Thessaloniki – Greece’s energetic second city.

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The bus journey between Plovdiv and Thessaloniki began at five o clock in the morning which is always a sobering time to be in the land of the living. We pulled away passing the endless outskirts of Plovdiv’s new town on a brand new, comfortable and spacious Mercedes bus, living the high life for once apparently! The journey was ten hours and the majestic mountain scenery meant it passed by in the blink of an eye. As we approached the sprawl of Greece’s second largest city, the dark clouds on the horizon looked ominous. We pulled into the cities bus station and jumped on a tram to the city centre to locate our hostel. Thessaloniki has over a million inhabitants and is the capital of Greek Macedonia. It’s a city that is easy to fall in love with. It has equal amounts of beauty, chaos, history and culture, remarkable cuisine and wonderful, vast sea views. Even during our three day stay in which it constantly rained, we loved the hectic streets, pastry shops and spacious pedestrianised promenade. The sea comes right up to the edge of the city centre and is unique to anything I’ve ever seen in Europe. From the castle walls high above the city, it has a feel of Tangiers in Morocco or Cairo in Egypt. We stayed at the centrally located Stay Hostel in a six person dorm. Our room mates were pretty strange and consisted of a young Greek guy who looked constantly angry and took great pleasure in banging things, banging doors, banging lockers, banging everything…which left us banging our heads against the wall!! The other person was a German girl who gave us various accounts of the terrible time she had suffered in the city. She had been robbed, tear gassed during a protest and eaten by mosquitoes so badly she had spent time in hospital, poor girl.

I got up at the crack of dawn on a couple of occasions and jogged along the beautifully spacious promenade watching local fishermen and enjoying the sea views. Walking back towards the hostel, I took some pictures of various historic sights which were around every corner and mixed between ugly modern apartment blocks. Thessaloniki was intoxicating, as was its food. It’s a foodies paradise. I always feel you can tell how well a city eats by its street food. Thessaloniki has tons of tasty treats. Bougatsa, a kind of flaky pie, served chopped into bite sized pieces is served crisp and hot from the oven, especially good with sweet cream or minced meat. Greek pies filled with feta cheese are to die for. As are the Gyros and Souvlaki, believe me when you get a good Gyros, you will know about it! Thessaloniki’s Gyros are simply extremely tasty and very, very large and come in either chicken or pork versions…wow!!

From Thessaloniki, we had planned to take a local bus to Halkidiki, a beautiful trio of peninsulas stretching in to the Aegean Sea with views across to Mount Athos. After consulting BBC weather, we decided against it as the area was bracing itself for a huge storm a couple of days later. We noticed the peninsulas had suffered their worst flooding in ten years. I’m sure we are supposed to be in Greece, the weather back home in England was far better than this! The cool, overcast weather gave us the opportunity to partake in our favourite activity without dripping in sweat; walking and exploring…now honestly where would we be without exploring?! We love it so much! I saw a beach on my maps.me app and we decided to walk eight kilometres along the coastline to find it. The sweeping views and drizzly conditions were actually pretty satisfying as we strolled along listening to some Stereophonics. A couple of hours later, we arrived at the beach which was a complete anti climax and more like ten metres of algae, litter and seagulls. We took the bus back and enjoyed a delicious meal at a small taverna we had found the previous evening. The baked aubergine, souvlaki, meatballs and a slow cooked beef dish was all to die for as was the selection of ice cold Greek beers, especially the Ionian Corfu beer…wowzers!

After a brief few days in Thessaloniki, it was time to move on to Macedonia. We really recommend Thessaloniki as a city break…if you love food, you’ll love this place and we can only imagine how much better it would be when the sun is shining!