Category: Thessaloniki

Leaving Thassos

By , 12/08/2014 00:43
Φύγαμε από την Θάσο σήμερα το πρωί.

Φύγαμε από την Θάσο σήμερα το πρωί.

As the end of my ‘Grand Tour of Greece’ approaches, the journey back to Gloucestershire has started.

After breakfast we said our goodbyes at the hotel, got in the car and drove to Thassos Town / Limenas, and took the ferry back across to the mainland.

We’re now in to August and the ferry back was much busier than when we arrived – much busier than the ferry to Kavala on Saturday.

Arriving in Keramoti (Κεραμωτή), it took hours for the cars to empty off the ferry. By the time Dad had got the car off and parked up at the side of the road for us to get in, I had been to the kiosk and back, and finished topping up my Greek sim card!

Philippi / Φίλιπποι

Philippi / Φίλιπποι

From Keramoti to Thessaloniki is 192km, so it’s quite a drive. We stopped at Philippi (Φίλιπποι) on the way back for some lunch and a walk around the archaeological site. It was interesting, but we couldn’t stop for long, as we needed to get back on the road.

We arrived back in Thessaloniki not long after 17:15. The hotel we’ve got tonight is not too far from the airport – it’s the Ambassador Hotel, near Epanomi. From the hotel (up on a hill) we get some excellent views over the city. Even with the airport being between the hotel and the city, it doesn’t detract from the views. The hotel swimming po0l is great!

After a quick dip in the pool and a drink from the pool bar, I took the bus in to the city centre for some last minute shopping and a photo by the White Tower, which I did not manage to do when I was last in the city a couple of weeks ago.

In hindsight, it may have been better to go straight back to Thess/iki and then we could all have gone out in to the city for the evening (I would have liked to take them to one of the tavernas I enjoyed when I was here on my own last month). As it was, Mum, Dad and Corrie just wanted to stay in the hotel, and I went to the city on my own. In order to get the photo by the White Tower I was desparate to get, I stopped a Greek couple and used my best Greek to ask them to take my photo – just as I had to do before the rest of my family arrived.

White Tower of Thessaloniki / Ο Λευκός Πύργος Θεσσαλονίκης

White Tower of Thessaloniki / Ο Λευκός Πύργος Θεσσαλονίκης

Ξενοδοχείο Ambassador

Ξενοδοχείο Ambassador

For dinner we ate in the hotel restaurant – sitting at a table next to the swimming pool, which made it quite nice. The prices are higher than you’d get in tavernas, but the setting was lovely. Three of us enjoyed Spaghetti Bolonese while Mum enjoyed a rizotto.

And so my Grand Tour of Greece now has come to and end. Tomorrow, we drive to the Airport (5 minutes away), drop the car off at Departures at 09:15, check-in, and our flight back to the UK departs at 11:45.

I expect I shall write one more time on here once I am back in Gloucestershire – but for now… a message to everyone in it who I have met over the last 6 weeks – including the staff in all the hotels I’ve stayed in; the waiters in the tavernas, bars and restaurants; taxi drivers; Dimitris and his family in Leivadia; Antonis in Galissas; the family I met on the train to Kalambaka; to Kosta, Maria, Eleni and everyone else in Potos; and anyone who I’ve stopped in the street to ask for a photo to be taken…

Ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ για την φιλοξενία σας εδώ στην Ελλάδα.

I’m off to bed.

Good night,


Radio Thessaloniki

By , 30/07/2014 09:00

Yesterday was my last day on my own in Greece. As I write this morning, Mum, Dad and Corrie have already taken off from Gatwick (I’m watching the LGW departure boards online), and will arrive at the Airport on the other side of the bay in just over two hours’ time.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon learning a bit about Greek radio, with a visit to the studios of Radio Thessaloniki (Ράδιο Θεσσαλονίκη), based just outside Neo Risio (Νέο Ρύσιο), overlooking the motorway down to Halkidiki (Χαλκιδική).

