Street Art in Thessaloniki

I visited Greece. We get to read a lot about Greece and the crisis these days. I’ve been there for a film festival. These were the souvenirs I brought home to you { Shoplifting and OrangesGreece in the Rain }.

Here’s some street art I found in Thessaloniki:

street art greece thessaloniki - girlstreet art greece thessalonikistreet art greece thessaloniki - birdstreet art thessaloniki - tiger stencilOh and there was some amazing poster, that I could not resist. I’m in love:

poster art wall art street art thessaloniki greece - drag





Greece in the Rain

I love Couchsurfing. I host. I stay with others. I contribute. I take my family. Today, a fellow Couchsurfer checked up on me about his holiday plans. He saw on my Couchsurfing profile that I’m currently in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece, attending the renown Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival.  He mailed me to find out about Greece: Like myself, he saw frequently devastating news about the EU crisis-countries such as Greece, Spain, Cyprus and others. Sometimes you can read between the lines how the non-crisis countries and their national banks got rich with high-interest bonds. Which the national banks of the non-crisis countries bought from the national banks of the crisis countries. Isn’t it amazing to help and get rich at the same time? Oh my God. What a world.
old church in a shopping street - Thessaloniki, Greece, 2013
But luckily, my Couchsurfing friend was not interested in investment opportunities in Greece. He was worried that the people here might feel bad about visitors in these hard times and that it might be inappropriate to come and visit. I wish some more of the India, Laos, Bangladesh and Dominican Republic  visitors would ask themselves such ethical questions before travelling.
I was happy I had been contacted, to report as a tourist in Greece first hand.

My answer was: Yes! Greece is a great place for your holidays. You will love it! The people are incredibly friendly, very open and extremely hospitable deep from the heart. The country seems to stand united despite of what we see from time to time in the news. I feel very safe, the garbage cleaning and street sweeping works heaps better than in southern Italy, people seem to stick together, try to get through this, help each other and do the best to get out of the ditch they are in.

windows of an abandones building - Thessaloniki Greece, 2013Yes, there are many unemployed people in Greece. Over a quarter of the adult population has no work, not counting students, self-employed that are out of business and people in employment programs. But I have not seen one single person sleeping on the street during my visit. A sight I saw many times in New York and San Francisco.

Thessaloniki on a rainy spring dayI came in a rainy time of the year. The air is crisp and clear, but dark clouds are hanging above the city. – Yes it is hard for the weakest, pensioners and old people. Some of them I could meet when there was a festival event with a free lunch for us guests at the pier. Three or four ladies and one decent, well dressed elderly men came and enjoyed with us a free meal. But they seemed not devastated. They engaged with us guests, we chatted with hand and feet, their spirits seemed high.

I adore the strength to carry on and not let yourself down mentally. I’m not sure if I could do that myself.

It’s my very first time in Thessaloniki, in Macedonia, in Greece and I’m loving it.

At the airport on my way here I met a group of thirty teenage girls on their way back from skiing in the Austrian Zillertal.
I was slightly annoyed about the extra waiting time at the check in – 30 teens with overweight luggage right in front of me – man!
I also was slightly annoyed by skiing Greek people thinking myself “Why are they not at home helping others with their spare free time and spare money, showing solidarity with those suffering in their country?”
Last not least I had still a shocking article in mind, that  I had read about a month ago: an article in German SZ Magazin about the Greek health system. The line under the title read “Who needs a doctor can only wait“. It had shocking pictures, that moved me a lot. The journalist, a German man of Greek parents, visited emergency rooms in public hospitals and documented how they got to limit their opening times to four days a week, how patients have to travel extremely far to get help, how doctors and nurses have not received pay in months.

I was angry. Standing at the check-in, about to visit Greece for the first time in my life. I was angry, with the suffering I had seen on those pictures in my mind. I was angry about the economy and the skiing-tourists right in front of me. I wrote an angry article about solidarity.

Than I thought: You’re going to Greece for the first time in your life. You have no idea about this girls, no idea about the Greek health system and no idea in fact about Greece at all. At all! Perhaps the skiing teachers organizing the trip are long-term unemployed people who took their chances, showed initiative, as everyone is demanding so often. Perhaps they just opened a business and thank God it’s going well! Perhaps these girls won a competition with their school and got a free holiday! Perhaps they are the Greek olympic winter-sport squad! Perhaps they are not Greek at all! How do I know?
I only learned so far Kalimera – which means Good Morning and Phareesto meaning Thank You – how can I dare standing at the check-in counter and judge?

