Thanks to donations from my blog readers, I left for Greece on a 6am flight. After hugging it out for a while at the Frankfurt Hahn Airport with Drew, I boarded my Ryan Air flight to Thessaloniki. Getting out of the airport was pretty easy and no one even checked my passport when I got off the plane. So I hopped on the next bus to the city and I think I was supposed to pay someone at some point, but got off downtown without spend a dime, or whatever the Euro equivalent of a dime is.
My first objective was to find a hostel called Studio Arabas in Old Town so I could leave Gautama while I explored the city sans 40 pounds on my back.. Thanks to their helpful website instructions, I made it there right after lunch. Now Thessaloniki is split into the southern “New Town,” which is over 300 years old, and the northern “Old Town” up some pretty steep hills, which is literally ancient. As in Ancient Greece. So cool.
Upon entering the front gate of Arabas, I was greeted by Costa, who runs the hostel. He told me to take off my heavy bag and sit and talk with him. He he made me an iced frappe while I told him about my travels. He gave me a map of the city and pointed out the best places to go for sight seeing. I wanted to see it all, but I knew I would only be there for one day.
You see, before leaving Germany, I researched the cheapest places to go in Europe and the cheapest country was just north of Greece: Bulgaria. In order to get the most out of the donated money, I needed to go there, and my bus left the next day. So I decided to make the most out of my limited time in Greece. I set out to do my favorite thing: Explore.
Old town was so much different from any other place I’d been before. All the buildings looked so old and there were historical monasteries and churches everywhere. None of the locals passed by them without making the cross gesture over their heads.
One thing I immediately noticed about the town was that alot of the buildings were abandoned and graffitied. And the apartment buildings were a little…run down. It was beautiful for a guy that had never been there before, but it made me curious as to how this lovely town got to this condition. Apparently their economy hasn’t been doing so well lately. Nonetheless, it was a blast discovering it all.
Costa had told me of a restaurant on the other side of Old Town called “Odysseus,” where I could get good, local, cheap food. I found it and had a fantastic filling Greek meal for just $4. While I was eating, two guys walked in whom I recognized from earlier at the hostel. I asked them to pull up a chair and join me and we all ate together and swapped travel stories.
Their names were Nick and Nahweed. They both just finished studying at Edinburgh University and were traveling across eastern Europe together for vacation. They drew a map on the table as depicted above and showed me exactly where they went and what they did. I am for sure remembering these beautiful places they described for future reference as they were touring the cheap countries with a view as well.
After lunch, they had to catch a flight to Athens so we hung out a little while longer then said our good-byes. It was time to check out New Town. Just as I thought, most of it was department stores and restaurants just like most touristy downtown areas. But I couldn’t resist having a drink on the Thessaloniki pier overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Just beautiful.
Because I had to wake up at 3am that morning to make it to my 6am flight, I didn’t really sleep the night before, so I had an early night back at the hostel. And then I slept for 12 hours straight…
But that just meant I was ready to go to Bulgaria! On my way to the bus station, I decided to buy a pair of 1 Euro flip flops because of how hot it was. (Not optimal hiking boots and wool socks weather.)
One thing I will say is that the Studio Arabas hostel was fantastic. Costa is one of the most friendly people you will ever meet and is very knowledgeable about the town and what goes on in it. He will not hesitate to answer any questions in detail while providing a complimentary frappe. What a great find in the heart of Ancient Greece! Thank you, Thessaloniki, for the lovely experience. Ciao!