As I stepped out of the Easy-Jet airplane onto Greek soil, I was hit by wave of hot air. The hills shimmered in the distance and someone’s hat flew off their head and landed perilously close to the engine. My Greek friend in front of me let out a shrill of joy. Welcome to Thessaloniki!
Warming up to this scruffy city
This week living in the Greece’s second largest city has been interesting… Situated on the blue waters of the Aegean sea, this scruffy town is home to mostly university students. It is mainly visited by tourists passing through to get to a more picturesque Greece and arriving here I instantly understood the quick visits. This town took me a good couple of days to warm up to. It is a little ugly, a little dirty and there isn’t a whole lot to do or see. However, once I had thrown away my expectations (why haven’t I learnt to do this already..) I was met with a quirky, eclectic city that just might capture my fancy.
Life starts at ten
The week had me tramping all over the city. The narrow tree-lined city streets get a little confusing but they centre around Aristotelous square, a place that is synonymous with Thessaloniki. Graffiti covers most walls and the number of clothing stores in astounding. Although there are some people out in the day-time, drinking coffee, shopping and chatting about politics, this city blossoms at night. Life starts at ten here! The city’s fashionable and slick come down to the waterfront every night for drinks and long dinners and there are so many cool bars and restaurants to chose from. What the city lacks in cultural attractions, it more than makes up for it with the nightlife. Bands regularly play on the pier or along the newly constructed boardwalk. Gypsy’s sell trinkets and fill the air with bubbles. Others sell jewellery, cotton candy and grilled corn; Every night is a funfair in Thessaloniki.
As far as the minimal cultural attractions go, I saw the Agora (a bathhouse ruin), the White tower and the arch of Galerius all in one morning. This city has so many ruins, that they have just built the new city atop the old. Peering into a cavernous subway construction reveals ancient ruins and the reality that there are too many to conserve.
Cheap eating is very easy in Thessaloniki. From beautifully decorated restaurants, open air markets and meat on a grill the size of a small child, you can easily eat good food for 6 euros a day. I have scarfed down numerous greek salads with crumbly feta and tasty tomatoes, tender pork gyros, bowls of tsatziki and honey-drenched baklava. Among the best food I had this week was a baked feta dish served with freshly baked bread, a Nutella tart and as many market bought cherries as I could handle. The bakeries have to be seen to be believed. Every item intricately decorated and beautifully displayed. Rows of sweet turkish-inspired pastries, delicate cupcakes and chocolate covered cakes adorn every bakery window.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all sunshine and cherries
For the first time in a long time, I felt unsafe by myself in this city and as an independent, fierce female this was a big deal for me. Standing outside my apartment I was approached by a homeless man who thought I was a prostitute (I was wearing a maxi dress so..). Although I tried to get rid of him, he managed to stroke my arm in a gross way making me feel violated and very unsafe. I stood outside the apartment feeling very uneasy, waiting for my friends to come back. Although I got away with only an arm-stroke, it made me feel more that a little bit sick for all the vulnerable women and people trafficked into sex slavery that are forced to live on the streets or in brothels. It just made me feel so hopeless for them and I cried that night not knowing how I could help them.
Not letting one bad experience let me down, I headed out today to see the movie “The Fault in our Stars”. As a huge fan of John Green’s book, I had been itching to see this and I wasn’t disappointed. The cinema was packed with around 200 girls who clapped at the kiss, sobbed (I’m talking full on weeping here) at the end and altogether loved the film. It was a great experience and I cried along with them. It was an amazing film and the highlight of my time here so far.
Have you been to Greece? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.