I arrived at night.

ancient hamam from ottoman times and plants under a street lightFunny what our mind does with small bits of information and how we function, based on snippets our senses are grasping, forming them to assumptions, theories and last not least to our reality.

– I felt ashamed. I scrapped that angry article. I love it here. Come and see yourself.

Shoplifting and Oranges

I’m still amazed and surprised to see oranges on trees in spring, rather than at Christmas in supermarket shelves. Despite being often in Israel and other places where this happens every year: this wonder, that the trees are hanging full of oranges.

Oranges Grow on Trees. Sanne Kurz KameraMy mum is born in 1946. Pretty much exactly one year after the war finished and two years before the Deutsche Mark brought hope and prosperity to the perpetrators, the victims, the refugees from former German territories and their children.

My mum had a loving family, her father was a calm and quiet man who never raised his voice and let us grandkids braid his hair during his coffee breaks.

One single time in my life, my mum has been beaten up by her father. It was the day she saw for the first time in her life oranges. They lured at her in her village’s shop.

Oranges in the Rain, Thessaloniki 2013 by Sanne Kurz KameraShe could not resist, and took one, leaving the shop without leaving any Pfennigs or Deutsche Marks there.

I too remember the one time that I stole something as a child. It was not oranges, but a Bazooka Joe chewing gum for 30 Pfennig. It had a tattoo in the wrapper. I often tried to return the 30 Pfennig to Wamsgans, the local place that I shoplifted. They never took my money.

I’m not sure how often my mum thinks about the orange. I do remember the one-and-only thefts of my own kids. And I will definitely never forget my mum’s story and the oranges.

Orange Reflection. Photography by Sanne Kurz KameraAll images are taken in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, Greece. It’s my first time here. I’m attending the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival with a movie I shot. Yesterday it was rainy and today it’s sunny. I’m pretty sure there’ll be more to come from my trip.

Done. Now: Sleep.

Sun has set and night is falling in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Some of us are still stuck in the endless traffic jams paralyzing the city from dawn till dusk. Some were lucky to find into a deep calm and soothing ease…

And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now. Hush, the babies are sleeping, the farmers, the fishers, the tradesmen and pensioners, cobbler, schoolteacher, postman and publican, the undertaker and the fancy woman, drunkard, dressmaker, preacher, policeman, the webfoot cocklewomen and the tidy wives. Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrogered sea. […]

Mongolia indeed is lacking a navy.

You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing. Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep. And you alone can hear the invisible starfall, the darkest-before-dawn minutely dewgrazed stir of the black, dab-filled sea where the Arethusa, the Curlew and the Skylark, Zanzibar, Rhiannon, the Rover, the Cormorant, and the Star of Wales tilt and ride.

Listen. It is night moving in the streets. […] Listen. It is night in the chill, squat chapel, hymning in bonnet and brooch and bombazine black, butterfly choker and bootlace bow, coughing like nannygoats, suckling mintoes, fortywinking hallelujah; night in the four-ale, quiet as a domino. […] It is to-night in Donkey Street, trotting silent, with seaweed on its hooves, along the cockled cobbles, past curtained fernpot, text and trinket, harmonium, holy dresser, watercolours done by hand, china dog and rosy tin teacaddy. It is night neddying among the snuggeries of babies.

Look. It is night, dumbly, royally winding though the Coronation cherry trees; going through the graveyard of Bethesda with winds gloved and folded, and dew doffed; tumbling by the Sailors Arms.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes. – Come closer now.

Only you can hear the houses sleeping in the streets in the slow deep salt and silent black, bandaged night. Only you can see in the blinded bedrooms, the combs and petticoats over the chairs, the jugs and basins, the glasses of teeth, Thou Shalt Not on the wall, and the yellowing, dickybird-watching pictures of the dead. Only you can hear and see, behind the eyes of the sleepers, the movements and countries and mazes and colours and dismays and rainbows and tunes and wishes and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams.

From where you are, you can hear their dreams. […]

The queen bee is sleeping. And the French woman. Go and listen to their dreams:

Quoted text “Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices” by Dylan Thomas. US:  ISBN-10: 0811202097 / ISBN-13: 978-0811202091 by on amazon here. Europe:  ISBN-10: 3150092485 / ISBN-13: 978-3150092484 buy on amazon here.

