Thessaloniki (AKA, How Max Bought Perfume from a Homeless Guy)

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*Thessaloniki*

Writing now from a train between Thessaloniki and Kalambaka (Meteora) - I’m so so so hot. Actually, the whole story of this city has been the heat. It was basically the devil’s inferno. Not to say that the city wasn’t enjoyable - I’ll get to that in a bit - but jeez. Heat. Traveling in August does that though, so I should have been prepared for the lack of AC. I can’t say it will be unfortunate though to leave for (literally) cooler pastures.

So, back to Thessaloniki. At it’s heart, the city is a traditional Mediterranean beach destination - a long promenade stretches along the quay (which is fun to walk along) and the city’s large squares, and open air cafes give it the same feel as a city like Barcelona or Nice. Of course, like both of those cities, Thessaloniki has it’s own particular flavor. Of course, there are no beaches - which means that there are few beachgoers - and in this hot period of August, there are no cruise ships, which means that there aren’t too many international tourists. Thessaloniki has a distinctly greek feel - traditional, homey, and the kind of city that is a bit rough around the edges (graffiti everywhere and not particularly clean) but beautiful, fun, inviting and did I mention hot?

Flying into the airport was uneventful - and when Paul and I landed, we met up with our third travel companion Max. Of course, he had packed heaver than both of us - so the bus ride, and then resulting walk to the hostel up something we, lovingly, called the “long stairs” wasn’t exactly easy - but eventually, the three of us stumbled into the Crossroads hostel, one of the nicer hostels that I’ve stayed at - and very welcoming. After recovering from the walk, and taking a small siesta - we once again headed out into the city. Our first order of business was lunch - stopping at a small place called Ιγγλισ, which had some of the best food we’ve had yet on this trip (lamb and pork fillet). Feeling satisfied - we continued down into the city, ending up at the white tower, Thessaloniki’s main monument - and the crowning achievement of the Byzantines who had lived here years before. Finding ourselves on the quay, we grabbed some ice cream (from a brilliant little place) and walked around a bit more.

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*The Pork Fillet at Ιγγλισ*

We also played chess. Not well, mind, but we still played. I handily beat Max and Paul, Paul pulled out a miracle victory over Max, and then we all lost to a man, a journalist from somewhere, who didn’t speak english really well - but kicked our collective asses pretty well.

The second day was more of the same - walking, eating, and then more walking. We began by heading out to the Modiano Market where we had hoped to find breakfast. We didn’t (as most of the available food was uncooked - and who wants to eat raw octopus) 0 but instead settled for pizza, in the case of Max and Paul, and for me, a filo dough pastry filled with feta cheese (Mine was better than their pizza). Not entirely satisfied, we kept looking - I found a “Truffle” pastry, a bit like a terimisu but more chocolatey, while Max found a chocolate eclair that was a bit sweet for any of us.

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*The Famous White Tower*
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*Delicious Delicious coffee*

We had just sat down to enjoy these delicious pieces of confectionary when we were approached by a man, probably homeless, who was carrying a white plastic bag. He siddled up to us, and sneakily pulled out a small vial of perfume. “You want to buy?” He asked in a thick accent. “I give you good deal, I leave today and cannot take with me”. “It is best quality, Shop sell for 120 euro”. Of course, like any sensible travelers, Paul and I passed with a firm No - but unfortunately, Max left the door open. “You will never find a lady friend without this.” After a good bit of haggling, Max brought the price down to 10 euros, and called it a deal. The man, returned to his friends triumphant in his sale to a “lost american tourist”, and Max slightly bewildered, and a bit lost at his purchase (which would later be abandoned in a caffe).

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*Max Buying Perfume from a homeless guy*

Once we had finished our food - we set off once again, this time trekking to the Museum of Byzantine Culture, a brilliant gem in the heart of the city. Easily understandable to the lay person, and very well organized, the deserted museum was one of the most interesting that I have traveled to. The collection was amazing - from a large room of eastern orthodox icons, to a room full of traditional Christian burial chambers, each part was exciting and engaging. Though, I will be honest - they kept the air conditioning on at high blast - which probably increased my enjoyment of the museum twofold. We then visited a church, and when for Gyros. Mmmmm. Gyros.

We then made the worst decision of the day. We would walk back to the hostel. When we arrived, we were once again the sweatiest people to ever have walked the earth, and I think that at least one or two of us were on the verge of heat stroke. We did, however, meet Matthew, a fun and charming guy - originally from London, who had moved to Cardiff, and was traveling around with a longtime friend. They had fallen out recently on this trip - and so we decided to wander the town at night with him. After taking some shots of a mysterious Greek spirit, we made our way down to the city, had dinner, and generally enjoyed our last night in Thessaloniki.

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*The view from the Hostel*

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed my time here. Though it was hot, and a bit rough around the edges, I have to say that I fell a bit for the charm and history of the city, as well as the relaxing atmosphere and delicious, delicious gyros.