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We only caught up with the films of Béla Tarr a short while ago, when we saw A torinói ló, The Turin Horse, his latest and last film. Tarr has been making films for 30 years. The Turin Horse starts with the captioned story of an incident in 1889, when Nietzsche saw a horse being whipped by a cab man in a street in Turin. He intervened, falling weeping on the animal’s neck. It was the start of his disintegration into madness and death. The story ends “We do not know what happened to the horse”.

This story may have no direct relevance to the film. The film opens with a long take of a horse driven along a road. But there is nothing to indicate that this is the same horse and we seem to be somewhere on a nameless central European plain rather than in Italy. The remainder of the film is set in the farmhouse where the cabman lives with his daughter. Each day is a repetition of the last. The daughter fetches water from the well, cooks a meal, which is always baked potato, helps her father, whose arm is injured, dress and undress. When the tasks are done, she stares out of the window at the wind battered plain. There are only two interruptions. A neighbour calls by and harangues the cabman about the influence of a mysterious they and a party of gypsies draw up noisily to drink from the well. They leave behind a book which the women read’s haltingly.

But this world is disintegrating. This is maybe the connection with the story about Nietzsche. Each morning the cabman tries to hitch the horse to the wagon but the horse refuses to move. It refuses to eat. The well dries up. They decide to leave, load everything into the cart, and the woman pushes because the horse won’t pull. They disappear over the horizon and then, with no explanation, return and unload. There is no escape. Finally the lamps will no longer light and even the sound of the wind drops away.

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The plan for our tour of Greece was to complete a triangle with the three principle cities, Thessaloniki, Patras and Athens at the corners. The first two legs, from Thessaloniki to Patras and from Patras to Athens would be completed by car and the final leg from Athens back to Thessaloniki by rail. The only reason for starting in Thessaloniki was that the airfares were cheaper than to Athens.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency (*) in Thessaloniki, on the outskirts of town not far from the airport. The hotel has a very nice restaurant with an excellent list of local wines. We also discovered the ideal Greek breakfast here: fruit, yoghurt and honey. The only downside of the hotel was the intrusive piped music, impossible to escape by the pool and in the lobby areas.

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