Friday, November 27, 2009


We arrived in Thessaloniki on the 12th after a nice and uneventful bus ride. The bus terminal was pretty big and confusing, but we had some help from the friendly lady who sold local bus tickets and she sent us off in the general direction of the "center of town." With a bit of confusion and luck we ended up getting off at the right stop and found our hidden hotel without too much hassle. Not too long after checking in Chuck felt the urge to explore a bit. We had read that Thessaloniki is a young, hip town due to the big university that makes it's home there, so we decided it might be worth checking out. Robyn opted to stay behind and Chuck and I started our trip down the main street. It ended up being quite a bit further than we had thought and took nearly 45 minutes. The city itself was not beautiful, although there were three or four interesting and old looking buildings along the road. The university was... sad. It reminded me of what I imagined an old, run down, soviet campus would look like. Granted, we didn't walk around the whole campus so I only saw a few buildings, but it wasn't very interesting architecture. And it wasn't very well kept. For example, one of the main squares we passed through had a rusting green statue in the center and tufts of grass breaking through cracks in the cement. And the fence attached to one of the side entrances to the campus was covered in left over scraps of old posters. People taped them up and when the event was over just ripped them down, leaving bits of paper and tape behind. It was very active though - students were all over the place. On the walk back we stopped into a grocery store for food and that was the extent of our night.

We woke up at our leisure on the 13th. Some time during the afternoon Robyn headed out on her own to explore the city a bit. I don't think she was any more impressed with it than we had been. She did manage to find a little discount grocery store while she was out. We went out for dinner that night. It had turned cold over the course of the day and we were all shivering and laughing at our light clothing. We walked through an area of restaurants where we had to practically fight off the waiters who were following us and offering all kinds of deals. One guy went so far as to jokingly offer sex with dinner! Another shouted "I love you!" at us as we rounded the corner. Man, they're crazy for business sometimes! We ended up sitting at a place that wasn't pimping themselves like Dixie whores and had a nice meal. Unfortunately, the seating area was not walled in so we were still subjected to the occasional chilly gust, but otherwise it was nice. We finally got some Greek food that wasn't a gyro. The crab salad was tasty, but had way too much mayo for me. Robyn got a delicious cold eggplant salad and we all shared a grilled hot pepper that was not really hot. Europe doesn't really get the whole spicy
thing - when it says "hot" or "spicy" it isn't. But it was tasty enough, as peppers go. And our main meal was a platter of hamburger patties drenched in a blue-cheese-like sauce. It was good stuff, if not a bit strong in flavor. We shivered our way back to the hotel and tucked ourselves into bed.

We did our pack-and-check-out routine on the 14th and made our way to the bus station to try and get tickets to Istanbul. We had a bit of trouble finding the place because it was so much smaller than we expected. It was more of a bus stop than a bus terminal. And it turned out we couldn't pre-buy the tickets either - we had to get them on the bus. Our bus didn't leave until close to midnight, so we had a long day ahead of us. I dreaded having to lug my heavy backpack around, so I hoped we could stick to fairly stationary forms of entertainment. We walked back to a big square that looked out over the water and gt in an argument with Robyn. She was hoping to leave her stuff with us somewhere so she could do a bit of shopping, and we didn't want to do that. A little battle of the wills I suppose. Instead, Chuck and I sat on the opposite side of the square from her and we all did nothing. There was a young guy sitting on a bench next to ours listening to his iPod and splitting sun flower seeds for a herd of pigeons that had collected at his feet. After some time he got up and gave us a hand-full of seeds, took his seat and continued his sunflower de-seeding. Said nothing. Just gave us seeds and continued as though we didn't exist. I think he had noticed us watching the birds and was just a nice guy. When his girlfriend finally came and found him he gave us the rest of the seeds he had and they left together. So we had a grand time cracking open seeds and seeing how close the birds would come. Meanwhile, Robyn was busy being converted by two Christian missionaries. I looked over at her at one point to see her gesturing towards us and one of the guys gave us a cheerful wave. I waved back with a smile of my own. Afterward she told us that they were pretty nice. The three of us went to McDonald's after an hour or so, where we were sad to realize that they had no internet. We ate and walked further down the street, back towards the college where Chuck had seen an internet shop. It was the kind of place that "gamers" would hang out. They had some specials that we wanted - 4 hours for €5 - but you had to be a member to qualify. I asked how to become a member and if it cost anything. It was free! And all we had to do was give them our names! So we each became members and got our own little card to use whenever we go back. Which will likely be never. The staff there was really nice and got us all set up and we internetted for 4 hours. Well, Chuck and I did a whole 4 hours. Robyn walked around the city for a bit, did some internetting, and read for a good hour. It was a good way to blow 4 hours. We walked back to the bus station after our time was up, stopping at the discount grocery on the way as well as a bakery. The woman behind the counter seemed a bit cold at first but warmed up when Chuck expertly pronounced the name of the chocolate cake that I wanted. Her eyebrows went up and she seemed to sort of actually look at us for the first time. Chuck is very good at reading the Greek! The little ice cream filled canolli-like treat Chuck got was amazing, and my chocolate cake was pretty good too. After a few more hours it was finally time to go. The bus was the sweetest thing we've been on. It was a double-decker and built into the back of each seat was a little TV. They only showed two movies though, over and over: The Mummy III and National Treasure II. We were served tea at the beginning of the trip and I was lucky enough to end up with a dead fly in mine. But all in all, a cool bus.

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