We re-entered the Schengen region without a hiccup – hello Greece!
Thessaloniki is a commercial port and is the second-largest city in Greece with a population of 1.1 million. It was named after Thessaloniki, half sister of Alexander the Great. It is here that the Apostle Paul first brought the message of Christianity (50 A.D.).
Thessaloniki is home to the Hyatt Regency Casino and Hotel, the biggest casino in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe. Unfortunately, it was too far for us to walk there, but we did try. The city has more cafes and bars per capita than any other city in Europe and we can attest to that. There were so many choices; all of them anxious to welcome you to a table. Lonely Planet lists Thessaloniki as one of the world’s “ultimate party cities”. There is club, after club, after club on many side streets. Here is a one street during the day and then at night:
Our small boutique hotel was in the club district but thick window panes and running AC toned down the noise to tolerable. Breakfast room; formerly a wine bar:
Another weird, vacuum type hairdryer in this hotel:
I noticed this unusual sign in our bathroom upon check in:
Unsure of exactly what that meant because surely it had to be a translation error, we stopped by the front desk on our way out, for clarification. I quietly asked the woman if it meant ‘sanitary items’ and she said, with a big smile and in what seemed like slow motion:
‘Nowhere in Greece can you flush toilet paper; it will clog the drains! You didn’t know that?’
I stood there trying to read her face, waiting for the ‘kidding!’, or ‘gotcha!’ or something but only got a ‘it’s no big deal’ smile. Still thinking I was missing something, I googled it when we got back to our room. Alas, the pipe system in Greece is quite old; some pipes are only 2 inches wide, so using toilet paper can result in a blockage. Not only that, if you DO flush it and block the drain, there can be FLOODING and if traced back to you, you can be charged for unblocking! This was all pretty tough news for me; AKA prim and proper Paula.
What do you do with this unflushable TP then? You ‘just’ dispose of it in the bin next to the toilet and housekeeping will empty it daily. OMG! This was pretty unsettling to us both. Apparently the Greeks think it is funny how foreigners react to this.
So in the spirit of embracing yet another culture, coupled with the fact we were staying here for a week, we chalked this up as another unique experience on this holiday. I’m sure the look on my face was one of distress when my 56 years of flushing experience took over and I flushed (only once) without thinking! Luckily, no repercussions!
We didn’t love this city at first; it seemed like another gritty port city. There were no white roofs overlooking the blue sea like in Santorini. No ruins like in Athens. The oil tankers and cranes crowded the shoreline and they seemed cold and industrial and were intrusions to the sunset.
But after a few days, we quickly warmed to Thessaloniki and its charm. The food was a major influence in our change of heart. It was so good. So varied and very colourful.
Most restaurants gave you a free dessert! We had mini revellos, cheese cake, and these warm donuts in honey, with a touch of cinnamon and a sprinkling of sesame seeds…..
We even grew to like the silhouettes of the oil cranes on the horrizon; they gave the sunset pictures character:
We loved the local harbour cruise boat in Thessaloniki; the 30 minute ride was free. All you had to do was buy a coffee or a drink. We did that twice, once during the day and once at sunset. It was awesome! Here are some pics:
And day time from the water:
Every night the locals head (by the thousands) to their favorite spots along the water to catch the sunset. The wharf, cafes, and restaurants were always packed. It was nice to see them enjoying time with their friends and family every evening. A lot of political discussions ensued we are sure.
We couldn’t help but think, read and hear about how very uncertain the future is for these people. Greece is facing unemployment rates of 30+% for women and 24+% for men. The rates are even higher among young people 15-24, at 52+%/men and 57%/women! Their country, their entire COUNTRY is about to go into default. Such difficult times!! We certainly hope the best for them.
Outdoor market – pretty sure there were some goat heads in that meat display:
We spent two days on a ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ bus exploring these historical sites of the city:
City view from atop the tower:
The ancient forum (dated to the late 2nd or the early 3rd century AD):
Mosaics’s visable throughout the grounds:
Circle of toilets; clearly no TP getting through here:
Arch of Galerius (4th Century):
Agia Sophia. The original church was built in the 4th century but went through many transformations, fires and earthquakes. During the Turkish rule is was turned into a mosque:
Other places we discovered but we’re not sure what they were because ‘it’s all Greek to me’
Mount Olympus is visable at times; more so if you are Greek:
Church under restoration:
Art Display on the promenade:
Views from promenade walk, including the garbage man:
The heat was intense during our stay in Thessaloniki. Always very hot; in the 30’s with a 35 degree day thrown in just to make sure our sweat glands were in good working order. A spot of rain for a couple of hours was a welcome but brief relief one day.
We were very happy we had a chance to visit Thessaloniki, Greece!
We travel to Budapest, Hungary on Friday, June 19th and our river cruise departs from there on Sunday, June 21. We are looking forward to that trip and to making new friends. We aren’t sure about wifi connections during the cruise so our next post will probably be around July 1, when we disembark the river boat in Prauge and fly to Venice.
So until then, take care of yourself and each other and we will talk to you again from Italy!
Paula and Joe