I took the #8 bus from Aristotelous, changed at Α.Σ. ΙΚΕΑ, from where I was able to take the #87 Neo Risio – Souroti – Vassilika route to the studios.

In the Radio Thessaloniki studio.

In the Radio Thessaloniki studio.

On arrival I was greeted by the station’s secretary and introdued to newsreader/journalist Dimitris and technician/producer Pavlos. During the ad break at the top of the hour I was able to go in to the studio, and I sat in on the second hour of their afternoon sports show. I couldn’t understand every word, but I could work out they were talking about football, basketball and touched a little I think on handball.

The 4pm news marked the end of that programme; but I was invited to stay for longer and sit in on the show presented by Κατερίνα Χέλμη. Her show had more music content in it giving us time to talk while the mic was switched off, so I sat in on that for almost 90 minutes, and we talked a little about the differences between Greek and UK radio, and about my studies at uni in the UK. My Greek wasn’t good enough to do the whole thing in Greek, but I tried my best! It felt a bit strange having the studio setup explained to me in Greek. I’ve learned a few new words from that.

I returned to the city centre and in the evening I headed for a pizza at one of the restaurants on the sea front, not far from the White Tower.

I’m off to quickly do the White Tower Museum now, then I’m off to get my stuff and get the bus to the Airport, ready to meet my family in the Arrivals hall when they land at 11:10. Then we’re off to Thassos!

Bye for now,


Thessaloniki War Museum

By , 28/07/2014 11:26


It never takes me long to settle in to a daily routine. I am a creature of habit!

The hotel I’m staying at here in Thessaloniki is the only one I’m staying in which doesn’t provide breakfast; so for the last two mornings I’ve gone to Starbucks. There is one opposite my hotel; there is one in Aristotelous Sq. and there is one by the White Tower. I am using the one by the White Tower. Hot chocolate and a cheese/ham roll for breakfast, while I sit in an air conditioned room with a view of the sea. I am making the most of the air conditioning – my hotel room doesn’t have air con!

Here, I get free wifi (the username and password printed on my reciept, along with the door code for the loos). The wifi here is much better than the wifi in the hotel. The great thing about this country is that it is perfectly acceptable, considered normal even, to buy a drink, take 5-10 minutes to drink it, and then still be sitting down an  hour later, surfing the net. There’s no need to rush about in this country: it’s too hot for that! I can also charge my laptop here: there’s only one socket in my hotel room, and I’m using that for the fan.

I had lunch yesterday at the Goody’s restaurant too; sitting upstairs there is a brilliant sea view – and there’s free wifi there too; I just follow the instructions (all in Greek) to log in: basically, I type in my Greek mobile number, and it sends me an access code, which is valid for a year. Again, no need to rush there either.

Yesterday morning I went to the Thessaloniki War Museum (Πολεμικό Μουσείο Θεσσαλονίκης). I’d read about it on the Internet and thought it looked interesting. It took me a while to find it: it was further away than I thought, and wasn’t particularly well signed. But I found it in the end.

Interesting, it certainly was! When I walked in the entrance, the army officer running it greeted me, and we chatted in Greek for a few minutes, as he asked me how I’d heard about the museum (my response: «Διάβασα στο Ίντερνετ, στο Trip Advisor»); he asked me how I know Greek and about my studies at university, and then told me a bit about the museum, and the best route to take through the museum. The entrance fee is €3, or €1,50 for students at Greek universities.

Thessaloniki War Museum

Ελληνική Εθνική Αντίσταση (Hellenic National Resistance): 1941-1944

I learned quite a lot about the recent history of Greece; the 1821 revolution, the Balkan Wars, and about Greece’s involvement in the Α’ Παγκόσμικο Πόλεμο and the Β’ Παγκόσμικο Πόλεμο (WW1 and WW2). Some items were only labelled in Greek; I took quite a lot of photos of these labels, and was then able to consult Google after returning to my hotel room, to find out what they meant.