Images by Hanna Mayser. For prints, lovely emails or job offers you can get in touch via hanna.mayser [ad] or simply give her a buzz: +49 179 108 6381.


China vs. Mongolia

In China… the land you build your house on falls after 70 years back to the government.
In Mongolia… the Mongolian Navy does not carry white sea bags.

In China… you got to dump your car after 8 years or 200.000km of driving it.
In Mongolia… you got to make sure to always carry 400 DIY sand-bags to fill up yourself when shooting a movie.

In China… you might encounter the cutest man of Asia. He’s 95 and looks like 102.
In Mongolia… you’ll definitely meet the cutest man of Central Asia. He’s got a smile like a Goliath Tiger Fish, but a heart as wide as the planet.

I like it here, I like it there. I wanna come back with my family.
But most of all, I wanna go home.

Read more about a DPs Chinese adventures here: Shanghai, the Pyjamas and the Curious ElderlyShanghai MorningsA Golden Holiday in Shanghai

Find out more about our Mongolian film adventures here: Mongolian MorningsAfter Hours in Mongolia (my favorite, as it features authentic Chinese/Mongolian Thermos Poetry), Come Back, JackFilmmaking in Mongolia


Shanghai, the Pyjamas and the Curious Elderly

China is facing an even bigger challenge dealing with its elderly than the US, who promised and entire generation of baby-boomers healthcare when retired and now does not know how to cover it. In China, however,  years of one-child-policy lead to a population pyramid heavy on top and slim at the bottom. The world’s saying thanks to the Chinese government for trying to not make our little planet even faster even more over populated. – But the planet of course does not want to help and fix the problems that stem from decades of an enforced one-child-policy.

“How many siblings do you have?” is being one of the first chit-chatter questions in every “We-just-met-and-get-to-know-each-other” small talk elsewhere. In Shanghai though I had to bite my tongue several times to not ask this silly question and look in to surprised Chinese faces looking at with something easily to decipher as “The silly stranger does not know we don’t do siblings here”.

Funny enough Shanghai seems despite of the Chinese one-child-policy full of kids. I encountered much more children around than let’s say back home in Munich, where we got more cars and even more dogs than kids. Still: the vast growing number of elderly in China does take its space. They are reaching out in to public space, wait patiently at 6:30am at the gates of local parks to open, stroll on streets, sit on benches and enjoy lakes, shade and sun. So many mainly happy elderly people – it makes me wonder where the 70+ ers are at home in Europe. Locked up? Anxious at home sitting solitary on the couch? In front of computer-screens enjoying unblocked German Internet and Skyping with their Grandkids in Munich or Berlin? – Or simply toughened from fitness club and tennis court visits, with dyed hair and not to identify as “elderly”? – Hm. I’m not sure.

In Shanghai, ladies and gentlemen with shiny silver hair and wise faces flow down park alleyways, play music and cards, sing Beijing Opera, exercise taijiquan, t’ai chi ch’uan, qigong and all these other in the morning sun amazing looking things with weird names hard to pronounce for the astonished foreigner.

Famously in Shanghai many older people are wearing pyjamas on the street after sunset. I even saw some heads in sleeping hats floating around. People older than yourself are a fun species in China.

When you cross their paths and interrupt their circles, be it for a film shoot or when taking pictures, they come humming around you. Silently surrounding you, perhaps starting to speak Chinese to you from behind  like little elves talking elvish. You turn around to the crowd that gathered behind your back, they are so cute, you want to take them home.

See here: A couple going out in PJs on the right of the top pic, the most dodgy DIT place on this planet to be seen in the middle, a fake and a real lady at the very bottom.

Read more about a Kamerafrau‘s Chinese adventures here: China vs. MongoliaShanghai MorningsA Golden Holiday in Shanghai

Shanghai Mornings

Days are short and intense in Shanghai. Sun rises around 6am and a 5pm sunset gives you not much time to doodle and dawdle through your day. At least not when you’re trying to make a movie, that is. And especially not, when almost all you’d love to get in the can in day exteriors.

The magic hour lasts a subtropical 10-20 minutes, than you got consistent light and you’ll be able – thanks to your remarkable Chinese crew – to race through the day with results you’d been only dreaming of.

We had quite some magic hour and early morning scenes, so more than once we traded the camera truck for our warm beds and went at a nightly hour out to get that brief and precious time of magic between day and night.

