One week in Thessaloniki: Feta, Frappés and Feeling Unsafe

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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collage 2Feta, feta and more feta

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.

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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.

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The highlight

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 dirtypawsblog@gmail.com.

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12 thoughts on “One week in Thessaloniki: Feta, Frappés and Feeling Unsafe

  1. Oh that’s gross that the man touched you, though I’m glad it wasn’t more. I totally hear you, I HATE when I feel like I can’t go places alone or like I’m limited because I’m a single girl. Still, the food sounds amazing there! I miss Cheese! I haven’t had much in China. Enjoy all the feta

    1. I know right! Felt the need to bathe in anti-bacterial lotion afterwards. I will eat some feta cheese for you. X

  2. man that’s weird about that guy touching you- i’d be upset too. I’d be so upset I’d have to eat like 3 gyro’s to cheer myself up.I mean being accused of prostitution is as good of reason as any to eat extra feta 😉

  3. I always wondered if I should book a cheap flight to Thessaloniki and spend the weekend. Would you encourage it despite your mixed review of the city?

    1. I think it’s probably only worth a couple of days! You can always head up to the gorgeous chalkidiki which is an hour away though 🙂

  4. I’m all for independent female travel, but also have found myself in too many uncomfortable situations. It’s really a shame. I was just in Greece a couple of weeks ago and had planned on stopping through Thessaloniki, but I was hitchhiking from Macedonia and ended up getting a ride straight to Athens instead. Sounds like I didn’t miss toooo much though!

    1. Not too much! I think I might prefer Athens anyways 🙂 although further north from Thessaloniki is gorgeous.

  5. Thanks for sharing about Thessaloniki! I’m sorry to hear that you had a sketchy experience, but I’m glad to hear that the city had some positives. In middle school I had a pen pal from this city and since then have always wanted to go visit.

    I found your blog through Travelettes. Congrats on being their bestival reporter!

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