The museum is also home to one of the largest collections of Greek army medals on public display in Greece: medals from as recently as the 1980s, going back to the 1820s. Throughout the time I was in the museum, there was not another visitor in sight: I think I must have been the only visitor there – this surprised me, given the number of reviews on Trip Advisor saying how great it was.

I managed to pick up quite a few leaflets before I left the War Museum, giving me some ideas of other things to do in Thessaloniki. The White Tower I need to do at some point, but it’s only open for a limited time each day, and not on Mondays – so tomorrow will be my only opportunity, as I’m off to meet my family at the Airport on Wednesday.

After lunch at Goody’s, I headed back to my hotel room. I had only intended to pick up my city map and leave my leaflets in the room… but I sat down for a couple of minutes and ended up sleeping for almost 5 hours, waking up just before 8pm. Clearly, all the walking I’d done in the morning had tired me out.

That is the main difference between Athens and Thessaloniki: In Athens, the Underground was a very convenient and cheap way of travelling the city; in Thessaloniki there are only busses, and I’ve not used any of them yet, I’ve preferred exploring on foot. That said, there are roadworks all over the city: the Underground network for Thessaloniki is now under construction. The disadvantage of walking around by foot is that I haven’t got a clue which district I’m in/where I am on the map. No train announcements or stations to tell me where I am!

In the evening, after doing a Google search for places to go and eat in Thessaloniki (the bars along the sea front didn’t really appeal to me much, I wanted the more traditional tavernas), I headed for Navarinous Square (Πλατεία Ναυαρίνου), where there was a taverna which good reviews online. The Liopesi restaurant (Εστιατόριο Λιόπεσι) was the one I was heading for and I was not disappointed.

He had his menu on the wall outside – only in Greek. This prompted the waiter to ask me «Ελληνάς είσαι;» (“You are Greek?”) Another opportunity for me to explain that I learn Greek in the UK… and about my travels in Greece. It is a conversation I am having on a daily basis, but my script changes as each day passes. More and more of what I have done goes in to the past tense, and I use the future tense less and less. When talking about what I do in England, I hate that my life at university is all now entirely in the past tense: «Φοιτητής ήμουνα. Σπούδασα το ραδιόφωνο στο πανεπιστήμιο στην Αγγλία, και τελείωσα τις σπουδές μου 6 εβδομάδες πριν. Θέλω να γίνω δημοσιογράφος». If they are impressed that I can speak Greek at all, they are usually even more impressed that I know the Greek word for ‘journalist’ or ‘radio producer’.

Unlike English people, the Greeks are genuinely surprised, and pleased, to find foreigners able to speak their language, even more so to find a foreigner able to read their alphabet: It is a brilliant conversation starter, and my ability to speak in their own language often results in me being treated as a friend, rather than as ‘just another English tourist’.

Κεφτεδάκια Λιόπεσι

Κεφτεδάκια Λιόπεσι

The meal I enjoyed at the Liopesi was κεφτεδάκι (meatballs) – his signature dish… «Το σπεσιάλ μας είναι». Served with potatoes, and some onion on the side. Plus a drink (Fanta orange), a bottle of water, and some bread… cost €10,50. The meatballs really were very tasty.

Aware that I have been sitting here now for almost 2 hours, I’m off to find something to do for the day. I’m going to the ticket office to buy a 24 hour bus pass, then I’m going to see if I can  get to visit Radio Thessaloniki; I e-mailed them a few weeks back and they have said they’d love me to visit. So my challenge for today is to get the right bus to there. I think it’s in the Thermi direction.

There has also been talk of maybe meeting up with my Greek friend Rafael who lives in the city, but he’s only around for a short while as he’s off abroad soon. If that is going to happen, today is really our only chance.