I was lucky and my 1st AC Lambert Strehlke took the time to collect some memories of our Shanghai mornings along the road.

Read more about a Kamerafrau Sanne Kurz’ Chinese adventures here: China vs. MongoliaShanghai, the Pyjamas and the Curious ElderlyA Golden Holiday in Shanghai

A Golden Holiday in Shanghai

How much I wish I could have written each evening about all things blowing my mind when staying this far to short week in Shanghai to shoot the exteriors for the Mongolian feature film I’m currently working on.

Futuristic skylines and colonial-calm quarters, turbo-capitalism and communist-propaganda-pride, German-sports-cars and tricycle-transports, vast parks and gigantic inner-city highways, with 23 million citizens almost 10 times as much population than the entire country of Mongolia with its 2,75 million people. – Shanghai definitely proved to be a city with so many different faces I had never seen before in my life.

Only: I could not write about it, since WordPress shares the faith of many other pages in China. Not that the government would block it. No. You never actually see a stop sign telling you “Dear citizen, we stopped this gambling site to protect you. Cheers, your government.” I saw messages like this in the UAE stopping over in Dubai. But China, no, the authorities would never do that. Of course. There’s only for some strange reason technical problems with certain pages “Please reload later” leaves you in uncertainty until you google for the problem and find out, the “technical problem” persists already for about four years. Sadly.

Funny things like that still happen in times of VPN clients and people smart enough to find their own private little work around.
I was too busy to do my VPN client research and to stingy to invest in a good software hiding my IP and making it look like I’m surfing from, let’s say: Switzerland whilst being in Shanghai.

All the adventures we had, amazing film making, the blast this incredible city leaves in your mind, the fantastic food, intensely great people and extremely professional work we encountered, are told from my memory now. A bit like a story from the little red book you might remember.

But than, perhaps, memories are even better than things we taste, smell, feel, hear and see right this instant? I like memories. Only sometimes it’s a shame, that we can in writing not focus pull, condense time and edit as visually as in dreams and memories. I always liked food as an expression of emotion coz it’s film-able. With writing I feel memories and emotions often fade. But colors do work and stay. I like.

Jump to adventures in China yet to come: China vs. MongoliaShanghai, the Pyjamas and the Curious Elderly, Shanghai Mornings

Mongolian Mornings.

Each morning trains full with heaps of coal go past our home east. You see them  behind the river in the far just in front of the Ulaanbaatar ferris wheel. In the evening, trains packed with dollars go back west. The large red blue flag of Mongolia flies in the morning sun, the skyscrapers are growing slow enough to still give you the feel of width and space, even though you are in the middle of a fast growing capital. The morning light can still flood almost horizontally in to streets, alleys, jurist, houses and homes.

Never in my life I saw more expensive off-road vehicles on the roads. The town seems to the European visitor almost plastered with Hummers. A SUV density I did not even see in New York.

We love our drivers, bringing us in a microbus to set each day. We love the dodgy roads often so bad that you only realize you’re taking the off-road short cut then your window is hit by branches of trees. It’s nice to be elsewhere. Definitely with your mind.

The soundtrack of Mongolian life hovers through our car. I close my eyes, I miss my kids and for now dream the film.See other Mongolian dreams After Hours in Mongolia, whilst Filmmaking in Mongolia and waiting for Comeback, Jack.


After Hours in Mongolia – Authentic Thermos Poetry

We had a rather long shooting day. “Time’s running fast” I hear from the right. We’re all a little bit drunk. Work‘s behind us, we got a 7:30 start tomorrow, Shanghai is looming.
Hanna, my amazing key gaffer, wants to buy shorts and made the effort to note all Mongolian English day-to-day poetry, we encounter here on almost everything. On one-way tea cups, fridges, our thermos, our fridge.

SPRING Beautiful Patterns. Every time we walk through the gardens can not help but be that colorful fragrant flowers that attract. Love Story. Wheather the love to you of one minute, or all the summer, I better goten there before.

The thermos says Your Own Room – feel the warm flower of spring open. Feel the fragrance of flower four overflow.

A prop is telling us  Sweet Heart I will be there by your side, just you try and stop me.

And our tea cups are  Sweet. I’m happy. Because together with you.

Our fridge is Frestech.

And we are drunk. But only a little bit.

Find out about Filmmaking in Mongolia and Come Back, Jack.