Last time we were in Greece we had just enough cash for a Giros and a beer before we pedalled on to Turkey and spent less than 24 hours in the country. Compared with two weeks in Bulgaria, five in Italy and four in Spain, our time in Greece was short to say the least.
In an effort to balance this injustice a little, we decided a repeat visit was in order. Thus we could be found racing from our flat on a Thursday evening, scoffing one last pilaf to fortify us for the twelve hour journey ahead, pausing in an alleyway over tulip shaped tea cups and then jumping on the sleeper train heading West from Istanbul’s Sirkeci Station.
With three days at our disposal in Thessaloniki, we had few plans but to sample some of the gastronomic delights of the city before returning to (almost totally) pork-free and (largely) mono-beer Turkey.
We made a quick stab at the sights, wandering to the old city walls to look down on the smog filled harbour and were whisked into a tiny church to look at frescoes by a claw-handed old lady. We decided against the free cruise on an old wooden boat we dubbed the “party boat” as from where we stood on the shore line Thessaloniki reminded us a little of Surfers Paradise without the beach.
We missed a chance to go up the waterfront White Tower three days in a row, missing opening hours on the first two, then finding it was shut for elections on our last day. Mystifyingly, we spotted no other evidence of elections taking place.
Thessaloniki looked like a good place to cycle, with bikes parked on every corner and packs of cyclists seeming to do laps of the waterfront on Sunday afternoon. Compared to our neighbourhood in Istanbul the traffic was calm and the roads were flat. Still suffering from an unhealed wrist injury, I looked on enviously. We joined the local waterfront promenaders heading along the peninsula that juts out to the South of the city under a warm sun but at a much slower pace than those on two wheels.
Apart from a few cool orthodox churches flowering among the graffiti encased apartment blocks, and some pretty pastel sets of houses, Thessaloniki doesn’t win any prices in the beauty stakes. But this just gives you more time to get down to the serious business of eating.
- Huge Pork Giros from a busy takeaway shop handing out free beef rissoles to waiting customers (we went twice in three days)
- A table laden with meze, including mustard laced mussels, bacon and spinach salad and stuffed aubergine at Oyzoy Melathron
- Beer and conversation with Konstantinos, a Warm Showers local who introduced us to a room of socialising Couch Surfers later that same evening
- Proper Greek yogurt for breakfast at our hotel, and by that I mean it was as thick as butter
- Fresh falafel wrap and a round of salads to make up for meat gluttony
- Four very good international beers at Beer Store (advertised as the home of your favourite beer)
Maybe not the healthiest weekend on records, but we’d like to put it down as preparation for cycling onwards in 2011. Back on our bicycles and returning to a tight budget we suspect we’ll need every extra ounce of fat that we can carry.