?
But I have never thought of a Dry Cleaning.
From afar, can you really tell? Perhaps to a non-Greek person, it isn’t? When I realized there’s that “hygena” graphic, I thought it’s a public bath.
With all those paintings and the other statue (sorry I can’t tell which person it portrays…), it’s a bit fancy for a small shop, and if not for the plastic-wrapped hanging clothes in those racks, I wouldn’t recognize where I’m at. That doesn’t change the fact that I’ve neglected to read the sign of the store at first-hand . (YES – look up Nessy! Don’t get too carried away by your enthusiasm!)
Let’s go back to that “hygena” word. That is not Greek nor it is an ancient Greek word.
“Hygiene” in Greek is “υγιεινή” (i-ghi-i-ni). The ancient Goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation is, ” Ύγιεία “ (I-ghi-i-a), Hygieia. (That’s why hygiene is considered a female noun in Greek.) She is the daughter of the God of medicine, “Aσκληπιός” (As-kli-pi-os), Asclepius.
Hygiene doesn’t only mean sanitation and cleanliness to the Greeks. It involves practices of keeping things free of germs that can cause diseases – starting from your body to the other aspects in your life. Cleaning your clothes is not only washing it with detergent, but the belief that washing them off is the proper way to get rid of the disease-causing bacteria, may sound simple to our modern lifestyle, but to the ancients it is meticulously done. I want to share an article from online about the Ancient Greeks hygiene concept. Read Here.
And about that “Hygena” sign, again…
I searched online and I found out that it’s a product name for kitchen unit. Here’s the Wiki Article. It is now being developed in France. C’est faux! (Aside from that, it’s also a modern superhero’s name. LoL.)
Back to the Statues:
I asked a Greek culture-passionate friend, who is also doing Archaeology master in Thessaloniki about the statues especially the one that I thought was Dionysus. She pointed out that it cannot be the God of wine because the shape of the vases are different and the wines or vines are missing so as the wine jar. It is nothing but a statue of a young man holding water jars – thus depicting daily life’s activities.
So in short, the two statues are showing random everyday life’s activities.
Wee… that’s a handful of information especially coming from someone who is more familiar with the culture than me. When I asked myself what’s Dionysus doing in a Dry Cleaning store – that should have been the “hint” that it’s not him! Lol.
And could someone tell me what the painting is all about? Because if it’s according to my interpretation, since this is an Orthodox-dominant country, that’s Jesus Christ in a cross, carried by men, and it looks like they’re trying to get him out of his burden. Amen.