Bye for now,


First Night in Thessaloniki

By , 27/07/2014 08:25

I left from Kalambaka-Καλαμπάκα yesterday at 15:15, on the bus from Kalambaka to Trikala-Τρίκαλα. At Trikala I (quite literally) hopped from one bus to another, and 5 minutes later we reversed out of the bus station and started the journey to Greece’s second city: Thessaloniki (Θεσσαλονική).

From Trikala to Thess/iki the journey took just under 3 hours; once we got to Larisa it was motorway (toll road) all the way; not the interesting views you get from the trains, but I didn’t want the hassle of waiting almost 90 minutes at a station in the middle of nowhere in order to change trains. I just wanted to get to Thessaloniki.

I slept a bit on the bus, but woke up as we got to within 50km of the city. I thought it rather amusing that from the motorway as we approached the city there were signs for ΣΚΟΠΙΑ (Skopje), ΒΟΥΛΓΑΡΙΑ (Bulgaria) and ΤΟΥΡΚΙΑ (Turkey). I saw plenty of signs for Kavala as well. This got me excited, because it is a reminder that I am not far at all from Thassos, where I will be heading on Wednesday with my family!

After checking-in at my hotel, I went for a walk in the city; I found Aristotelous Square, and the White Tower. There was an orchestra playing underneath the White Tower – Zorba the Greek played by a live orchestra sounds brilliant, as does the Pirates of the Carribean theme tune.

260720142440I returned to the hotel and changed for dinner; I have to admit, I don’t know Thessaloniki well but I found a pedestrianised street with lots of tavernas a few minutes from my hotel, and ate dinner there. The waitress gave me the Greek-only version of the menu which I was rather pleased with. Not once did they suspect that I wasn’t Greek! I chose to have chicken filet on the grill for my dinner – which was served with some fresh (and still warm) bread rolls. Cost – including a Fanta Orange and a bottle of water: €11,10.

The hotel I’m staying at here is the Hotel Kastoria/Ξενοδοχείο Καστοριά. At €20 per night, it’s the cheapest place I’m staying in during the tour (it’s €2 per night cheaper than the Neos Olymbos in Athens, and €5 per night cheaper than Zozas Rooms in Kastraki).

Although only a few Euros cheaper, the standard of accommodation is rather low. This really is just a place to leave my stuff. The other guests seem to be of the student type, and with some of the doors (the balcony doors) being a bit dodgy, I’ve decided it best to take my valuables with me when I go out during the day. Even on the packed ferries to/from Syros, I felt comfortable leaving my stuff unattended for a couple of minutes while I went to buy some food and drink! But then, the other passengers were all in the same boat. (Excuse the pun).

When I say “a bit dodgy”, I mean that the balcony doors don’t shut properly: the shutters shut only partially, and as it’s a shared balcony if someone wanted to they could put their hand through the gap between the doors and lift the latch to open them fully. The glass doors also don’t shut. There’s no air con, only a fan, only one plug (maybe I should go to the shop and buy a double plug), and the doors to the shared toilets don’t lock properly – so I’m using the public toilets by the White Tower, which are much better, even if they are a good 15 minute walk away! There’s no TV either, so I can’t watch the news in the morning.

By contrast – in Athens, some of the room doors weren’t perfect, but the other guests (families and couples) were trustworthy enough that I didn’t need to worry: and with the hotel reception desk manned 24/7 (staff challenging anyone they didn’t recognise), I was comfortable leaving my belongings in the hotel while I went out in to the city.

Still, it’s only for 4 nights: I’ve got all day Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Then on Wednesday morning I’m aiming to get to the airport no later than 11:00, ready to meet my parents and sister when they arrive. Maybe I should stand in the arrivals hall with their names written on a piece of paper! Better not, it might confuse the car rental person, who will presumably be doing the same! After that, we’re driving to Thassos, for our first visit to the island in 8 years.

Now: There’s no breakfast at this hotel, so I think I’m going to pack my things, go in search of breakfast, then maybe try the War Museum today. How does that sound?

Bye for now,


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