Thessaloniki's market district, much tighter than in Istanbul.
Today is another day that feels longer than a day. It is easy to forget that this morning we were in Meteora, then on a train, then all over Thessaloniki, and now on a train again!
We are on the Philia Express on our way to Istanbul now, not a lot of Philia toward Istanbul from Greece though, as it is only a three wagon sleeper. The nice part is we are really moving fast. The Philia is also only among the Anglos, at least in our wagon, as everyone is American or Canadian, except for one Greek-Irish couple, but he has red hair so he might as well be Irish I suppose. Seat 61 also said that the line had wonderful French sleeper cars which is accurate however these are 1975 issues, so they are really sending the quality the way of the Turks, complete with olive greens, browns and beiges. But in defense of OSE, the Hellenic Rail System, these are still better as secondhand 30 year old Western railcars than the Communist garbage rolling around Bulgaria, Hungary, or Romania, but I wuold like to find better comparisons in which to give a more flattering mark than the
Beautiful Fruit and Vegetable Stand
One of the view "ordered" places of Thessaloniki
poorest counties in the EU.
The train this morning was no different than the one from Athens the day before save for the fact that seats were not assigned, with no obvious reason for this difference. The tickets were very inexpensive at about 9 Euros a piece, the journey being about 3 hours. We passed by Mount Olympus, home of the Gods, which stood out because of the amount of snow on its higher altitudes, but which did not have any particularly distinguishing characteristics from the impressive peaks we saw in Peloponnisos.
Thessaloniki Station is nice, we used the luggage lockers there for storage of all of our bags for only 3 Euros, a highly recommended option over storing them in the luggage check area where the staff were rude and did not look all that trustworthy. Actually, none of the staff was friendly at all in the rail station, which is to be expected in a bureaucracy railways, but was a bit of a difference from the agents in Athens and Kalabaka.
Thessaloniki Greek Style
I gave this heading as the following paragraphs are based on Alex's recommendations.
Establishing contact with Roberto was spotty
A bit of a Monet though, when you are there it is gritty and alive, not the classical veneer of Athens.
at best with both of our phones being uncooperative. Plus he was in town with his two cousins who were doing some work for their used auto parts business, so we went off in the city on our own based on Alex's suggestions. Alex, you will be happy to know that we visited everything on your list except for your two restaurants. I have to say that Thessaloniki did not charm us initially as the area around the station is not very attractive compared to Athens, plus they are doing major subterranean work for the subway line which they have apparently been working on for an extended period of time. It was a bit of a flashback to Amsterdam with ugly construction barricades, torn up roads and busses going all over the place as both stations are major bus terminals as well.
But after walking around for a bit we discovered the Macedonian city's own charm though I like it relatively less than Jennifer does. Greeks we asked all said that Thessaloniki is a more livable city (Alex as well) but the portions I saw I did not feel were quite so livable, it is a city that grew
Dances With Wolves
That's what they were playing,are these guys Gypsies, the real deal . . . who knows?
with what seems like very little planning and is stacked up on itself with much fewer historical buildings and many more ugly contemporary structures. Roberto says this is because the city was burned to the ground a number of times, that would make sense.
We visited the classic locations - the White Tower; the Alexander the Great statue; Saint Dimitriou Church and Crypt. We also visited a few less obvious places, the first Turkish Hammams on Agora Square (north of Aristotle Avenue, these were Jennifer's favorite and for their age - 15th century, are in very good condition); the ancient Agora; the Rotonda (in my opinion, the most impressive structure we saw today); the Triumph Arch of Galerius; and the City's Market which is in Ottoman style and located south of Egnatia Avenue. We did not however make it as far out as the football stadium and, not being sure where Ourano restaurant is located, we did not go there either. So the meals fall into the "Macedonian Style" of this entry.
We could go into some detail but the photos tell a thousand words as it goes and the comments below them should suffice. Otherwise there is
So named because it was whitewashed by a former prisoner, it was used as a prison but was built by the Ottomans to guard the harbor.
Thessaloniki Macedonian Style
I gave this heading as the following paragraphs are based on our time with Roberto.
I think Roberto's cousins were probably ready to ring his neck when we finally connected early in the afternoon as it seems they drove around town quite a bit to figure out where Saint Dimitrious Church was. He said his cousins knew the city but probably not from the tourist perspective, but rather from the local's perspective since they do business in the city regularly. So they picked us up while we were in the Crypt and ferreted us over to an area near the station where they had a meeting. This was right in the heart of China Town which was something we would otherwise never have believed would even exist; and also in the automotive trade area where one could find just about any part of a car lining the sidewalk and interiors of shops. All Albania's hard (and illegal) work around Europe if you ask my honest opinion on the matter. Sorry to pick on the Albanians but it is the car theft laundering operation of the world, it is proximate, and the reality
Alexander the Great
Who was King of the Macedonians, who were GREEK, NOT Macedonian. Confused?
is a lot of used car parts DO come from stolen cars.
We split from Roberto's cousins and went to grab a bite to eat at his cousin's recommendation in some place located on the corner of Egnatia and Legada which had a big sign that said "Self Service" and yet we were descended upon with great gusto by one lady who self-served us very well. They had some fantastic food but the area did not have the veneer of even the cheaper tourist places we had grown accustomed to as the place was bustling and had the grittyness of the local scene, plus the fact that the "view" was the construction barricade for the subway. But the food was good, and it was about half the price we had become tolerant of paying at the maximum.
Thessaloniki Mutt Style
I've given a few of my choice opinions but finally will say that I don't think I would return to Thessaloniki as it is a nice city but unless one has a particular attachment to it, I do not see why there would be a need to go. I am glad we went, as I think it
Arch of Galerius
Erected in the 4th century by the Emperor of the same name, these straddled the major axis road through the city.
is a city that is representative of northern Greece and has much history although not much of it is visible today. The people are not as defined as the Peloponnesians or Athenians and you can tell this was a city that experienced a lot of mixing; super blonde dye jobs are more common, as are jeans that are fundamentally not designed for what are some of the most voluptuous women I have ever seen consistently in one geographic area. The waterfront is beautiful but not as well taken advantage of as it could be and the wave break has countless dead, and I assume are, dying medusas. The one area we did not explore is further to the east where the stadiums and airport are, this seems to be a more modern area.
Jen's 2 Cents
I agree that I would not want to return to Thessaloniki, although it was well worth the visit. I found it to be more urban -- more similar to NYC than Athens -- with a busy clash of people, noise, cars & shops, yet with some nice "pockets" of local flavor. One of the most interesting areas we visited, in my opinion,
Converted to a mosque by the Ottomans, but no reference to this part of history despite the minaret, and Arabic script and art all over the interior.
was a little open-air market, where fish, meats, fruits, and everything else (luggage, fake Rolex watches, etc.) was sold. Also, the waterfront was nice, with little cafes all along. Even so, half a day is all that is needed to get a feel for the city.
One of the Best Meals
Roaming around the western side of the city we discovered a Carrefour, a happy sight of course because it means there are at least some French and some Greek things in there that we like to eat and we know we are not getting ripped off. We picked up some Stuffed Grape Leaves, Eggplant Humus (very good), Babybels and pitas (not so good cold). That was our meal on the train for the night, washed down with a couple of Amstels.
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