So the keeping a daily blog on our trip to Greece didn’t work! Simple reason, we had far too much to do, see, visit, eat, drink and nap our way through! During the 12 days we spent there I totally fell in love with the country so I am not going to make this strictly a travel guide type blog, what I hope it will do is to give you my impressions and explain why I think you should go visit the other regions and not just stay on the coast.
It is the second largest city in Greece and I have to say it, at times, reminded me a bit of Glasgow! The people can appear a bit stand offish at first but get to know them and you will find they are just as friendly as we Glasgwegians. There is nothing that a lot of hand waving and miming cannot resolve.
We were lucky to find an amazing appartment through AirBNB and had superb balcony that overlooked Agis Sofia. To be honest we spent a lot of time on there, watching the city go by, eating, drinking, laughing and napping! It was a brilliant vantage point to watch the comings and goings into the church, the mad driving and the odd protest march. For a people watcher, it was heaven. Thessalonika is fab for this!
So when you decide to finally leave the balcony in search of food, there are so many good places to eat from the cafes and bars on the waterfront to the fantastic tavernas we found around the market. You are spoiled for choice and believe you me, you will struggle to choose. One thing you will notice is the lack of the big corporates, a blinking good thing if you ask me. We were lucky because we were travelling with a Greek friend Panos, so he was in charge of ordering a lot of the time. The thing that I really liked was the way the food was served. There is none of this waiting around for everyone’s food to arrive at the same time, when each dish is ready it is brought to your table, so more often than not our table ended up groaning. It is very difficult to recommend what to try as it was all good, just watch because places that can look “modern/trendy” are often more expensive than the more traditional places. The cakes and breads in the cake shops taste as amazing as they look and there was nothing like sitting out in the fresh air with that bitter, strong Greek coffee, enjoying the city! Or try the iced coffees, brilliant for cooling down and giving you that kick to keep the sightseeing bug going! Point to note: some place do not have menus, they will tell you what they have on that day. Also you will sometimes get a free dessert or liqueurs at the end of a meal. One other thing we came across was that Greeks often go elsewhere for their coffee at the end of a meal, gives you a chance to walk off all that souvlaki!
Thessaloniki is relatively easy to walk around however if you want to go up to the top of the hill I would definitely suggest using the red bus tour. It is really steep in part but the view from the top is stunning and you have all of the city below you with Mount Olympus peering through the haze! There is so much history surrounding you and the evidence of a culture that has had to change and adapt over centuries is very evident. It makes for a fantastic mixture of experiences, from the graffiti to the buses winding their way through narrow streets. Again like any other big city just be careful of the light fingered and you will have a great time. Be sensible but enjoy!
We found it was a great idea to use AirBNB and go self catering as it gave us an excuse to explore the supermarkets, bakers and market stalls for all sorts of goodies and we even had a go at brewing our own Greek coffee. The supermarket blew our minds, it was impossible to choose so I have to admit we bought three types of Greek yoghurt! Try the cheese pies, totally addictive!!!!!
Why visit ? It is a really interesting city full of lots to see, eat and do! I didn’t find it at all touristy which, personally, I love. We visited during the week before the Greek Easter which was fantastic as a lot of the traditional Easter foods were available, it is great time to go as it was not too hot yet. With my pale blue Scottish skin I probably looked like a tourist, I didn’t feel like one, I felt at home wandering around the streets and once you get your bearings it is pretty easy not to get lost. Go visit Thessalonika, don’t just fly in and then disappear off to the coast. It is a great city for a wander, sit in a cool, quiet church or just to chill out and watch the world go by!
Next … Xanthi!